By Leslie Lindsay
What might you do if you were suddenly thrust into a situation in which your husband has abandoned your family while at the same time your darling and precocious 4-year old daughter has caught the attention of admirers on YouTube? You might be tempted to follow the alluring path of child stardom…but at what cost?
Suzanne Redfearn delivers a captivating look of child actors against the contemporary backdrop of Hollywood, laced with a pulsing energy that will have you looking at the industry with new—perhaps jaded—eyes in a lesson on who to trust and who not to trust. Ultimately, the story is about motherhood, and what one down-on-her-luck mother does to protect the innocent lives of her children.
I am thrilled to welcome Suzanne back to chat with us about her second book, NO ORDINARY LIFE (released Feb. 2, 2016). Be sure to see my 2015 interview of Suzanne’s HUSH LITTLE BABY here.
Leslie Lindsay: I understand much of this story was inspired by some of the beloved child stars of today’s culture. Can you tell us what the initial seed was that inspired NO ORDINARY LIFE?
Suzanne Redfearn: The idea came to me while I was standing in line at the grocery store. There was a headline that read, “Zac Efron Enters Rehab Again!!!” The thought Child Star popped in my head, the idea of telling a story about what goes on behind the glitz and glamour that causes so many young actors to struggle.
L.L.: The details of Hollywood really ‘pop’ throughout the story. I wouldn’t have a clue as to where to start—I certainly have no experience as a ‘stage mom,’ and don’t have much knowledge of the inner-workings of Hollywood. Can you share a bit about your research?
Suzanne Redfearn: I always start with reading everything I can find on a subject. This story was intimidating because I am not in that world. Fortunately there are dozens of memoirs and biographies about child actors. I also did a lot of research on celebrity and how it affects people. It was fascinating, especially the collateral damage fame can cause to relationships and those closest to the celebrity. I also have a cousin who worked on a set for several years and she is married to a grip (camera and light technician), and they checked the story for mistakes as well.
L.L.: I understand you reached out to some child stars and their parents in the writing of NO ORDINARY LIFE. Can you touch on that, please?
Suzanne Redfearn: I have a friend whose son was briefly a “Disney kid.” We went to lunch and she filled me in on her experience and why she got out so quickly. Mostly though I relied on the stories I read by former child actors. Each was different and fascinating, and affected the story and me in a different way.
L.L.: I love how you take a ‘dream’ story of Hollywood and show *all* sides of the life. Were there any particular scenes you found more challenging or troubling to write?
Suzanne Redfearn: It is always difficult to write a scene in which your character is struggling, so in this story writing Emily’s character was a challenge. I wanted the reader to really understand her and be sympathetic to her, which was difficult because she was evolving into a rebellious, snarky teenager. I also struggled for the same reason with some of the scenes with Sean. I wanted to convey the inner conflict between his love for his family and his greed, which is hard to do when the story is not being told from his POV.
L.L.: In your “Author’s Note” section at the end of the book, you share a letter written by Jodi Foster’s admirer/Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin. It’s disturbing, to say the least. This is that part of Hollywood that is not all that is down-right scary. Can you speak to that, please?
Suzanne Redfearn: Absolutely terrifying. The obsessiveness of fans was both fascinating and bone-chilling. I didn’t want to focus too much on it because it would have steered the plot too far off course, but if I were the parent of a child star, I would live in a state of constant fear. There are a lot of very fanatical people out there who become fixated on celebrities, and they have no boundaries. It’s very scary. I wish John Hinckley were a lone example of fan craziness, but he is not.
L.L.: Shifting gears a bit, what are you working on next?
Suzanne Redfearn: I am writing another story about a mother protecting her children (surprise, surprise), but this one is about two moms on the run together from their husbands and the law. It is a road trip novel similar to Thelma and Louise, but these women are not out on a joy ride and they have three kids with them. So far it’s turning out to be a wild ride and I’m having a lot of fun writing it.
L.L.: Is there anything obsessing you now?
Suzanne Redfearn: I am finishing up the novel I spoke about above, so I would say that is my current obsession.
L.L.: What’s on your to-read pile?
Suzanne Redfearn: Platinum Blonde by Anne Girard and I have taken a renewed interest in Dennis Lehane novels. He is such a good writer.
L.L.: Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?
Suzanne Redfearn: Your questions were wonderful, but I would like to end with this little bit of inspiration a friend sent to me the other day. My friend is an artist and we had been talking about the process of creating for the sake of the art and not anything else, and the next day she sent me this:
Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.
–A passage from the Tao te Ching
Bio: Suzanne Redfearn is the author of Hush Little Baby, which was chosen as a Target Recommends selection and Target’s Emerging Authors program. She graduated summa cum laude from California Polytechnic University and, prior to becoming an author, was an architect. She is an avid surfer, golfer, skier, and Angels fan. She lives with her husband and children in Southern California. No Ordinary Life is her second novel.
[images courtesy of S. Redfearn and her publicist, S. Missirlian]