Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Simply Irresistible

Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips has been writing for three decades, she’s won several awards including the Romance Writers of America's Lifetime Achievement Award, but a lot of you reading this blog have probably not read her or even heard of her. Let me tell you about how much you are missing.

I first came across Philips’ writing a little over a decade ago, I was a teenager who primarily read old Hollywood biographies or film histories, but wasn’t above stealing some of her mother’s romance novels. It was on one of those romance-pillaging forays that I found a book called Honey Moon. I flipped it over and giddily realized it had everything I loved to read about, namely romance and movies. At first I was a little skeptical of the story, I thought it too close to the movie Inside Daisy Clover--a movie I thought to be extraordinarily weird and a bit unlikable, despite the stellar cast of Natalie Wood, Robert Redford, and Christopher Plummer-- but as I got going, the epic quality of the storyline and the fully rounded characters absolutely drew me in. I thoroughly loved the novel and never did forget the storyline, but after I was finished I put it back on my mother’s bookshelf and moved on to the next book (I’m fairly certain it was Lauren Bacall’s autobiography By Myself) and didn’t think about it again.

My next foray into the world of Susan Elizabeth Phillips didn’t come until I was in college. I really needed to read something that was not written by Aristotle or Brecht, and since I now had to read the film histories I had so loved as required classroom reading, they weren’t quite as appealing. Luckily, my grandmother allowed me to check-out books from her vast home library (she was a bookbuyer) to bring with me to school, and in one of those borrowed bags of paperbacks was a book my grandma was sure I would love, Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Once again I found myself falling in thrall with the great storyline and all too human characters living in the not so human world of Hollywood (I can say this because at this point I too was living in the fabled LALA land and working in the same industry). How I loved that book, I even read it again before I had to bring it back to grandma for my next bag of books. Needless to say, when I found Breathing Room, SEP’s newest hardcover within that next bag I was overjoyed. So began my love affair with the works of Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Over the last decade I have read everything (still in print) by Ms. Phillips and have yet to be disappointed. I walk away from each book with a trace of tears and large smile. The truly remarkable thing about these books is that when you finish one, there is (at least for me) an almost overwhelming urge to read another. Outside of my first encounter with Honey Moon (which I have now reread several times), I have been unable to read just one of her books. I seem to go through SEP reading cycles each time she has a new release. Suffice it to say that my copies of her books, while in excellent condition (I’m a tidy reader) are all very well broken-in.

Call Me Irresistible, Phillips’ latest (out 1/18/11), while not her best, is sure to have fans clamoring. Why? Because the protagonists are the offspring of characters from two earlier books (Glitter Baby & Fancy Pants), but she also briefly touches on characters from First Lady, Lady Be Good, and What I Did for Love. Incorporating past characters is something that Phillips does very well. She always manages to either throw in a mention or actually place a past character into her latest book. She understands that readers yearn for “the rest of the story” the after “the happily ever-after”, and she smoothly inserts the information into each new story. When you read these novels the characters are laid bare for you, their faults, strengths, and emotions become important and when the story is done you honestly want to know what comes next. The ability to invest readers in your characters is a true talent; something that Ms. Phillips has in spades. Also sure to capture fans is Phillips trade-mark mix of humor, heart-felt moments, and romance; all of which are put together by a masterful storyteller—definitely the best writer of romantic comedy that I’ve come across.

All these elements are present within Call Me Irresistible, and while I might not loved ever part of it, I did enjoy the story. I also need to mention that right after I finished Call Me Irresistible I absolutely had to pick up and reread another SEP book (What I Did for Love) because she always leaves you yearning for more. If that’s not the mark of a master storyteller, I don’t know what is.

*As a side note. I’m not usually one to surf author websites, nor mention them within this blog, however Susan Elizabeth Phillips has a very well run (and wonderfully personal) site and I highly recommend you check it out. http://www.susanephillips.com/

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