Judith D Collins
Such A Pretty Girl
By: T. Greenwood
Publication Date: 10/25/2022
My Rating: 5 Stars + (ARC)
OCT 2022 MUST-READ BOOKS
OCT 2022 AUTHOR INTERVIEW
Against the nostalgic grit of 1970s New York City, the precarious lines between girl and woman, art and obscenity, fetish and fame flicker and ignite for a young girl on the brink of stardom and a mother on the verge of collapse in this vividly lyrical drama from the award-winning author T. Greenwood.
In 1970s New York, her innocence is seductive.
Four decades later, it’s a crime.
Living peacefully in Vermont, Ryan Flannigan is shocked when a text from her oldest friend alerts her to a devastating news item. A controversial photo of her as a pre-teen has been found in the possession of a wealthy investor recently revealed as a pedophile and a sex trafficker—with an inscription to him from Ryan’s mother on the back.
Memories crowd in, providing their own distinctive pictures of her mother Fiona, an aspiring actress, and their move to the West Village in 1976. Amid the city’s gritty kaleidoscope of wealth and poverty, high art, and sleazy strip clubs, Ryan is discovered and thrust into the spotlight as a promising young actress with a woman’s face and a child’s body. Suddenly, the safety and comfort Ryan longs for is replaced by auditions, paparazzi, and the hungry eyes of men of all ages.
Forced to reexamine her childhood, Ryan begins to untangle her young fears and her mother’s ambitions, and the role each played in the fraught blackout summer of 1977. Even with her movie career long behind her, Ryan and Fiona are suddenly the object of uncomfortable speculation—and Fiona demands Ryan’s support. To put the past to rest, Ryan will need to face the painful truth of their relationship, and the night when everything changed.
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About the Author
T.Greenwood is an acclaimed author whose novels have sold more than a quarter-million copies. A four-time winner of the San Diego Book Award, she has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Maryland State Arts Council. Five of her novels have been Indie Next Picks and her twelfth novel, Rust & Stardust, was a Library Reads selection. Her novels have been translated into five languages. She lives with her family in San Diego, California, where she teaches creative writing for The Writer's Center and San Diego Writer's Ink, studies photography, and continues to write.
Visit T. Greenwood online at: TGreenwood.com
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Q&A Elevator Ride with
New York Times Bestselling Author T. Greenwood
"Behind the Book" | #AuthorElevatorSeries
Exceptional Authors. Standout Books. Elevator Talk.
INTRIGUING QUESTIONS. INQUIRING READERS WANT TO KNOW
Welcome to the October #AuthorElevatorSeries —where we go behind the scenes of the book and the author. We are super excited to have back with us today one of my favorite authors, the award-winning and bestselling author, T. Greenwood, and her highly anticipated novel, SUCH A PRETTY GIRL. If you missed our last elevator ride (2019) with the author, Keeping Lucy, you can view it here.
Q. Give us your BEST Elevator Pitch for SUCH A PRETTY GIRL.
TG: SUCH A PRETTY GIRL is about a young actress and her ambitious stage mother in 1970s New York City.
Q. VERMONT: I know you reside in California; however, I thoroughly enjoy your IG photos with your writing retreat in Vermont and the beautiful scenery. Tell us a little about this heavenly spot and do you go every year to write?
TG: My great-grandfather built our family’s “camp” in Vermont in 1941. In 1961, my grandfather built a treehouse on the property for my mom and her brothers. I have been bringing my family there every summer since 2003. It’s a rustic, gambrel roofed cabin on a large pond in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont near the Canadian border. It is my favorite place on earth.
Now that my children are grown, I plan to be there from the end of June through mid-October. This is the time when I am most able to focus on my writing. My desk is on the sleeping porch which faces the water. Life is simple and so special there.
Q. NEW YORK CITY BLACKOUT July 13–14, 1977: The novel revolves around this date and crucial time in history. Share why you chose to write about it and your inspiration.
TG: I knew I wanted the novel to be set in the mid-1970s – a time when young actresses were shamelessly exploited by the entertainment industry. These were the girls who were my contemporaries: the ones I watched grow up on screen.
