The Silver Blonde: A Q&A with Elizabeth Ross

Are you a classic film buff? Then you’ll love The Silver Blonde, the new historical mystery from Elizabeth Ross, set in 1940s Hollywood. Elizabeth graciously dropped by our blog to answer some questions:

Q&A with Elizabeth Ross

Tell us a little bit about the book! What inspired you?

The Silver Blonde is a noir mystery set in post-war Los Angeles. I was inspired by my love of old Hollywood films, particularly the noir classics of the 40s and 50s – as well as my experience working in LA as a film editor. I thought it would be interesting to explores the themes common in film noir – deceit, alienation, complicity – and apply them to a YA character.

Who would you cast as your characters in a movie adaptation?

That’s a tough one to answer. When I was writing the novel I did have inspiration pictures of actors – but they were all from the classic Hollywood era. I thought of Clara as a young Ingrid Berman, natural but with poise and intelligence. I found a great shot of a young Jack Kerouac for Gil. Babe Bannon is a composite of Barbara Stanwyck for her acting chops and guts, Lauren Bacall for her husky voice and glamor, and Veronica Lake for her incredible hair.

What kind of research did you do to write The Silver Blonde? What’s the best/most interesting/weirdest thing you learned while researching?

I did a ton of research. One of the coolest things I got to do was visit the old nitrate vaults at Paramount studios. An editor friend who was working on the lot arranged the tour. When we were standing in that narrow vault she commented that it looked like a place you might find a dead body. That chance remark was a flash of inspiration and by the end of the first chapter, Clara does indeed find a dead body in the film vaults. Also during my research I was able to attend some screenings of nitrate film prints. When you think how we consume media nowadays – on a phone or tablet – seeing a nitrate print projected up on the big screen with an audience of film buffs, I was transported. I could understand why movie stars in the classic era had such allure and star power.

How was writing The Silver Blonde different than writing Belle Epoque? Do you have any writing advice you learned during the process (or writing advice in general)?

Both books were very different experiences. I have a theory that with each book you have to relearn how to write a novel – how to write that novel. With Belle Epoque I began writing with my plain Jane character, Maude, front and center. Having her clear voice in my head made the story come easier. With The Silver Blonde it was more of a concept – film noir – and it took time to find my main characters and their histories. I spent a lot of time researching and I had a couple of false starts, but ultimately unlocking the key to this novel I found to be more rewarding as it was hard-fought. The story took me to places I hadn’t imagined when I started out. It was an intense creative journey and it tested me as a writer. Advice: please yourself, you are the first reader. Try and turn off your inner critic and ideas of perfectionism.

The Silver Blonde is set in 1946 Hollywood. What’s your favorite Hollywood film from (or about) that era?

In the novel I include a filmography of some the films mentioned in the book including Hitchcock’s Notorious, starring Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant – such a great pairing. One of my favourite noir films is Gilda, starring the dazzling Rita Hayworth. Another superb film from this era – about the industry of Hollywood – is Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard.

Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant in “Notorious”.

The book is something of a mystery, too. What’s the trickiest thing about writing a compelling mystery?

Mystery was a new genre for me. What makes it challenging is that you’re writing two stories: the story on the page as the characters uncover clues and solve the puzzle; and the story off screen – what really happened. Nailing down the structure and sequence of events, as well as solving logic problems can be tricky. But when you do figure something out, it’s as thrilling as it is for your main character making the discovery.

Who are some of your favorite historical fiction authors?

I adore Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. How does she pull off that incredible story structure – it’s such a feat of storytelling. I’m currently reading Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, it’s totally bewitching. And at the top of my TBR pile is Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a TV screenplay adaptation of Belle Epoque. It’s still very much in the development stage. . .but stay tuned! And on the book front, I tend to write about places that are important to me. I spent time in Paris and Montreal, both of which provided inspiration for Belle Epoque; and of course living and working in LA inspired The Silver Blonde. I grew up in Scotland so I know there’s a Scottish story I need to tell. . . .

Pandemic question: What’s the one thing you just can’t live without these days?

The Criterion channel. I haven’t gone to a movie theatre in over a year, so I have been devouring the treasure trove of classic and foreign films on Criterion. Recently I watched some amazing Japanese noir films – in particular High and Low by Kurosawa, starring the incredible Toshiro Mifune.

Thanks for joining us, Elizabeth! The Silver Blonde is out now, make sure you pick it up from your favorite bookstore!


