Monday, December 17, 2018

Melanie Benjamin Interview - The Girls in the Picture

Photo Credit from Deborah Feingold

Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling historical novels The Swans of Fifth Avenue, about Truman Capote and his society swans, and The Aviator's Wife, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Her latest historical novel, The Girls in the Picture, is about the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood's earliest female legends—screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford.

Previous historical novels include the national bestseller Alice I Have Been, about Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, the story of 32-inch-tall Lavinia Warren Stratton, a star during the Gilded Age.

Her novels have been translated in over fifteen languages, featured in national magazines such as Good Housekeeping, People, and Entertainment Weekly, and optioned for film.

Melanie is a native of the Midwest, having grown up in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she pursued her first love, theater. After raising her two sons, Melanie, a life-long reader (including being the proud winner, two years in a row, of her hometown library's summer reading program!), decided to pursue a writing career. After writing her own parenting column for a local magazine, and winning a short story contest, Melanie published two contemporary novels under her real name, Melanie Hauser, before turning to historical fiction.

Melanie lives in Chicago with her husband, and near her two grown sons. In addition to writing, she puts her theatrical training to good use by being a member of the Authors Unbound speakers bureau. When she isn't writing or speaking, she's reading. And always looking for new stories to tell.


The Girls in the Picture captures the relationship and career struggles of Mary Pickford and Frances Marion, two key female icons in the early Hollywood era. What inspired you to focus on these individuals? 
I love the history of Hollywood, particularly the early era, so I’ve read a lot of books about it. There’s just something about the raw energy of that time, the sense that everyone was making it up as they went along, that appeals to me. And in the reading I’ve done, the collaboration of Mary and Frances just stood out to me. How amazing is it that over 100 years ago, these two women were making the most popular movies coming out of Hollywood? And then I wanted to explore their friendship; what it means to be best friends and collaborators, what happens when one person’s career is in decline while another’s is ascending, how it was to be two women who put career ahead of family in a time not that far removed from the Victorian age...all of these were topics I thought I could explore through this story of a friendship.

Besides extensive research, is there anything you do at the beginning of a new project or when sitting down to write? Do you have any writing rituals? 
I like to pick out an inspirational photo to use as my computer background. For THE GIRLS IN THE PICTURE, it was a photo of Mary and Frances on a set, smiling so warmly at each other. Then, before I sit down to write, I do like to have the basic outline of the story I’m going to tell in my head. I don’t write it out, I don’t have a chart or anything. But I know where I’m going to begin and where I’m going to end and most of the major points I’m going to hit along the way. What I don’t always know is the voice, or the POV or the tense; those things sometimes have to work themselves out in the writing. And once I begin, I write 2000 words a day. It’s not that hard, when you know the story you’re telling. I write in the morning, then workout or go for a walk in the afternoon. 

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us? 
My next novel is about a real person, too, but someone not well-known. But the setting of the book is--the Hotel Ritz in Paris. THE MISTRESS OF THE RITZ is about Blanche Auzello, the real-life American woman who was married to the French director of the Ritz during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II. The glamor, the intrigue, the danger of that time, even in that opulent hotel which became the headquarters for the German high command, is the setting for a truly epic love story. I love this book, it will be out in May. And I’m just starting the novel after that, but I can’t yet reveal what it’s about. 

What’s the most surprising fact you learned about Frances and Mary? 
That Frances was the one who first conceived of Mary portraying children on screen. This became Mary’s calling card, her worth, her everything--her ability to portray children. It made her the biggest star of all, at the time. Then it became an albatross around her neck. And her very best friend in the world was the one responsible. 

An intimate portrait of the close friendship and powerful creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female superstars: Frances Marion and Mary Pickford. An enchanting new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife.

Hollywood, 1914. Frances Marion, a young writer desperate for a break, meets “America’s Sweetheart,” Mary Pickford, already making a name for herself both on and off the screen with her golden curls and lively spirit. Together, these two women will take the movie business by storm.