When I began conducting research about NYC at this time, there were so many things that popped up that simply lended themselves to the story I was crafting. The notorious blackout was one of them. The novel actually centers around a photo taken of Ryan, my protagonist, the night of the blackout.
Q. 1970s FUN: Tammy, if you will (for those who are unfamiliar with the 70s) let’s rewind: could you share with us some of the items you include in the book which relate to this time.
TG: Oh! So many. I was born in 1969, so my childhood was in the 1970s and 1980s. The novel includes references to a lot of cultural artifacts: Love’s Baby Soft, Studio 54, the Blackout, Son of Sam, the early West Village Halloween parades, American Bandstand, A Very Young Dancer and “The Turning Point” (Ryan is obsessed with ballet). Check out more HERE!
Q. RESEARCH: Any fascinating research for the novel, or anything you learned along the way?
TG: The book’s setting in NY is a real artists’ residence called Westbeth. I did a tremendous amount of research about this building in the West Village. It still exists, and last summer, I got to go see it. I also became friendly with two residents – one woman who grew up there, and an artist who still lives there.
Q. WRITING: Do you have a favorite chapter or scene in the novel you enjoyed writing the most?
TG: I loved writing the scenes set in Westbeth. Ryan and her friends have the freedom to explore the labyrinthine building, filled with artists. There are kittens who live on the rooftop. A dance studio. And a forbidden basement. Writing those chapters allowed me to return to my own somewhat feral childhood.
Q. PHOTOGRAPHY: In addition to being a novelist, and excellent storyteller, you also have another talent, “photography.” Your work is stunning. Your oldest daughter, Mikaela, also has a career in ballet. How much fun was it writing Henri’s character as a well-known photographer with all your knowledge?
How do you see the power of narrative and photography connection?
Bookreporter Interview: “A Very Young Dancer”
TG: Thank you. I often write about photography. It is really a passion of mine. And – for me – it is just a visual form of storytelling. The appeal of photography; however, is that it takes only a moment to capture an incredible image, while writing a novel can take years.
Henri, to me, was a character who used his gifts to capture the lives of his subjects, but carefully tread the line between artistic expression and exploitation.
Q. TOPICS: Name 1-3 topics or themes addressed in the novel?
Art vs. Obscenity
Q. UPCOMING: Can you share what you are currently working or what is next in ten words or less (or more)?
TG: My next novel, The Still Point, is set in the world of a pre-professional ballet studio. It is primarily about the dancers’ mothers. And there’s a mystery at the center. “Big Little Lies” meets “Black Swan”!
This sounds so exciting!
Readers, you must check out this fun and informative Book Club Kit! Download below.
"Behind the Author" | #AuthorElevatorSeries
California and Vermont
FAVORITE THING ABOUT WHERE YOU RESIDE?
I love the little beach towns near where we live in California. Also, the best Mexican restaurant in the world is in our neighborhood.
Photography and knitting (I have Instagram accounts for both! You can check them out at @ephemerafiles and @softswirlballetwear.)
FAVORITE TV SERIES? (Or Movie/Video) binge-watch, series, etc.?
I love “Better Things” – I discovered it during the pandemic. It stars Pamela Adlon and is about a single mother and her 3 daughters.
YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO WRITE?
At our camp (cottage) in Vermont. Early in the morning, with my dogs at my feet.
A FAVORITE CHARACTER FROM YOUR BOOK(s).
I really adore Trevor from Grace. I don’t have sons, but I feel like a mama to him.
INTROVERT OR EXTROVERT?
Introvert except with close friends. I am very much a homebody.
YOUR FAVORITE APP?
I am addicted to TikTok videos. I love how creative and funny and strange and brave people are.
YOUR FAVORITE DESSERT RECEIPE? (Add link if you want). This pie is amazing!! www.npr.org/2013/04/11/176279512/a-north-carolina-pie-that-elicits-an-oh-my-god-response
THE BEST THING ABOUT A PANDEMIC? (OR WORST)
The best thing about the pandemic was getting to be with my family – we were so busy and scattered before – I feel like it made us close in a way that nothing else possibly could. I also love how it has changed the way people work. Even now that it’s waned a bit, my husband and I are spending more time at our home in Vermont – because we can work remotely.
