Friday, June 30, 2017

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo - Book Review and Exclusive Q & A with Taylor Jenkins Reid

If you checked out my Winter Reading List, you would have discovered my obsession with Taylor Jenkins Reid and her novels, Maybe in Another Life and One True Loves. From the second I opened them up, I immediately fell in love with the compelling story lines and charismatic characters in her books. Once I reached the end, all I wanted was one thing: MORE. Her novels are girly and fun, without being cheesy. There is depth and meaning within them all, which makes it so easy to get attached to the worlds Reid creates. When I heard about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, the story of a classic Hollywood star who decides to give a tell-all about her scandalous life, I knew before I even opened it up that I was in for a real treat.

Set in present day, in the later years of her life, Hollywood legend Evelyn Hugo has finally decided give a much anticipated tell-all biography about her rise to the top, and of course, her seven husbands. When she chooses an unknown journalist, Monique Grant, even Monique herself is surprised by the unusual choice. How would Evelyn Hugo even know who Monique is? As Evelyn reveals the real behind-the-scenes details of her rise to fame, it becomes evident to Monique that Evelyn's choice was more than just a coincidence.

With a theme that focuses on female empowerment and chasing your dreams, this novel will be sure to leave you inspired and motivated. It's the perfect summer read to take to the beach or to read in a book club, and I personally found it impossible to put down. For fans of Old Hollywood, La La Land, and the world of show business, this is book is a must.

One of the lines that stood out to me the most, was when Evelyn said "Nobody deserves anything. It's simply a matter of who's willing to go and take it for themselves." I was so inspired by these words, and in true Evelyn fashion, I decided to apply them to my own life by reaching out to ask Taylor Jenkins Reid for an exclusive interview. To my pleasant surprise, she agreed, which completely validated this advice. Read on to hear all about the inspiration and details behind The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.

CS: In your previous novels, most of your characters are people who live fairly normal lives, and it is their layered personalities and the difficult situations they are faced with that make the stories so captivating. Though it is definitely not lacking in depth or hardships, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo stands out amongst the rest due to the added element of glitz and glamour. What inspired you to write a novel that focuses on the golden age of Hollywood? Did living in LA influence this decision?

TJR: Before I started writing novels, I worked in the entertainment industry -- specifically in feature casting. My husband is a TV writer and I've also written for TV. So Hollywood is everywhere for me. That informed the decision a lot. I have a film degree (technically, it's in Media Studies) so this is an area that I've long been enchanted with.

CS: Many Old Hollywood starlets popped into my mind while reading this book, especially Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. Was there a real-life inspiration for Evelyn Hugo?

TJR: Evelyn Hugo is entirely her own creation but I did a lot of reading about Liz Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, and a number of other actresses in the 50s and 60s to really get a feel for what was going on during that time and what it took to become a huge name. She's her own person but there's no Evelyn without Liz or Marilyn or Ava or Rita or Lana or any of the women that made it big during that time.

CS: What type of research did you do for this novel? Did you watch movies from the Old Hollywood era or read real life biographies of iconic actresses?

TJR: I read a lot of biographies and books about the behind the scenes of Hollywood. It was the most fun I've had researching a book. I also spent a lot of time listening to "You Must Remember This", a podcast about old Hollywood stories. Strong recommend.

CS: When I hear the name Evelyn Hugo, it fits right in alongside the Hollywood greats. How did you come up with this name for the character?

TJR: Looking back, it feels sort of pre-destined. But if I rack my memory, I do remember making a long list of names and fine-tuning until I really got it perfect. Evelyn feels so real to me, it's hard for me to remember there was a time when she was just a possible idea.

There was a dry erase board in my office, as far back as 2013, with about fifty names. Celia St. James, another actress in the book, was created by pulling parts of different names I liked and mashing them together. Coming up with the names of 50's actresses is about as much fun as a person can have.

CS: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

TJR: This was the first time I'd written about a time I hadn't lived through. So I had to do a lot of research to get the details right. What kind of cars did people drive? What restaurants were around then? What were the prevailing attitudes about some of the social issues that come up? That was new for me.

CS: One of my favourite things about your novels are the unique twists that make it impossible to put them down. This novel was no exception, and throughout the story I was desperate to know why Evelyn had picked an unknown journalist to write her biography. Without giving away too much, was there ever any alternative to the way in which Evelyn and Monique's lives intersect?

TJR: I had to make sure I knew how their lives intersected before I wrote one word of the novel. It was such an important element of the story that I could not leave it to the end. So, by the time Evelyn said her first word, I knew why she chose Monique. But there were a lot of different conversations I had in my head -- and some with my friends -- about what that element could be before I started writing.

CS: If any, what similarities do you share with Evelyn?

TJR: I like to think that Evelyn is who I would be if I wasn't so bogged down by a conscious. I'm 47% kidding.

CS: What is the most important message you want readers to take away from the novel?

TJR: There are a lot of different things going on in this story but I think the biggest takeaway is that we all need to know our value and not let other people determine how we see ourselves.

I cannot thank Taylor enough for the thought and time she dedicated to this Q and A, and connecting with her was the cherry on top of the mountain of motivation and inspiration I gained from reading this novel. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is available in stores and online. To order online or to purchase the e-book, click here.

With love,

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