Twists and turns kept me glued to the pages of Finding Mrs. Ford, this fun and mysterious debut from Deborah Goodrich Royce, the actress who played Silver Kane, sister to Erica Kane in All My Children.
Summertime, late 1970s, Detroit…Susan and Annie meet at their mundane jobs at a clothing store and become fast friends. The girls are saving up for college and Annie, the spitfire, decides they both will quit and go to work at a disco to make more money, so Susan goes along with it. Dangerous and powerful men run the disco and Annie gets caught up with one of the bosses and becomes involved in drugs, while Susan continually tries to keep away from trouble and controversy. Feeling disappointed in how the girls’ friendship has dissipated, Susan becomes distracted by her thoughts about a handsome and mysterious Chaldean man she meets at the disco. And then a tragic accident changes everything.
Now it is present day in Watch Hill Rhode Island, and Susan is the widow of wealthy, respectable Jack, and she and her stepson, Jack Jr are partners in the family business. Then Susan’s past begins to haunt her when the FBI knocks on her door….
Secrets and suspense abound in Finding Mrs. Ford, a true page turner! Lies from the past are uncovered in this thrilling and entertaining debut – incredibly well written and so visual at times it will catch your breath; this book would make a wonderful movie!
Q & A With Author Deborah Goodrich Royce
Q: Finding Mrs Ford has many wonderful characters who seem to experiment with different identities. How did you come up with this idea of personal reinvention and what was the writing process for character development?
A: That is an excellent question and you have hit the nail on the head with it! One of the most important themes of this book is, in fact, identity. Who are we really and are we the same person throughout the entirety of our lives? Can we change? Can we reinvent ourselves to adapt to different social situations. One of the earliest titles of the books had to do with the concept of “slumming”—going into social situations that are perceived to be beneath us, and “social climbing”—entering social situations that are seemingly above us. Mrs. Ford is a woman who has traveled a great distance geographically—yes—but even more so in other ways.
Q: I enjoyed Susan’s attraction to Sammy and their budding romance. What is the significance of Sammy’s Chaldean ethnicity?
I have always been intrigued by the Chalean people and their place in both the Middle East and in Detroit. I met several Chaldeans when I was around the age of Susan and Annie in 1979. At that point, like Susan, I was not familiar with them. Simultaneously, I was taking a course on Middle Eastern history in college. When I asked my professor about the Chaldeans, she was surprised that I had heard of them. I had to explain to her that they were quite present in Detroit. So, that definitely played into how Sammy came to be a Chaldean.
On top of that, at the moment I began writing the book, ISIS was all over the news. They were taking over Mosul and gruesomely killing Chaldeans, Yazidis, and many other locals. The dovetailing of my natural interest in this group of people with their emergence on the world scene in such a horrible way made for an interesting back story for the character of Sammy Fakhouri.
Q: Did you ever have a friend like Annie who pushed you out of your comfort zone to try something new – and how did it work out?
A: Another great question. The short answer is yes. But I would modify it to say that Annie is based on several women I have known over the years. I have a natural reserve, so I am fascinated by people, like Annie, who suck so much air out of the room. I was also much more impressionable when I was young. I had the tendency to second guess my own instincts and to defer to what others wanted. If you have ever read the book, The Lovely Bones, in which a teenage girl completely ignores her gut feeling and ends up following a man into a fatal setting, well, that book stunned me to my core. I could have been that girl! And I suspect that many girls are like that. I was a good girl (like so many young women)—a pleaser—who often did not listen to the small internal voice that knew what to do. And NOT do. Fortunately for me, the consequences were never as extreme as they were for Susan or for the character in The Lovely Bones.
Q: Finding Mrs Ford takes place in 1970s Detroit and 2014 Rhode Island. Did you write the book in the order it is presented to the reader or did you write chronologically?
A: I wrote the book in the order that it is read, which goes back and forth between the two time periods. However, I outlined it chronologically before I wrote it. And then I went back and ripped it apart and outlined it again—just to make sure that there were no mistakes!
Q: Did you know how the book was going to end when you began?
A: Before I started writing, I knew what I thought would be the ending, but now turns out to be the middle of the book. I see the structure of Finding Mrs. Ford as being similar to a roller coaster ride. There is that jolt at the beginning, when the car is let loose on the tracks. Then there is the steady chugging upwards to get to the very top. And then the car careens down the other side. That exact moment was originally meant to be the end of the book. But, I ended up giving the rider one more round of it. As I see it now, that first version would have been too short a ride on the roller coaster!
Q: Often when I was reading, (ex. the scene that took place in the back room of the disco, the scene when the girls were frantically driving away) I felt like I was watching on the big screen! How has your career influence this story?