YOUR FAVORITE SANDWICH?
There is a place in Buffalo, NY called Charlie the Butcher’s, and they make a road beef sandwich called “Beef on Weck” that is the perfect sandwich.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING AT MIDNIGHT LAST EVENING?
Asleep in a hotel in San Antonio – on our annual trek back across the country from Vermont to San Antonio.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR?
Being loved by those close to me, and for my stories.
JEANS, LEGGINS, YOGA, JOGGERS, OR SWEATS?
I have a pair of Sherpa lined sweats my daughter gave me that are heavenly.
FAVORITE CHILDHOOD BOOK?
The first book I truly loved was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It felt like magic to me.
YOUR FAVORITE AGE (in your life)?
I enjoyed the years when my kids were in elementary school. Watching them grow up (with them still under the roof) was so meaningful. I know I was frazzled and busy, but a full life is a happy life.
A FAVORITE PODCAST?
“You Must Remember This” which is about film/Hollywood history. I also love “Other People with Brad Listi” – author interviews. And I am a sucker for true crime.
WHAT SOUND DO YOU LOVE?
The sound of rain on the metal roof at our place in Vermont.
A SMELL YOU LOVE?
WHAT ARE YOU FREAKISHLY BAD AT?
Dancing. I danced for ten years – ballet, tap, jazz, etc.. – but I am terrible on the dance floor.
Thank you, Tammy, for spending time with us today!
Check out the wealth of information below and above!
A Letter from the Author
PRECARIOUS LINES BETWEEN ART AND OBSCENITY,
GIRL AND WOMAN, FETISH AND FAME FLICKER AND IGNITE FOR A YOUNG GIRL ON THE BRINK OF STARDOM AND A MOTHER ON THE VERGE OF COLLAPSE IN 1970S NEW YORK CITY
Such a Pretty Girl by award-winning author T. Greenwood,
on sale October 25, 2022
Deftly combining lyrical prose with rivetingly commercial plotting, T. Greenwood’s novels have earned her acclaim as “a writer of subtle strength…finding light in the darkest of stories” (Publishers Weekly). She is at her formidable best in SUCH A PRETTY GIRL, as a former child actress is forced to confront the culture, relationships, and injustices of her youth when a controversial photo taken of her as a preteen on the night of the 1977 blackout ignites a media firestorm. As Ryan returns to the months leading to that night, readers are plunged into the glittering glamor and grit of 1970s New York City, with vivid scenes from the early days of the West Village Halloween Parade, Jefferson Market, Hubert’s Museum and Peep Show, Washington Square Park, the Russian Tea Room, Coney Island, Times Square at its most risqué, and more.
In 1976, Ryan is eleven when she and her complicated mother move from rural Vermont into to Westbeth Artists Housing, the real-life West Village apartment complex that provided the first federally funded residences for artists. As her mother dashes from one unsuccessful audition to another, Ryan is left to explore a city coming apart at the seams with crime and corruption, but also bursting with creativity and vibrant color.
Ryan longs for safety, comfort, and above all, her mother’s attention. But when she’s discovered by a talent agent, the spotlight she’s thrust into offers a different warmth. There, the precarious lines between girl and woman, art and obscenity, fetish and fame flicker and ignite as Ryan’s star begins to rise – think Brooke Shields in “Pretty Baby” meets the disturbing early ads for Loves Baby Soft – in a city about to plunge into darkness.
Praise for Such a Pretty Girl
“Magnetic...This knotty story leaves readers reflecting on the limits of family obligations.”–Publishers Weekly
“Rich with vivid details . . . [and] beautifully crafted characters . . . Stayed with me long after turning the last page.”
—Jillian Cantor, USA Today bestselling author of In Another Time
“Pretty Baby meets Mommy Dearest… Kiddie porn, stage moms and the power of childhood friends to save you all play out in this powerful and disturbing look at manipulation and innocence lost.”
