BOOK CLUB/READING GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS for "TRUE HOLLYWOOD LIES"
1. Growing up estranged from a parent is difficult enough for a child. How much more challenging would that be if the parent were also a famous celebrity?
2. Hannah sees her planet search project as a means in which to validate her own worth. What analogies can be drawn between astronomy and the world of celebrity?
3. Part of Hannah’s childhood was spent with a mother who was herself a child in many ways. How did that affect Hannah’s view of family and relationships?
4. Because of Leo’s fame, Hannah point-of-view of stardom and celebrity is somewhat jaded, which is why she is viewed as “perfect” for the job of personal assistant to Louis. What are the pitfalls of being that close to fame—without being famous? What kind of traits does a celebrity personal assistant need to have in order to be successful?
5. Louis comes from a broken home in which his alcoholic father could not support the family, or stay faithful to Louis’ mother. How does this affect Louis’ view of his own celebrity and self-worth, and his relationships with women?
6. In many ways, Hannah is a strong character. And yet when it comes to her dealings with very public very charismatic men, she tends to doubt herself and believe their lies. Why would this be the case?
7. Louis is adept at planting seeds of doubt with Hannah regarding Mick. Rarely, though, does Hannah confront Mick regarding her newfound concerns about him. Why not?
8. What is Louis’ attraction to Hannah? What is Hannah’s attraction to Louis? Why does it fail? What could have made it work?
9. American culture is obsessed with celebrity. What has driven this obsession, and how can society broaden its perspective to recognize other accomplished individuals and institutions that truly merit its attention?
JOSIE BROWN TALKS ABOUT "TRUE HOLLYWOOD LIES"
Where did you get the idea for True Hollywood Lies?
Whenever I interviewed celebrities and their children were present—even just for a moment, like walking through the room—I’d wonder about the unique dynamic between the parent and the child. Many people have demanding professions, but I truly believe that the fame that comes with celebrity is a particularly awesome burden. I can only imagine the thoughts that run through a child’s head when she sees so many people begging for her father’s attention, and how the parent reacts might change the dynamic between the two: Does the child feel usurped by her dad’s fans, or the ever-attentive media spotlight? Is she resentful? And if so, when and how does she show this?
In the case of your heroine, Hannah Fairchild, her father is not only a famous actor, but a celebrated playboy as well.
(Laughs) Yep, I can only imagine what it would be like to be an awkward teenage girl, or a shy girl in her early twenties, and have, say, Jack Nicholson, or Colin Farrell or Hugh Hefner as a father. All those men have been known to date beautiful, and many times younger women. And in Jack and Hugh’s case, sometimes the women have been young enough to be their daughters—or granddaughters! Talk about insecurity issues!
In fact, Hannah has done her best to avoid all of the Hollywood trappings.
It seems that children of celebrities fall into one of two categories: First, they seek the limelight and want to prove themselves in the same manner as their parents, ala Liza Minnelli or the Sinatra kids. Of course, Liza and Nancy and Frank Jr. have proven to be great to middling successes in their own right. The same could be said for Beau and Jeff Bridges, Angelica Huston, Kate Hudson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Natasha Richardson and John Ritter, to name a few.
The other end of the spectrum are the kids that totally abhor the whole entertainment scene because of how it treated of affected their parents, or because they don’t have the desire or need to compete with their parents. Frankly, I would assume that’s the majority of celebrity’s children falls in that latter category. That was where I put Hannah. She’s a stargazer and a planet tracker. The only stars she like watching are the kind that fly through the galaxy, which she does with a high-powered microscope.
Did you have a role model for Hannah?
In a way, yes. The person I feel Hannah is closest to is Drew Barrymore. I guess that’s because I’d read about her estrangement with both her mother and her father—who, I take it, were also estranged from each other—and because I revere her grandfather, John, as an actor. And of course he was quite a lady’s man in his day. In that regard, Drew is one generation removed from being exactly Hannah. Still, her father, the lesser accomplished actor John Drew Barrymore, must have felt the emotional brunt of his father’s legacy.
But then again, Drew has shouldered his pain, and the Barrymore legacy. And done so brilliantly, I might add. Through sheer talent, great professional instincts and hard work, Drew has created a legacy that is just as celebrated—if not more celebrated—than John Barrymore’s. Way to go, babe!
The first thing that happens in the book is the death of Hannah’s father, Leo. There are a lot of unresolved issues between the two, and that sets off a series of events that Hannah deals with throughout the book.