The Silver Blonde
By Elizabeth Ross
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780385741484 | Delacorte BFYR
Hollywood, 1946. The war is over, and eighteen-year-old Clara Berg spends her days shelving reels as a vault girl at Silver Pacific Studios, with all her dreams pinned on getting a break in film editing. That and a real date with handsome yet unpredictable screenwriter Gil. But when she returns a reel of film to storage one night, Clara stumbles across the authosumlifeless body of a woman in Vault 5. The costume, the makeup, the ash-blond hair are unmistakable – it has to be Babe Bannon, A-list star. And it looks like murder. Suddenly Clara’s world is in free-fall, her future in movies upended – not to mention that her refugee parents are planning to return to Germany and don’t want her to set foot on the studio lot again. As the Silver Blonde murder ignites Tinseltown, rumors and accusations swirl. The studio wants a quick solve, but the facts of the case keep shifting. Nothing is what it seems – not even the victim. Clara finds herself drawn, inevitably, to the murder investigation, and the dark side of Hollywood. But how far is she willing to go to find the truth?

Also by Elizabeth Ross:

Belle Epoque
By Elizabeth Ross
352 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780385741477 | Ember
When Maude Pichon runs away from provincial Brittany to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Desperate for work, she answers an unusual ad. The Durandeau Agency provides its clients with a unique service – the beauty foil. Hire a plain friend and become instantly more attractive. Monsieur Durandeau has made a fortune from wealthy socialites, and when the Countess Dubern needs a companion for her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, Maude is deemed the perfect adornment of plainness. Isabelle has no idea her new “friend” is the hired help, and Maude’s very existence among the aristocracy hinges on her keeping the truth a secret. Yet the more she learns about Isabelle, the more her loyalty is tested. And the longer her deception continues, the more she has to lose.

Elizabeth Ross: website | twitter | instagram

Coming Soon: Hunting By Stars

In case you missed the exciting news last week: we are publishing the sequel to Cherie Dimaline’s highly acclaimed The Marrow ThievesHunting by Stars is coming out October 19, 2021 and we can’t wait to dive in. Here’s the full synopsis:

Hunting by Stars
By Cherie Dimaline
400 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735269651 | Penguin Teen Canada
The thrilling follow-up to the bestselling, award-winning novel The Marrow Thieves, about a dystopian world where the Indigenous people of North America are being hunted for their bone marrow and ability to dream.

Years ago, when plagues and natural disasters killed millions of people, much of the world stopped dreaming. Without dreams, people are haunted, sick, mad, unable to rebuild. The government soon finds that the Indigenous people of North America have retained their dreams, an ability rumored to be housed in the very marrow of their bones. Soon, residential schools pop up – or are re-opened – across the land to bring in the dreamers and harvest their dreams.

Seventeen-year-old French lost his family to these schools and has spent the years since heading north with his new found family: a group of other dreamers, who, like him, are trying to build and thrive as a community. But then French wakes up in a pitch-black room, locked in and alone for the first time in years, and he knows immediately where he is – and what it will take to escape.

Meanwhile, out in the world, his found family searches for him and dodges new dangers – school Recruiters, a blood cult, even the land itself. When their paths finally collide, French must decide how far he is willing to go – and how many loved ones is he willing to betray – in order to survive. This engrossing, action-packed, deftly-drawn novel expands on the world of Cherie Dimaline’s award-winning The Marrow Thieves, and it will haunt readers long after they’ve turned the final page.

And if you haven’t read The Marrow Thieves yet, make sure you catch up before October!

The Marrow Thieves
By Cherie Dimaline
240 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781770864863 | Dancing Cat Books/Cormorant Books
Just when you think you have nothing left to lose, they come for your dreams. Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden – but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.

Summer Reading 2021

Summer is here and we’re ready to soak up some sun . . . and books! During our Penguin Teen Social in May, we listed the ten books we’re definitely reading this summer – how many of these are on your TBR?

A Lesson in Vengeance
By Victoria Lee
384 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593305829 | Delacorte Press
Felicity Morrow is back at the Dalloway School to finish her senior year after the tragic death of her girlfriend. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students – girls some say were witches. Felicity was once drawn to the dark legacy of witchcraft. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; but it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget it. It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway – and in herself.

Aetherbound
By E. K. Johnston
256 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735231856 | Dutton BFYR
Set on a family-run interstellar freighter called the Harland and a mysterious remote space station, E. K. Johnston’s latest is story of survival and self-determination. Pendt Harland’s family sees her as a waste of food on their long-haul space cruiser when her genes reveal an undesirable mutation. But if she plays her cards right she might have a chance to do much more than survive. During a space-station layover, Pendt escapes and forms a lucky bond with the Brannick twins, the teenage heirs of the powerful family that owns the station. Against all odds, the trio hatches a long-shot scheme to take over the station and thwart the destinies they never wished for.