– Kim McGee, Lake Travis Community Library (Austin, TX)
“Fans of The Comeback and Carry the Dog will want to snap up a copy of Such a Pretty Girl. T. Greenwood's haunting novel of showbiz parenting is a must-read. Stories of friendship, mothers and daughters, and the moments that shape our entire lives are layered with finesse, immersing the reader in the pages. The perfect book club book.
– Mary Webber O’Malley, Skylark Bookshop (Columbia, MO)
“Former child actress Ryan Flannigan is forced to confront her difficult past when a risqué childhood photo is made public, leading to the suicide of a dear, old friend and causing her mother to go into hiding. T. Greenwood’s exquisite storytelling ability is showcased in this coming of age/coming to terms with one’s past, dual time period page-turner. Wrought with emotion and brimming with suspense, this will appeal to fans of Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain.”
— Cyndi Larsen, Avon Public Library (Avon, CT)
“T. Greenwood puts her exquisite literary skills to the test in this mother/daughter drama. Analyzing the questionable lines between exploitation and ambition, this novel will have readers on the edge of their seats. Ryan Flannigan is so much more than SUCH A PRETTY GIRL. She becomes a woman who must reckon with her past and demand the truth.”
— Pamela Klinger-Horn, Valley Bookseller (Stillwater, MN)
Diane Arbus said “A photograph is a secret about a secret” and T. Greenwood brings this to light in her new novel…Such a Pretty Girl will suck you into a world of secrets, betrayal and greed of advantage yet seeped with familial love that is even more fragile than it ever was. Many try to run from our past but when a photograph appears that exposes it all, escape becomes nearly impossible.”
– Annie Philbrick, Mystic Books (Mystic, CT)
“Ryan Flanagan’s quiet life in Vermont is turned upside down when a private photo from her childhood turns up in a raid on the home of a billionaire sex trafficker and pedophile. Even more disturbing, she learns that her mother was the one who gave the photo to him. Moving back and forth between the 1970s and the present, this is a compelling and sensitively written story of a negligent, self-serving mother and an extraordinary young girl, of surviving childhood and moving beyond a painful past.”
– Vicki Nesting, St Charles Parish Library (Louisiana)
“An evocative, haunting, lyrical novel of mothers and daughters, truth and lies, art and life… Greenwood makes you feel what young Ryan feels, as she acts, as she studies the adults around her, as she poses for famous photographer Henri Dubois, and especially as she wanders lost and scared through Westbeth during the 1977 blackout. Adult Ryan’s vision is just as vividly portrayed, whether she’s thinking about her 18 year old daughter’s future or remembering childhood events and old friends.”
– Kate Reynolds, Colgate Bookstore (Hamilton, NY)
“PRETTY BABY meets MOMMY DEAREST…Right away I thought of Brooke Shields as a real life model for Ryan - a child model and actor whose innocence was stripped when she was made to act and look older and seductive. Kiddie porn, stage moms and the power of childhood friends to save you all play out in this powerful and disturbing look at manipulation and innocence lost..”
– Kim McGee, Lake Travis Community Library (Austin, TX)
“T. Greenwood doing what she does best! A thought-provoking novel of complicated mother-daughter relationships, interwoven with famous, salacious headlines from today and decades ago.”
– Julie Slavinsky, Warwick’s (La Jolla, CA)
Timely. Lyrical. Evocative. Alluring. Haunting!
Master storyteller T. Greenwood returns following Keeping Lucy and Rust & Stardust with a powerful, emotional, and gripping story surrounding the 1977 New York City Blackout —SUCH A PRETTY GIRL.
Former child actress Ryan Flannigan learns from the NYT article that a sensitive photo of her at age eleven (during the blackout), by photographer and family friend Henri Dubois, was found among the possessions during the raid of billionaire Zev Brenner's Paris apartment. This pedophile has been accused of underage sex trafficking and unspeakable crimes. So many young, innocent victims.
The discovery leads Ryan to reflect on her estranged mother (stage mom), Fiona, who gave Brenner the photo with an inscription on the back during Ryan's career. Ryan has not seen the photo since it was taken at Westbeth.
The FBI is now after her mother, Fiona, and Ryan's model agent, Margie. How are they connected to this monster?
