Sunny Hostin on Writing Her First Novel – The Hollywood Reporter


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Toni Morrison once said, “If there is a book that you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you have to write it.” Emmy-winning legal journalist and View Co-host Sunny Hostin says she took this quote to heart after realizing she couldn’t find this useful story that she wanted to delve into.

“I remember so many times going to the bookstores at the airport and there was no escape for me,” says Hostin Hollywood journalist. With her business ‘bread and butter’ covering social justice stories and discussing police brutality and systemic racism, Hostin explains that she typically seeks a ‘beach reading’ that not only entertains but adheres to her interests. . But when she couldn’t find one, the idea sprouted to write her own based on her personal experiences.

“I literally started to think, ‘I’m going to write this,'” she recalls, explaining that “the idea has spread” to write a story centered on “the seaside communities in which African Americans were historically known to be able to ‘spend the summer’ including Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, SAC Harbor in the Hamptons and High Point in Maryland. As a biracial woman, Hostin explains that she has not only visited each of the beach communities, but has a ‘lived perspective’, which she believes would be important when writing her dream story. and valuable content for readers: “I just introduced it to my agent and my agent was like, ‘Let’s go in Harper[Collins]”. “

The idea turned out to be interesting for HarperCollins who signed a three-pound contract with Hostin: “They were like, ‘This is what we were looking for. We’re looking for this kind of diverse content because you’re right. People want to read this. And I was off for the races.

Ahead of her fictional novel debut on Tuesday, Hostin chatted with THR on writing Summer on the cliffs (William Morrow) – the first book in his next series. Last year, Hostin published his first memoirs, I am these truths but, this time around, she describes the writing process as creatively liberating. “This book was so much easier to write than the memoirs”, says Hostin THR. “Memories… it can be painful when you look back on your life and talk about some really tough times in your life.”

Now Hostin is set to treat readers to a ‘fun read on the beach’, introducing the characters Amelia “Ama” Vaux Tanner and her husband who welcome three “goddaughters” into their lives: Esperanza “Perry” Soto, a talented Afro lawyer. -latina; Olivia Jones, a gifted Wall Street analyst; and Billie Hayden, a free-spirited marine biologist. Every summer, the goddaughters visit Ama at her home at Chateau Laveau but everything changes when Ama, almost seventy-one and a widow, announces that she is moving to the south of France to find her college friend and invites Perry, Olivia and Billie. to spend one last golden summer with her. But at the end of the season, Ama reveals that she is going to give the house to one of them.

Although the book is “largely fictional,” Hostin points out that for characters and plots, she used her own experiences as a frame of reference: “Billie is a character based on my goddaughter. Perry is fictional, but based on a lot of my experiences and Olivia is a conglomerate. They are definitely a couple of my friends.

During her writing process, Hostin says she created a “writers room” in which she recruited close friends, including ABC News Live Prime anchors Linsey Davis, in her home where they would enjoy each other’s company while Hostin read the story aloud for their thoughts and opinions. “They really helped me, make it even more authentic in a way,” says Hostin, laughing as she remembers being told by a friend of her that every beach I read needed a good scene. of sex and that she had to “remember Fabio” when she tried to make him. She also reveals that she received a glimpse of DL Hughley while writing one of the characters who is a comedian.

The characters are multiple ages, which Hostin says she hoped she could not only write a book that her mother and friends “could talk about in a book club,” but also show the importance of centering a story on a more woman. strong senior who shows her intricacies and finds romance. “Why do people think women are 50 or, God forbid, 60 and disappear?” Hostin challenges. “I really wanted to have a romance for a woman over 60 because it exists. I also wanted to have this kind of intergenerational story because who wouldn’t want a fairy godmother like Ama?

While on the surface the novel is a summer escape filled with romance and drama, Hostin highlights important issues such as race, class, identity, and brotherhood. At different times, the characters discuss the privilege of fair skin, which Hostin explains that she hoped to convey in an “authentic” way and recalls having similar conversations between her friends: “I also wanted to deal with it in a sensitive and sensitive way. delicate and in a serious way, not in a heavy way; But in a way that gives it the credit it deserves. I’ve seen women get really hurt by this problem and wanted to make sure I give it the dignity and respect it deserves and even strike up a conversation afterwards. She adds, “I keep thinking that if book clubs choose this book, maybe this is a topic they will tackle.”

Hostin tells her story in Oak Bluffs, a historic town on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Using the historic place as the backdrop for his novel, Hostin explores the divisions of class and race. When the character Ama visits Oak Bluffs, she is overwhelmed by the new world she was experiencing as Hostin writes in a passage: “Everywhere she looked she saw well-heeled black people. Often when she watched movies she imagined what it would be like to buy a ticket, sit in a dark theater and spend two hours watching beautiful and successful people, falling in love, going on an adventure, party, regardless of race or racism. “

The moments as such experienced by the character turn out to be introspective to Hostin, who recalls her father telling her when she was younger about a place where black people spent the summer. “He was just like, ‘I want you to have the chance to experience this.’ After being invited to go, Hostin described her first visit as “life changing.” “I had never seen anything like it,” says Hostin, acknowledging that many may not even really know the history of these seaside communities.

In another passage, Hostin writes of a character scuffed against “the ideal that so many black elites have clung to – that of ‘our kind of people’,” whom she says she wanted to pay homage to the late. author and friend Lawrence Graham, who spent six years interviewing America’s richest black families for his book, Our kind of people: inside the black upper class of America.

She explains, “I wanted to make sure I covered this in the book because not many people come to Martha’s Vineyard in the summer, but at the same time, there are people who can. It’s a world I think Americans should know because I think they think African Americans are like a monolith, but there is this bourgeoisie that has been summering up Martha’s Vineyard forever.

As a woman of color, Hostin hopes that using her experiences for her story can not only be told by readers of color, but also spark important conversations: “When I started in journalism, it was like, ‘it’s just my facts’ I am and never bring your personal experience with you. And then Trayvon Martin happened and we see this racial pandemic still going on in our country. I just think now, if you have that lived experience, that diversity, and that diverse perspective, it’s almost your superpower now, when you were frowned upon before. So I’m really happy to be able to bring this different kind of story that just doesn’t exist. But now it is!

While anticipating the release of her book, Hostin says that she is already writing the second in the series that she is teasing, she will introduce new characters but will welcome some of the Summer on the cliffs. As she is now able to add a published fiction writer to her resume, Hostin teases that she plans to write more stories and even hopes to write another series focused on “the witch world.”

But until then, she hopes her story on the beach can give readers something to enjoy after going through “a really tough few years”, spark meaningful conversations and is delighted to have offered “something for everyone” . And as Morrison guided him, Hostin proudly repeats, “I actually wrote the book I wanted to read!”

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