Elizabeth Guider is a longtime entertainment journalist who has worked in Rome, Paris and London as well as New York and Los Angeles. Born in the South, she holds a doctorate in Renaissance Studies from New York University. During the late 1970’s she was based in Rome where she taught English and American literature and where much of the action of her first novel, The Passionate Palazzo, takes place. While in Europe she worked as an entertainment reporter for the showbiz newspaper Variety, focusing on the film business, television and theater. She also traveled widely, reporting on the politics affecting media from Eastern Europe to Hong Kong, as well as covering various festivals and trade shows in Cannes, Monte Carlo, Venice, and Berlin. Back in the States since the early 1990’s, she specialized on the burgeoning TV industry, and eventually held top editor positions at Variety and latterly at The Hollywood Reporter. Most recently she has freelanced for World Screen News as senior contributing editor. She mostly divides her time between Los Angeles and Vicksburg, MS where she grew up, which is the setting for Milk and Honey on the Other Side.
In a rambunctious river town unsettled by the Great War and up-ended by change unlikely lovers are brought together—but dogged by inescapable bigotry. Despite the dangers, the heroine defies her southern upbringing; the hero fends off his inner demons. For family and friends, race becomes a litmus test, each revealed by his responses to the chasm which separates black from white.
Can that divide—widened by distance, a disastrous marriage, the devastation of the ’27 Flood—be overcome?
“In this arresting first novel about love and liberation, Italy is not just a place of popes and piazzas, but a cauldron of heady politics and equally heated passions.
At its center is Catherine Davidson, a young American who gets caught up in the excitement of an Eternal City on edge: women are taking to the streets to demand their rights, homegrown terrorists kneecapping their hapless targets, poor immigrants swelling the city’s underbelly. Determined not to be a bystander to history nor to let her southern upbringing sabotage her newfound independence, Catherine nonetheless gets in over her head.
Viewed with a sympathetic yet sharp eye by a third-person narrator, Catherine wrestles with the fact that her personal behavior doesn’t dovetail with her political beliefs and with the failure to live up to the expectations of others. While she revels in two love affairs, one with an open-minded Roman and the other with a refugee from Eritrea, they each expose her insecurities and jealousies.
It is an unlikely figure from Catherine’s past, however, who resets the course of her life: her former stepmother, a Dane who has returned to Europe after a decade in the South. Despite having ill-treated this woman throughout the marriage, Catherine finds common ground and new respect for her — so much so that she makes a momentous decision.”
Could you tell us a bit about your most recent release and why it is a must-read?
Milk and Honey on the Other Side is an inter-racial love story set in the Deep South in the post-World War One period. Even though the time and the place are different in many ways from our (supposedly) more open and inclusive country, the trials and tabulations that the two lovers face reflect some of the same challenges as today. The main characters’ families and friends all have differing reactions to the lovers’ relationship, especially since such a union between black and white is against the law, the teachings of the Church and the prejudices that permeated society at the time.
What is your favorite part of this book?
As much as I enjoyed writing the scenes involving the lovers’ covert trysts, my favorite parts are those that take part within the family of the main character, Aurelia Ackermann. Her father represents a deluded but well-meaning patriarch and it was a great challenge to try to get inside his head—and to portray just how complicated a character he was.
In addition to being a writer, do you have a day job? If so, what is it?
I have been a journalist for 30 years, starting in New York City, and then in Europe for 15 years, then back to NYC and finally in Los Angeles. I have worked for the entertainment magazines, first Variety, then The Hollywood Reporter and now World Screen News over the last 20-odd years as both a reporter and a top editor.
What does your typical day look like?
Nowadays it involves setting up and doing interviews for freelance writing assignments—and carving out time to promote my book and noodle my next project.
What do you love most about the writing process?
Becoming completely absorbed in the lives of the characters, and once they’ve started to come alive, letting them lead me to places I had never envisioned.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
In Milk and Honey it would have to be Aurelia Ackermann, the main female character, who is torn between her devotion to family and custom and her love for the black man who, despite all the strictures (and the dangers), she falls for.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
In my first novel, The Passionate Palazzo, set in 1978 in Italy where I lived at the time, several of the characters were based on, or were an amalgam of, people I knew there in Rome. In Milk and Honey, which has such a specific setting, there are a few historical personages (Coolidge, Hoover, etc. plus some local bigwigs in the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, including the mayor and the head of the Mississippi River Commission. However, all of the main characters are ones that I imagined.
What is the biggest surprise you experienced after becoming a writer?
That the writing is the easier part: finding a good publisher and doing things to get one’s work in front of potential readers is the hard part!
I agree whole heartedly!
Since being a writer, what has been the best compliment?
When a reader whom I didn’t know at all, wrote me to say she felt as if she had been “transported back in time to that place and didn’t want to leave!”
If you could ask one question from any one person, living or dead, what would it be and from whom?
I’m never short of questions and there are so many authors as well as other luminaries I’d love to interrogate—BUT, if I had to choose, I’d ask Shakespeare how he would have written his plays differently if he had known how immortal he would become.
What a fabulous question. I’d love to know that answer too.
What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
That a few of my favorite scenes and one of my favorite characters “added nothing to the story I was trying to tell” and should be edited out.
If you were riding in an elevator with a new writer, what wisdom would you bestow upon him/her before you reached the top floor?
Make sure you have a subject that you are passionate about, enough to sustain your interest in it for however long it takes, and be sure to carve out a routine for putting pen to paper on a regular basis.
What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you?
This really is a hard question. I’m so often amused—after all, I live in Hollywood.
You do have a point!
What websites or resources have been helpful to you, as a writer?
Mostly books or articles about the epochs in which I’m writing as well as old newspaper clippings; Google or Wikipedia for specific historical references; and very knowledgeable friends or acquaintances to run things by.
Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?
Ballroom dancing, where I’ve done amateur competitions over the years in both NYC and L.A.
I have a friend I need to connect you to. She teaches and competes in Ballroom dancing.
What would the main character in your most recent book have to say about you?
Aurelia Ackermann in Milk and Honey on the Other Side would hardly recognize how I dress and how much independence to do what I want and to think what I want I (and other women) now have. Surely, she would want to know how all this came to be.
What is something memorable you heard from a reader/fan?
“Hurry up and write something else,” was probably the most encouraging thing.
If money were no object, where would you live and why?
I’ve lived in six great cities—Atlanta, NYC, Rome, Paris, London and Los Angeles in that order. I’m also fortunate to have nurtured my roots in Mississippi enough that I can still feel at home there too. Of all the big cities, I’d say Paris is the most welcoming for someone no longer in their 20’s. Women fare particularly well there—and just about everyone READS BOOKS!!!
Currently, how many ideas for different books do you have going/jotted down?
I have three ideas for different stories going forward but I’ve not settled on any of them so far.
Where can we find you online?
I have an author’s page on Facebook called ElizabethGuiderauthor.