A: I am completely in thrall to and heavily influenced by film. In fact, In fact, I had to do some revisions to make the book LESS cinematic. I had to be careful to not let the reader peek around any corners that the heroine could not peek around. I used a technique of Hitchcock a couple times—specifically in those back room scenes—in which you, the reader, are fully aware that something bad might be about to happen, but something ELSE pulls your attention momentarily. It heightens the jolt when the big thing hits you. For example, when Susan first goes into the store room, the lights are oddly off, which is unsettling. But then she bumps her toe on something. Her—and your—attention is pulled to that object, which turns out to only be a box of ketchup. You start to breathe again, and it is just then that the big thing happens.
Q: Can you tell us about your theater restoration projects?
A: My husband, Chuck, and I restored the Avon Theatre—a gorgeous 1939 cinema in Stamford, Connecticut. We run it as a not-for-profit independent cinema where we show first run films and curate lots of series. We have a French film series in conjunction with the Alliance Française of Greenwich, an Indian Film series, and both a cult classics and a documentary series. The one I am most proud of is our newest series called The Black Lens. In it, we take a look at the African American story as seen through the prism of film. What does it mean to be of African descent in our country and how is that story told in movies? We show documentaries and feature films and our moderator, Harriette Cole, interviews the filmmakers. In October we are going to show the new documentary on Toni Morrison.
Additionally, Chuck is hard at work raising the final money to restore the United Theatre in Westerly, Rhode Island (while I am off on my book tour!). The United will be a multi-purpose cultural center that features live theatre, music, art and cinema. What I can tell you about the Avon and the soon-to-be-restored United, is that a theatre is an economic engine for a Main Street setting. People stroll at night, they patronize the restaurants, they engage socially and culturally with others. It is pretty wonderful.
Q: What have you read lately that you recommend?
A: I loved The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar and had a more complicated relationship with The Snakes by Sadie Jones.
Q: I know you lived in Paris for a time. Will you ever have France as a setting in a future book? What are you working on now?
A: Ooohh…France would be an excellent setting for one of my stories. But Ruby Falls, the book I am working on now, starts in a pitch black cave near Chattanooga, Tennessee, quickly jumps to the Catacombs in Rome, and then plays out for the rest of the book in the Hollywood Hills. That book is more gothic. Think The Woman in White meets Rebecca.
If you enjoyed The Last Mrs. Parrish and The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine and Pretty Revenge by Emily Liebert, you will enjoy the face paced, gripping, thrilling and suspenseful Finding Mrs. Ford.
The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are also addictive psychological thrillers to throw in your beach bag!
About the Author:
Deborah Goodrich Royce graduated Summa Cum Laude from Lake Erie College in 1980 with a BA in modern foreign languages (French and Italian) and a minor in dance. In 2008, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the same institution.
Deborah was an actress in film and television for ten years. Her big break came with the leading role of Silver Kane, sister of the legendary Erica Kane, on the long running ABC soap opera, All My Children. Deborah went on to star in feature films such as Remote Control, April Fool’s Day, and Just One of the Guys, television movies such as Return to Peyton Place, The Deliberate Stranger with Mark Harmon, and Liberace, and television series such as St. Elsewhere, Beverly Hills 90210, and 21 Jump Street.
After the birth of her daughters, Deborah moved to Paris in 1992 and worked as a reader for Le Studio Canal Plus. On her return to the US, she transitioned to Miramax Films as their story editor. At Miramax, she worked on the development of such films as Emma, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, Walking and Talking by Nicole Holofcener, and early versions of Chicago and A Wrinkle in Time. With writing partner, Mitch Giannunzio, she won a grant from the Massachusetts Arts Council in 2002 to develop and workshop their original screenplay, Susan Taft Has Run Amok.
In 2004, Deborah and her husband, Chuck Royce (small cap investment pioneer), restored and reopened the Avon Theatre Film Center, a 1939 landmark in Stamford, CT. The not-for-profit Avon is dedicated to independent, classic, foreign, and documentary films, and hosts an ongoing series of visiting film luminaries. Directors and writers such as Robert Altman, Peter Bogdonavich and Nora Ephron, and actors such as Jane Fonda, Chloe Sevigny, Emma Roberts, and Richard Gere, have all come to the Avon to show their films and talk about their work. The late Gene Wilder, who frequently appeared at the Avon, was an early and avid encourager of Deborah’s writing.
Deborah serves on multiple boards, including the national council of the American Film Institute, the executive board of the Greenwich International Film Festival, and the governing boards of the New York Botanical Garden, the Greenwich Historical Society, and the PRASAD Project.
Deborah and Chuck have restored several hotels (Ocean House—one of only 13 triple Forbes five-star properties in the world—the Weekapaug Inn, and the Deer Mountain Inn), a bookstore (The Savoy in Westerly, RI), and have completed numerous Main Street revitalization projects in Tannersville, New York and Westerly, Rhode Island. They are currently about to break ground on the renovation of the United Theatre arts complex in Westerly.
She and her husband have a tribe of children, stepchildren, grandchildren, and animals.
Finding Mrs. Ford is her first novel.