All Our Hidden Gifts
By Caroline O’Donoghue
384 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536213942 | Walker Books US
After Maeve finds a pack of tarot cards while cleaning out a closet during her in-school suspension, she quickly becomes the most sought-after diviner at St. Bernadette’s Catholic school. But when Maeve’s ex–best friend, Lily, draws an unsettling card called The Housekeeper that Maeve has never seen before, the session devolves into a heated argument that ends with Maeve wishing aloud that Lily would disappear. When Lily isn’t at school the next Monday, Maeve learns her ex-friend has vanished without a trace. Shunned by her classmates and struggling to preserve a fledgling romance with Lily’s gender-fluid sibling, Roe, Maeve must dig deep into her connection with the cards to search for clues the police cannot find – even if they lead to the terrifying Housekeeper herself. Set in an Irish town where the church’s tight hold has loosened and new freedoms are trying to take root, this sharply contemporary story is witty, gripping, and tinged with mysticism.

Instructions for Dancing
By Nicola Yoon
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271234 | Penguin Teen Canada
Evie Thomas doesn’t believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began . . . and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually. As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything – including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he’s only just met. Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it’s that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk?

Radha & Jai’s Recipe for Romance
By Nisha Sharma
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780553523294 | Crown BFYR
Radha is on the verge of becoming one of the greatest kathak dancers in the world . . . until a family betrayal costs her the biggest competition of her life. Now she has left her Chicago home behind to follow her stage mom to New Jersey. At the Princeton Academy of the Arts, Radha is determined to leave performing in her past and reinvent herself from scratch. Jai is captain of the Bollywood Beats dance team, ranked first in his class, and is an overachiever with no college plans. Tight family funds means medical school is a pipe dream, which is why he wants to make the most out of high school. When Radha enters his life, he realizes she’s the exact ingredient he needs for a show-stopping senior year. With careful choreography, both Radha and Jai will need to face their fears (and their families) if they want a taste of a happily ever after.

Rising Like a Storm
By Tanaz Bhathena
432 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267053 | Penguin Teen Canada
With King Lohar dead and a usurper queen in power, Gul and Cavas face a new tyrannical government that is bent on killing them both. Their roles in King Lohar’s death have not gone unnoticed, and the new queen is out for blood. What she doesn’t know is that Gul and Cavas have a connection that runs deeper than romance, and together, they just might have the strength and magic to end her reign for good. Then a grave mistake ends with Cavas being taken prisoner. Gul is left to train an army of warriors alone. With alliances shifting and the thirst for vengeance growing, the fate of Ambar seems ever more uncertain. It will take every ounce of strength, love, and sacrifice for Gul and Cavas to reach their final goal – and build a more just world than they’ve ever known.

Six Crimson Cranes
By Elizabeth Lim
464 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593300916 | Knopf BFYR
Shiori’anma, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted. But it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother. A sorceress in her own right, Raikama banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes. She warns Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die. Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and uncovers a dark conspiracy to seize the throne. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in a paper bird, a mercurial dragon, and the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to forswear – no matter what the cost.

Tell Me When You Feel Something
By Vicki Grant
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270091 | Penguin Teen Canada
It seemed like a cool part-time program – being a “simulated” patient for med school students to practice on. But now vivacious, charismatic Viv lies in a very real coma. Cellphone footage just leads to more questions. What really happened? Other kids suspect it was not an intentional overdose – but each has a reason why they can’t tell the truth. Through intertwining and conflicting narratives, a twisted story unfolds of trust betrayed as we sift through the seemingly innocent events leading up to the tragic night. Perhaps simulated patients aren’t the only people pretending to be something they’re not. . . . The perfect after-school job turns deadly in this contemporary YA thriller that exposes the dark reality of #MeToo in the world of medicine, for fans of Karen McManus and Holly Jackson.

The Great Godden
By Meg Rosoff
256 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735268319 | Penguin Teen Canada
This is the story of one family, one dreamy summer. . . . In a holiday house by the sea, our watchful narrator sees everything, including many things they shouldn’t, as their brother and sisters, parents, and older cousins fill hot days with wine and games and planning a wedding. Enter two brothers: irresistible, charming, languidly sexy Kit and surly, silent Hugo. Suddenly there’s a serpent in this paradise – and the consequences will be devastating.

