Monday, April 27, 2020

Lian Dolan Interview - The Sweeney Sisters

Photo Content from Lian Dolan

Lian Dolan is a writer and talker. She’s the author of two Los Angeles Times best-selling novels, Helen of Pasadena and Elizabeth the First Wife published by Prospect Park Books. Her next novel, The Sweeney Sisters, will be published in 2020 by William Morrow. She’s a regular humor columnist for Pasadena Magazine and has previously written monthly columns for O, The Oprah Magazine and Working Mother Magazine. She’s also written for TV, radio and websites.

Lian is the producer and host of Satellite Sisters, the award-winning talk show she created with her four real sisters. On Satellite Sisters, she’s interviewed everyone from Nora Ephron to Madeleine Albright to Big Bird. Satellite Sisters began life as a syndicated radio show and is now a top-rated podcast for women. The recent book by the Satellite Sisters, You’re the Best: A Celebration of Friendship, is popular with book clubs.

A popular speaker who combines humor and heart, Lian has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Sunday Morning and The Today Show and many local TV stations. She’s been a featured speaker at the LA Times Festival of Books, the Santa Barbara Celebrity Authors Lunch, the Literary Guild of Orange County Festival of Women Authors and dozens of other events at libraries, book stores, schools and women’s organizations across the country. In 2020, she’ll be on the faculty of the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.

Lian graduated from Pomona College with a degree in Classics. She lives in Pasadena, California with her husband, two sons and a big German shepherd.


Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (April 28, 2020)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062909045
ISBN-13: 978-0062909046


"This is a big-hearted belly-laugh of a book, told with wit and poignancy. Family secrets, laughter and tears, shocking reveals, and an uplifting ending make this a story to savor--and share." —Susan Wiggs, New York Times bestselling author of The Oysterville Sewing Circle

"Dolan uses her experience in podcasting with her own sisters to craft believable women characters who worry about real problems and use wry humor to push through dark moments . . . . A warmhearted portrait of love embracing true hearts." —Kirkus

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
Unemployment! I had been doing a daily radio show for 8 years and suddenly, the show ended. I had a lot of creative energy, a chunk of time in the middle of the day that was open and a file folder entitled, “Possible Book Ideas.” I signed up for an online writing class because I’d never written fiction prose and I wanted some accountability. And I felt like I has a story in me about a woman who reaches mid-life and has to re-invent herself. Helen of Pasadena was finished a year later. 

Tell us your latest news.
I’m excited for the release of The Sweeney Sisters, my third novel. I was looking forward to a cross-country book tour, but that plan was scrapped, so I’m learning all kinds of new digital communication tools to get the word out. Connecting with readers online or over Zoom is a silver lining in all of this social distancing. 

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
I’ve always admired writers who can move between genres or formats—from fiction to essays to TV to Twitter. Anna Quindlen and the late, great Nora Ephron are two writers who breadth of work, senses of humor and humanity inspire me. I also love the work of all those talented, smart writer/producer/performers like Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Issa Rae, all creating the work they want to see in the world. 

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
After three novels and two collections of essays, I’m still thrilled to sign my own books. Readers wonder if my hand hurts, or it’s an imposition or if I’m tired of signing. My answer is, “No, no, no!” It’s really an honor to sign a book for a reader and I never tire of that experience. 

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
The Sweeney Sisters is a book about sisterhood and how imperfect and complicated that relationship can be. I hope readers see themselves in the characters and see their sisters—either by birth or by choice—in the book, too. I wanted to capture the way that the sister relationship can evolve and improve over the years. 

In your new book; THE SWEENEY SISTERS, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it 
The book is the story of three sisters from Connecticut – Liza, Maggie & Tricia-- and what happens to their world when a couple of events happen in quick succession, the death of their father and the discovery of a secret sister. The Sweeney Sisters examines the definition of family and how that can change over time and circumstance. The sisters need to find a way to move forward together, but still maintain their own identities and that certain Sweeney family swagger that has always defined them. Sounds serious, but the book also has food, art, summertime romance and several dogs to keep everyone entertained. 

What part of Maggie and Liza did you enjoy writing the most?
To me, Liza is a classic older sister—hyper-responsible, feels like she’s the glue that holds the family together, has a touch of martyrdom. But she’s warm, capable, creative. I like being able to represent a woman who almost has it all together—and then gets blindsided on all fronts. Maggie is the middle sister and owns that title. She loves that she’s a bit of a mess. And characters like Maggie are pure fun for me to write because I’ve never had the guts to be a bit of a mess. 

If you could introduce Tricia to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Remember Kate Reddy, the overworked, on-the-edge working mom main character of Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does it? Well, that character was a cautionary tale for me when I was figuring out my own work-life balance as a working mother. And I think Tricia could benefit from a few rounds of drinks with Kate, the older, but not wiser friend. Both are smarty-pants on the fast track, but Tricia could learn from Kate’s mistakes. I’m going to try and set up those drink for the two of them. 

