Today we welcome Melanie Benjamin, the bestselling author of THE AVIATOR, to Between the Sheets. Melanie’s recent release has already hit the NY Times bestseller list in less than a week of publication! I’ve just started this novel and I’m loving it! It’s great to have you, Melanie.
About the Book
For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.
Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.
What drew you to the Lindbergh’s story?
I was always fascinated by the Lindberghs, but in a vague way – I admired his aviation accomplishments, and always felt great sympathy for Anne, having lost her firstborn in such a public, tragic way. So they were always a shadowy, fascinating couple, but I realized that most people today do not know the scope of their story and accomplishments, particularly Anne’s. It was this fascination/curiosity that drew me to tell Anne’s story.
Do you relate to Anne, your protagonist, in any way?
I think I sometimes find too much comfort in observing, rather than doing, and that was something Anne recognized in herself, and was one reason why she was so attracted to Charles Lindbergh initially. She recognized that here was someone who did not have a tendency to live in his head too much; he was a man of action and accomplishment, and she needed him. I definitely can relate to Anne in this way.
Can you share a tidbit about aviation in the twenties? It seems like such a romantic notion–to meet a pilot in that era.
I was surprised to discover that those early planes, like The Spirit of St. Louis, were basically fabric and wires. The fabric was necessary to make them light enough to fly. It was covered in a liquid called “dope” that strengthened it, but still. To fly across an ocean in basically fabric and a frame!
You’re a multi-published, bestselling author. Do you still have moments when you feel as if your story will never come together? How do you push through the dark moments?
Oh, yes. Not every book I start is going to be finished; I recognize that when I’m really, really stuck sometimes it’s simply because it’s not the novel I should be writing at the time. So I begin something else. As far as pushing through, it is important to differentiate between a dry spell and a true dead end. I’ve been doing this long enough, I hope, that I can recognize the difference. There are a lot of dry spells, a lot of times when it seems like just slogging through, but you just have to do it. You just have to get the words down, and move ahead, and eventually you’ll have a book to revise and make all shiny and pretty. It’s sometimes a matter of plain old hard work, and that’s what you push through. You just do it.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Forget the notion that writing is lofty and dreamy and just one big inspirational, uplifting communion between words and ideas. It’s actually just a lot of hard work; ideas are easy to come by. Fleshing out those ideas and creating compelling, complex novels of 100,000 words based on them is not. And that’s what separates the men from the boys, so to speak. Dreams won’t get you published. Hard work will.
FAVORITE ERA: 1920s
BEST THING ABOUT CHICAGO: The food and architecture!
FAVORITE VICE: Fashion magazines
WINE, MARTINI, OR MARGARITA: Martini
Melanie Benjamin performed in many community theater productions before meeting her husband, moving to the Chicago area and raising two sons. Writing was always beckoning, however, and soon she began writing for local magazines and newspapers before venturing into her first love, fiction. As Melanie Hauser, she published two contemporary novels. By incorporating her passion for history and biography, Melanie, now writing as Melanie Benjamin, has finally found her niche writing historical fiction, concentrating on the “stories behind the stories.” ALICE I HAVE BEEN is her first historical novel; THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MRS. TOM THUMB her second. Her third, THE AVIATOR’S WIFE, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, released in January 2013. She and her family still live in the Chicago area; when she’s not writing, she’s gardening, taking long walks, rooting for the Cubs.