Tremendous Things
By Susin Nielsen
272 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271203 | Penguin Teen Canada
We all have moments that define us. For the comically clueless Wilbur, his moment happened on the first day of middle school, when someone shared his private letter with the entire student body. It revealed some of Wilbur’s innermost embarrassing thoughts that no one else should ever know. Now it’s the start of ninth grade and Wilbur hasn’t been able to escape that major humiliation. His good friend Alex stuck by him, but Alex doesn’t have as much time since he started dating Fabrizio. Luckily, Wil can confide in his best friend: his elderly neighbor Sal. Also, Wil’s in the school band, where he plays the triangle. They’re doing an exchange program with students from Paris, and Wilbur’s billet, Charlie, a tall, chic young woman who plays the ukulele and burps with abandon, captures his heart. Charlie likes him, but only as a friend. So Alex, Fabrizio, and Sal host a Queer Eye-style intervention to get Wil in shape and to build his confidence so he can impress Charlie when their band visits Paris, and just maybe replace humiliation with true romance in the City of Love.

The World of Tanaz Bhathena

This week, Tanaz Bhathena released the second book in her fantasy duology, and we’re still swooning over it! Have you caught up with all her books yet?

By Tanaz Bhathena
384 Pages | Ages 12+| Paperback
ISBN 9780735267046 | Penguin Teen Canada
Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul’s mark is what caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge. Cavas lives in the tenements, and he’s just about ready to sign his life over to the king’s army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl – Gul – in the capital’s bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance – and discovers a magic he never expected to find. Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king’s domain in Ambar Fort . . . a world with secrets deadlier than their own. Exploring identity, class struggles, and high-stakes romance, Hunted by the Sky is a gripping adventure set in a world inspired by medieval India.
 

Rising Like a Storm
By Tanaz Bhathena
432 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735267053 | Penguin Teen Canada
With King Lohar dead and a usurper queen in power, Gul and Cavas face a new tyrannical government that is bent on killing them both. Their roles in King Lohar’s death have not gone unnoticed, and the new queen is out for blood. What she doesn’t know is that Gul and Cavas have a connection that runs deeper than romance, and together, they just might have the strength and magic to end her reign for good. Then a grave mistake ends with Cavas being taken prisoner. Gul is left to train an army of warriors alone. With alliances shifting and the thirst for vengeance growing, the fate of Ambar seems ever more uncertain. It will take every ounce of strength, love, and sacrifice for Gul and Cavas to reach their final goal – and build a more just world than they’ve ever known.

The Beauty of the Moment
By Tanaz Bhathena
368 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735263765 | Penguin Teen Canada
Susan is the new girl – she’s sharp and driven, and strives to meet her parents’ expectations of excellence. Malcolm is the bad boy – he started raising hell at age fifteen, after his mom died of cancer, and has had a reputation ever since. Susan hasn’t told anyone, but she wants to be an artist. Malcolm doesn’t know what he wants – until he meets her. Love is messy and families are messier, but in spite of their burdens, Susan and Malcolm fall for each other. The ways they drift apart and come back together are testaments to family, culture, and being true to who you are.

 
Once you’re doing catching up with her fictional worlds, check out Tanaz’s conversation with Sarena & Sasha Nanua (Sisters of the Snake) and Mississauga-based indie bookstore, The Book Wardrobe!

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra is an ongoing series featuring our new releases. The following titles are now available in stores and online!

Rising Like a Storm
By Tanaz Bhathena
432 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735267053 | Penguin Teen Canada
With King Lohar dead and a usurper queen in power, Gul and Cavas face a new tyrannical government that is bent on killing them both. Their roles in King Lohar’s death have not gone unnoticed, and the new queen is out for blood. What she doesn’t know is that Gul and Cavas have a connection that runs deeper than romance, and together, they just might have the strength and magic to end her reign for good. Then a grave mistake ends with Cavas being taken prisoner. Gul is left to train an army of warriors alone. With alliances shifting and the thirst for vengeance growing, the fate of Ambar seems ever more uncertain. It will take every ounce of strength, love, and sacrifice for Gul and Cavas to reach their final goal – and build a more just world than they’ve ever known.

New in Paperback:

By Tanaz Bhathena
384 Pages | Ages 12+| Paperback
ISBN 9780735267046 | Penguin Teen Canada
Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul’s mark is what caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge. Cavas lives in the tenements, and he’s just about ready to sign his life over to the king’s army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl – Gul – in the capital’s bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance – and discovers a magic he never expected to find. Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king’s domain in Ambar Fort . . . a world with secrets deadlier than their own. Exploring identity, class struggles, and high-stakes romance, Hunted by the Sky is a gripping adventure set in a world inspired by medieval India.
 

We can’t wait to see you reading this title! If you share this book online, remember to please tag @PenguinTeenCa so that we can re-post.