Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Interview with Lian Dolan for The Sweeney Sisters

The Sweeney Sisters

Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: April 28th 2020
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg


An accomplished storyteller returns with her biggest, boldest, most entertaining novel yet—a hilarious, heartfelt story about books, love, sisterhood, and the surprises we discover in our DNA that combines the wit of Jonathan Tropper with the heart of Susan Wiggs.

Maggie, Eliza, and Tricia Sweeney grew up as a happy threesome in the idyllic seaside town of Southport, Connecticut. But their mother’s death from cancer fifteen years ago tarnished their golden-hued memories, and the sisters drifted apart. Their one touchstone is their father, Bill Sweeney, an internationally famous literary lion and college professor universally adored by critics, publishers, and book lovers. When Bill dies unexpectedly one cool June night, his shell-shocked daughters return to their childhood home. They aren’t quite sure what the future holds without their larger-than-life father, but they do know how to throw an Irish wake to honor a man of his stature.

But as guests pay their respects and reminisce, one stranger, emboldened by whiskey, has crashed the party. It turns out that she too is a Sweeney sister.

When Washington, DC based journalist Serena Tucker had her DNA tested on a whim a few weeks earlier, she learned she had a 50% genetic match with a childhood neighbor—Maggie Sweeney of Southport, Connecticut. It seems Serena’s chilly WASP mother, Birdie, had a history with Bill Sweeney—one that has remained totally secret until now.

Once the shock wears off, questions abound. What does this mean for William’s literary legacy? Where is the unfinished memoir he’s stashed away, and what will it reveal? And how will a fourth Sweeney sister—a blond among redheads—fit into their story?

By turns revealing, insightful, and uproarious, The Sweeney Sisters is equal parts cautionary tale and celebration—a festive and heartfelt look at what truly makes a family.

Can you briefly describe THE SWEENEY SISTERS and its characters?

The Sweeney Sisters is the story of three sisters—Liza, Maggie and Tricia—who are have the same parents but very different lives. They grew up in the small town of Southport, Connecticut with a poet mother and a father who was a very famous novelist, a literary lion. When their father dies unexpectantly, they discover the existence of a fourth Sweeney sister, Serena. Together, they figure out what sisterhood really means and if and how they’ll move forward together. But it’s not all seriousness! There is summer and romance and some dogs. 

Who would you say is your favourite character from the story and why?

I’m the youngest of eight siblings and the youngest of five sisters, so my natural bias is towards youngest siblings. Tricia is the youngest Sweeney sister and though she is a super-disciplined and competitive runner and lawyer (Nothing like me), she is always comfortable taking the leads with her older siblings (Me all day). So, while I love all the characters in this book, I feel the most protective of Tricia. 

How did the story occur to you? Did you find inspiration anywhere?

I wanted to write a book about sisterhood and then saw a post on Facebook about siblings who’d recently discovered each other, thanks to an over the counter DNA test. There were lot of positive comments and thumbs ups and it made me think, “Would it be thumbs up if some secret sibling just showed up mid-way through your life?” I thought the idea of a ‘new’ sibling showing up and trying to break into a group of sisters would create a contemporary and layered look at what it really means to be someone’s sister. 

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be?

I love this question because I listened to a lot of music while writing the book, trying to get into the head of the characters and the mood of different eras from the Seventies to today. There are also musical artists referenced in the book from Jay-Z to The Spice Girls to Ani DeFranco to The Goo Goo Dolls. And to capture all of that, I created a playlist at Spotify called Music Inspired by The Sweeney Sisters. But one song really sticks with me and that’s Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic. It’s a critical part of a critical scene and really captures the swagger of the Sweeneys. Plus, it’s an unbelievably great song. 

If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would play your characters?

I am truly terrible at the casting game. For my previous books, this was the question that always stumped me on tour. My writing brain doesn’t work that way—except with this book. The three Sweeneys are all redheads and the secret sister is a blond. Nothing would make me happier than to have real life sisters Rooney and Kate Mara step into the roles of Serena, the outsider and the blond, and Tricia, the youngest. I think Bryce Dallas Howard would be a great Maggie. And Emma Stone would be a perfectly perfect Liza. How about Jessica Chastain as the mother, Maeve? And there are some great smaller roles for older actresses. With the male characters, let’s find some super cute unknown for Tim and I like Himash Patel from Yesterday as Raj. And in the critical role of Bill Sweeney, literary rock star with issues, please, oh, please let it be Brad Pitt. 

What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

The book is set in the real town of Southport, Connecticut, a charming, preppy, seaside town. So, the perfect Sweeney Sisters book date would include a spot near the water and a gin & tonic. 

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish THE SWEENEY SISTERS?

For more sisters, The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine or Jane Green’s The Sunshine Sisters, both stories set in Fairfield County, Connecticut. And both classics of the genre. For a satisfying multi-generational tale, Well-behaved Indian Women by Saumaya Dave comes out this summer. I read an advanced copy and I loved it. 

What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?

Sitting in a chair for a year. Truly. It takes a long time to craft a 90,000-word novel. That can be demoralizing when you are starting a new book, that it’s going to take many hours in a chair to get the words on the page, even if you see the story clearly in your head from Day One. I think new writers underestimate the time and the discipline it requires to finish a manuscript. 

What’s next for you?

Playing around with a few ideas. Including a mystery set in Rome or the multi-character story of a middle-aged dance troupe set in Southern California.

Lian Dolan is a writer and talker. She’s the author of two Los Angeles Times best-selling novels, Helen of Pasadena and Elizabeth the First Wife published by Prospect Park Books. Her next novel, The Sweeney Sisters, will be published in 2020 by William Morrow. She’s a regular humor columnist for Pasadena Magazine and has previously written monthly columns for O, The Oprah Magazine and Working Mother Magazine. She’s also written for TV, radio and websites.

Lian is the producer and host of Satellite Sisters, the award-winning talk show she created with her four real sisters. On Satellite Sisters, she’s interviewed everyone from Nora Ephron to Madeleine Albright to Big Bird. Satellite Sisters began life as a syndicated radio show and is now a top-rated podcast for women. The recent book by the Satellite Sisters, You’re the Best: A Celebration of Friendship, is popular with book clubs.

A popular speaker who combines humor and heart, Lian has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Sunday Morning and The Today Show and many local TV stations. She’s been a featured speaker at the LA Times Festival of Books, the Santa Barbara Celebrity Authors Lunch, the Literary Guild of Orange County Festival of Women Authors and dozens of other events at libraries, book stores, schools and women’s organizations across the country. In 2020, she’ll be on the faculty of the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.

Lian graduated from Pomona College with a degree in Classics. She lives in Pasadena, California with her husband, two sons and a big German shepherd.

1 comment:

  1. As someone who doesn't have sisters, this book sounds extra fun for me to read.