That’s right. One stems from the fact that Hannah never got to be the child in their relationship. In many ways, their roles were reversed because, like many men, Leo had a Peter Pan complex. Depending on whether there was another woman in his life, Hannah was left in the Wendy—or mothering—role. Hannah spent her preteen years with her mother, who is also someone who has never really grown up, so yeah, Hannah has never had the chance to be nurtured by anyone.
And then there is the financial problems she encounters after his death: while a trust set up for Hannah in Leo’s final will, it was never signed by him. So now Hannah has to contest the estate from Sybilla, his fourth and most recent wife—who, Hannah soon finds out, is having an affair with her boyfriend.
You betcha. And it only keeps getting better for Hannah.
You mean, because the best job she can line up is one as the actor Louis Trollope’s assistant.
Yes. Cruel, isn’t it? Imagine playing nursemaid to the next Colin Farrell—a charismatic hottie who travels with a badass entourage and whose main squeeze is a supermodel, and yet he thinks nothing of playing off on her with other women who he treats like toys…and now he’s got his sights set on you.
What’s a girl to do?
Exactly! Hey, we should all have such problems, right? No, but seriously, if your job is to babysit a Louis Trollope like Hannah has to do, you’re once again on the outside of fame looking in. And once again, that person on the inside is giving you mixed signals as to where you fit in his life.
No, not if all you’ve ever dreamed of is a normal life and a normal relationship. And when her dream scenario presents itself to Hannah—through, ironically, Louis’ best friend, the screenwriter Mick Bradshaw—Hannah almost doesn’t know if it’s real because she’s been burned so badly by the men in her life. And of course, Louis, who knows what he has in Hannah and doesn’t want to lose her, does what he can to plant doubts in her mind about Mick’s intentions—and his own.
What a cad!
Yeah, I know! But we all just love the cads in our lives, now don’t we? Particularly when they’re cute and naughty—and just maybe redeemable, as is Louis. And that’s the fun of True Hollywood Lies: finding out if, when and how Hannah can redeem such a lovable player.
Your next book, Impossibly Tongue-Tied, is also set in Hollywood, right?
You bet. (Big laugh!) The Land of Awes is a place I’ve studied for quite some time, both its history and its current events. I find it fascinating. It takes a very special kind of person to live there, and to thrive there. The book’s plot revolves around Nina Harte, the wife of an up-and-coming actor. She just so happens to be working two jobs, as a grocery clerk and a sex phone operator, in order to support him and their child while he’s taking his shot at stardom. Of course, the minute he gets it, he dumps her for his Oscar-nominated co-star, and her anonymous life goes topsy-turvy in a very public ways. It’s a fun take on celebrity, the tabloid press, and of course phone sex.
Sounds like a fun read.
Well, I think so. As with True Hollywood Lies, it has a lot of insanely over-the-top characters doing interesting things in all those see-and-be-seen nightclubs and restaurants and hotels we read about, thanks to all the infotainment magazines. In fact, there are a few recurring characters from True Hollywood Lies—and as in that book, a few known celebs make guest appearances, too.
Want to drop a few names?
Let me put it this way. Being mentioned is an honor.
ABOUT JOSIE BROWN
Josie is also the author of the novel TRUE HOLLYWOOD LIES, as well as LAST NIGHT I DREAMT OF COSMOPOLITANS, the fashionista's ultimate humor dream dictionary; and co-author, along with her husband, Martin, of MARRIAGE CONFIDENTIAL: 102 HONEST ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS EVERY HUSBAND WANTS TO ASK, AND EVERY WIFE NEEDS TO KNOW.
She is a feature writer whose relationship articles and celebrity interviews have appeared in national magazines. She is also the editor of the internationally syndicated John Gray's Mars Venus Advice column, and the co-editor of the Relationship NewsWire. Josie lives in Marin County, California with her husband and her two children.
Email Josie with other questions about her books, or arrange a phone conference for your book club! Go to her site online, at www.josiebrown.com, or email her at [email protected]
WANT TO INCLUDE JOSIE IN YOUR NEXT BOOK CLUB GATHERING?
If you'd like me to join your book club's conversation on TRUE HOLLYWOOD LIES or IMPOSSIBLY TONGUE-TIED, or to learn the inspiration for some of my scenes, then have me attend your book group via teleconference! To arrange the time and date, email me [email protected]
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