Mary Pickford becomes known as the “Queen of the Movies”—the first actor to have her name on a movie marquee, and the first to become a truly international celebrity. Mary and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, were America’s first Royal Couple, living in a home more famous that Buckingham Palace. Mary won the first Academy Award for Best Actress in a Talkie and was the first to put her hand and footprints in Grauman’s theater sidewalk. Her annual salary in 1919 was $625,000—at a time when women’s salaries peaked at $10 a week. Frances Marion is widely considered one of the most important female screenwriters of the 20th century, and was the first writer to win multiple Academy Awards. The close personal friendship between the two stars was closely linked to their professional collaboration and success.

This is a novel about power: the power of women during the exhilarating early years of Hollywood, and the power of forgiveness. It’s also about the imbalance of power, then and now, and the sacrifices and compromises women must make in order to succeed. And at its heart, it’s a novel about the power of female friendship.


Full of Old Hollywood glamour and true details about the pair’s historic careers, The Girls in the Picture is a captivating ode to a legendary bond.” —Real Simple

“In the era of #MeToo, Girls could not be more timely—or troubling—about the treatment of women in the workplace. . . . [Melanie] Benjamin portrays the affection and friction between Pickford and Marion with compassion and insight. . . . As Hollywood preps for an Oscar season riven with the sexual mistreatment scandal, the rest of us can settle in with this rich exploration of two Hollywood friends who shaped the movies.” —USA Today

“A boffo production . . . One of the pleasures of The Girls in the Picture its no-males-necessary alliance of two determined females—#TimesUp before its time. . . . Inspiration is a rare and unexpected gift in a book filled with the fluff of Hollywood, but Benjamin provides it with The Girls in the Picture.” —NPR

“Benjamin immerses readers in the whirlwind excitement of Mary’s and Frances’ lives while portraying a rarely seen character, an early woman screenwriter, and deftly exploring the complexities of female friendship.” —Booklist

“The heady, infectious energy of the fledgling film industry in Los Angeles is convincingly conveyed—and the loving but competitive friendship between these two women on the rise in a man’s world is a powerful source of both tension and relatability.” —Publishers Weekly

“Profoundly resonant, The Girls in the Picture is at its core, an empowering and fascinating tale of sisterhood. . . . Deeply affecting . . . This book isn’t just timely, it’s necessary!” —Bryce Dallas Howard

“Melanie Benjamin, known for her living, breathing portraits of famous figures, takes on the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the friendship between icons Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion. As riveting as the latest blockbuster, this is a star-studded story of female friendships, creative sparks about to ignite, and the power of women. Dazzling.” —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World

“Set at the dawn of Hollywood, The Girls in the Picture explores the friendship between renowned starlet Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion. With the artistry for which she has become renowned, Melanie Benjamin has simultaneously created an insightful tale of the relationship between writer and muse and a breathtaking view into Hollywood’s most glittering era.” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale

“A scintillating journey back in time to the gritty and glamorous days of old Hollywood . . . With elegant prose and delicious historical detail, Benjamin delivers a timely tale of female friendship—and the powerful duo who dared to dream beyond the narrow roles into which they’d been cast.” —Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of Where the Light Falls and Sisi

You can purchase The Girls in the Picture at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MELANIE BENJAMIN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin..


  1. The Notebook is my favorite movie.

  2. My favorite movie is While You Were Sleeping.

  3. I have too many favorite movies to list. But I love historical movies & books like this. Fascinating time period.

  4. "Tell me about your favorite movie." Oh, I love so many movies! I'm sure I still love "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis"! It's ravishingly beautiful!

  5. My favorite movie is "Gone With The Wind".

  6. My all-time favorite movie is "The Wizard of Oz".

  7. The nightmare before Christmas has always been my favorite movie that and Edward Scissorhands really anything Til Burton