The face of a woman on a child's body, the contradiction that launched her career and ultimately destroyed it.
Lost River, Vermont 2019: The book opens in Vermont, where we meet Ryan Flannigan and her daughter Sasha. It is Sasha's eighteenth birthday, and soon she will be heading off to college in California.
It has been thirty years since Ryan's last film when she left show business and came to Lost River. However, her past resurfaces when her best friend, Gilly, texts her about the NYT article "Mother or Monster."
A black and white photo of Ryan as a little girl, eleven years old, taken during the NYC Blackout in 1977 by her friend and photographer, Henri Dubois. This vulnerable, raw photo was meant for her mother's eyes only, so how did it wind up in the hands of a pedophile?
Her mother gifted this private photo of her to a monster. How did she know him and why? What about the talent agent?
Gilly, her childhood friend from NY, wants her to come to NY since Henri (a man they were close to) and a well-known photographer, has committed suicide. Was it due to this photo?
"A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know." —Diane Arbus
From flashbacks of Vermont 1976 before Westbeth and NY 2019, a mother (Fiona) and daughter (Ryan) lived in a compound in Lost River where the mom worked in the Lost River Playhouse. Their friend Serafina ran the theatre, which was a happy time for all. However, things were tough for a struggling actress, so they moved to NYC to stay with Gilly and his mom to find work, while Gilly's dad was in LA with work.
Westbeth Artists Housing NY: 1976-1977: An old factory building complex where hundreds of artists and actors lived, musicians, dancers, and photographers. All was fun, and the kids kind of ran wild without their parents being around. Ryan made friends with gay Gilly and Henri, a well-known photographer who took many photos of her.
Her mom, Fiona, went on many interviews and was getting desperate. She could not find work until a talent agent discovered Ryan. She became a star. It is not what her mom wanted but soon realized this was her ticket to money and fame. Through her daughter. She became the stage mom.
However, what had Fiona done? Had she sold out her daughter? What kind of deal had she made with the devil? Greed, secrets, and fame. Was she a protector or a monster?
That troubled and traumatic time that Ryan would like to forget is now forced upon her. That night her mom went missing and never came home. Leaving a young girl unattended for two days and nights.
The blackout. An innocent game of "hide and seek" in her building goes bad. She was lost and came into the hands of another pedophile in her building. A night of horror. She turned to her friend Henri. She would never forgive her mother for leaving her alone without caring for her well-being.
But now the feds are after her mom, and she wants Ryan to hide her in Vermont. What will Ryan decide? A riveting story that will keep you glued to the pages!
WOW! T. Greenwood has been a favorite author for many years and I have read all 14 of her novels. No other author could have written this novel with the same passion as Greenwood.
A young, innocent girl was forced to grow up before her time. Faced many obstacles, from being a child celebrity to the problems of her selfish mother, who was not there to protect her. Ryan longs for safety, comfort, and above all, her mother’s attention in a world of corruption, trauma, fame, and greed.
Greenwood dives deep into the characters' minds, with vivid settings and descriptions of the night of the blackout, which brought about fear and horror for those involved, and you could feel the anxiety as if you were there.
Enthralling & Hypnotic!
Beautifully written and told with compassion and sensitivity, Such a Pretty Girl is a must-read and an ideal book club pick!
I loved all the 1970s references since I lived through the 70s and enjoyed Ryan's friendship with Gilly and Henri while her mom left her all alone. Such a beautiful story, especially now showcasing Ryan as a mother and how she raised her daughter differently than her mother.
If you have read Greenwood's Rust and Stardust, you must read SUCH A PRETTY GIRL. Also, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita.
The novel will bring to mind Brooke Shields in “Pretty Baby” meets the disturbing early ads for Loves Baby Soft – in a city about to plunge into darkness. Also here in Palm Beach, Multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein, and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell.
UPCOMING INTERVIEW: Stay tuned for my #AuthorElevatorSeries Interview with T. Greenwood on pub-date, where we go behind the scenes of the book and this talented author. You can sign up for my newsletter if you want it delivered to your inbox.
@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks
My Rating: 5 Stars
Pub Date: Oct 25, 2022