  • 1. I majored in Classical Archaeology in college because I wanted to be Indiana Jones. 
  • 2. I am the youngest of 8 kids. I was the baby of the family, but never babied. 
  • 3. I study ballroom dancing and recently performed a cha cha on stage to Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation.” 
  • 4. My two sons are both visual artists and photographers and yet we take very few family photos. 
  • 5. My husband and I spent 17 days together before getting engaged. 
  • 6. I’m an avid home cook but I can’t bake. Like anything but boxed brownies. 
  • 7. I was once the Grand Marshall of a Fourth of July Parade on the Oregon Coast. It was brilliant. 
  • 8. I am allergic to many breeds of dogs, but not German shepherds. I’ve had three female shepherds over the years—Mika, Mia and Steffi.
  • 9. I graduated early from high school and moved to New Orleans, working in a deli in the French Quarter. I still love that city.
  • 10. I’m a huge sports fans and have been to three Olympic Games: Lake Placid, Barcelona & Rio.
What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
Crows are very smart, loyal animals. If the animal world awarded MacArthur’s, crows would dominate the list every year. 

What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
I like to be shaken up by the natural world. A few years ago, we went on a family trip to the Galapagos and it was an amazing adventure with all the snorkeling, hiking, kayaking and fantastic wildlife. So up next on my amazing adventure list are polar bears, Northern Lights and icebergs in Scandinavia and the Arctic Circle. Plus, I like the Extreme Cold Weather look with boots, hats and giant coats. 

Best date you've ever had?
Stay with me on this. I was diagnosed with colon cancer last September during a routine colonoscopy. It was a shocker. I had no symptoms and no family history so the colonoscopy saved my life. I spent the Fall preparing for and then recovering from surgery and am now cancer-free and very grateful. For my first dinner out after months of staying in, my husband surprised me with a spontaneous trip to downtown Los Angeles on the train, a walk around the Arts District and dinner at one of our favorite spots, a beautiful restaurant called Manuela. On the train home, a fellow passenger was blasting some 80’s tunes. It was all perfectly normal and perfectly magical. 

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I’m not a nostalgic person, so this is a hard question for me! There are certainly times in my life I’d like to revisit and advise myself to breathe or enjoy or buy Apple stock. But for pure fun, I’d go back to my days in Jackson Hole. I ski-bummed there after college for two years, skiing all day and cocktail waitressing at night. It was a day-to-day kind of lifestyle in all the best ways, something I haven’t really experienced in decades! Jackson was small and unglamorous back then, but beautiful and special. 

What event in your life would make a good movie?
When I was in my late twenties, a tarot card reader in Seattle predicted that reconnect with a man that I had had an issue with in the past and be married to him within a year. Three months later, I reconnected with a guy I knew from college, but had taken a vow never to speak to again. Ten months later we were married! I never went back to the tarot card reader because I didn’t want her to tell me, “No, no. Wrong guy!” We just celebrated our 27th anniversary. Tell me that’s not a Rom-Com! 

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
I remember the day that an essay I wrote for my first book Satellite Sisters UnCommon Senses was excerpted by O, The Oprah Magazine. It was like getting hit by this giant stamp of approval—from OPRAH! The essay was about moving through the life with a sense of humor as a guiding principle, something I think has really defined me as a persona and writer, so it was doubling thrilling. When the magazine came out, I went to the grocery store and bought six copies and proudly showed the check-out woman my story and picture. She was really impressed! 

An accomplished storyteller returns with her biggest, boldest, most entertaining novel yet—a hilarious, heartfelt story about books, love, sisterhood, and the surprises we discover in our DNA that combines the wit of Jonathan Tropper with the heart of Susan Wiggs.

Maggie, Eliza, and Tricia Sweeney grew up as a happy threesome in the idyllic seaside town of Southport, Connecticut. But their mother’s death from cancer fifteen years ago tarnished their golden-hued memories, and the sisters drifted apart. Their one touchstone is their father, Bill Sweeney, an internationally famous literary lion and college professor universally adored by critics, publishers, and book lovers. When Bill dies unexpectedly one cool June night, his shell-shocked daughters return to their childhood home. They aren’t quite sure what the future holds without their larger-than-life father, but they do know how to throw an Irish wake to honor a man of his stature.

But as guests pay their respects and reminisce, one stranger, emboldened by whiskey, has crashed the party. It turns out that she too is a Sweeney sister.

When Washington, DC based journalist Serena Tucker had her DNA tested on a whim a few weeks earlier, she learned she had a 50% genetic match with a childhood neighbor—Maggie Sweeney of Southport, Connecticut. It seems Serena’s chilly WASP mother, Birdie, had a history with Bill Sweeney—one that has remained totally secret until now.

Once the shock wears off, questions abound. What does this mean for William’s literary legacy? Where is the unfinished memoir he’s stashed away, and what will it reveal? And how will a fourth Sweeney sister—a blond among redheads—fit into their story?

By turns revealing, insightful, and uproarious, The Sweeney Sisters is equal parts cautionary tale and celebration—a festive and heartfelt look at what truly makes a family.

You can purchase The Sweeney Sisters at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you LIAN DOLAN for making this giveaway possible.
5 Winners will receive a Copy of THE SWEENEY SISTERS by Lian Dolan.
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1 comment:

  1. The Sweeney Sisters story seems like a rollicking good time with the ups and downs of family. Plus finding a half-sister later in life is a surprise.