Camille Palmer has already been through the wringer. Widowed, and with a teenager in tow, she just wants to grieve quietly on the Delaware shore and try to pick up the pieces of her life. But a mysterious package shows up that upends this plan entirely, and Camille--along with her daughter and father--end up going to France to answer some questions about their family's past, questions that trace back to the Nazi resistance during WWII. Here, Jane Green asks Susan Wiggs about Map of the Heart, the novel she has said is "a moving, sophisticated story of fathers and daughters, love and loss, secrets and lies, rebellion and redemption."
JANE GREEN: Susan, in each of your novels, you catch a concern we all have about our families, ourselves, or our partners and put it on the page for your characters to deal with. What’s the issue Camille and Julie must deal with in Map of the Heart?
SUSAN WIGGS: Oh, where do I start? Camille being widowed in such a shocking way has defined her, and she truly can’t move forward until she breaks free of that. And Julie–She’s dealing with body image issues, bullying, identity issues...Did I mention there’s a lot of humor in this book? You’ll have to trust me on that.
JG: You have recently begun interacting with your fans in new ways -- for example, on an annual cruise, via Facebook Live, and through events that go beyond just the typical reading and signing. What have these moments been like for you, and your fans?
SW: WAY TOO MUCH FUN. I love readers. I’m one of them. Getting books and readers together in any way just makes me happy. The 2017 cruise was so amazing, we’re doing it again in 2018. You should come!
JG: In Map of the Heart, one of the characters visits sites of World War II battlegrounds to help locate the still-missing remains for fallen American soldiers. Is this an actual profession, and if so, how did you learn about it?
SW: It is! There are volunteer groups involved in the repatriation of soldiers’ remains. I learned of this at–where else?–the library. I was researching something else and I came across references and the poignant ceremonies for the families.
JG: Please tell me you went to Provence to do research for this novel!
SW: Bien sur! We spent three weeks driving through the region and it was so magical that it mentioned it in the book’s dedication and acknowledgment pages.
JG: Old family secrets and mysteries play a big part in Map of the Heart, and your narrative moves back and forth in time to tell both stories. Did you enjoy introducing a historical aspect to the book? (I know I enjoyed reading it!)
SW: Absolutely. It was a creative challenge to write, because I had to create two different worlds–the present-day Delaware shore, and occupied Provence. Both settings are powerful metaphors for the characters’ journeys–the shifting sands, turbulent oceans, dizzying cliffs, and of course the sunshine, wine, and lavender of Provence.
JG: What’s next for you -- and will it include an exotic research trip?
SW: My working title for the next book is Middle Grove. We’ll see if that passes muster with my publisher. The research trip wasn’t exotic but fascinating–Philadelphia, the Poconos, and Amish country. Stay tuned!
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