Interview and Giveaway: DeLaune Michel, author of The Safety of Secrets

Before we begin with the interview, here is a bit about the book The Safety of Secrets from the author’s website: 

“Now we’re just alike.” So begins Fiona and Patricia’s friendship that warm Autumn morning in first grade in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a friendship made as close as sisters by Fiona’s abusive mother and Patricia’s neglectful one, and by the fantasies that the two girls share.

Fiona and Patricia’s relationship is a source of continuity and strength through their move to LA to become actresses; through Fiona’s marriage and not-yet-famous career; and through Patricia’s ups-and-downs with men and rise to fame. Then when their husbands’ needs and the pressures of Hollywood begin to exact a toll, the women are forced to wonder if their friendship can survive. But the true test of their devotion is just beginning. When a dark secret from their past begins to emerge, it threatens to destroy not only the bond the women have shared, but all they’ve worked for as well. 

What happens when your most treasured friendship suddenly seems broken beyond repair? Humorous and poignant, The Safety of Secrets is a beautifully written exploration of the bonds forged in childhood and challenged decades later, of the fulfillment of dreams and the damage they sometimes cause, and of secrets being uncovered and the truth that we find inside.  

BOTB:  Welcome DeLaune Michel, author of The Safety of Secrets!

First off, I’d like to know how your name is pronounced!  I’ve never seen the name “DeLauné” before.  Is it a family name?  Is it French? 

DM:  That’s sweet of you to ask! It’s pronounced duh-LAWN-ay, and it is French. Some people say it with more of a French accent, but I don’t really care, as long as they don’t call me de-lawn-ee – or late to dinner. Sorry, I can never resist a stupid joke! I was named for Helene DeLauné, the first woman over from France on my momma’s side of the family.  Helene DeLauné was in the court of Marie Antoinette. Her husband, Jules André, fought in the French Revolution. Antoinette gave Helene DeLauné jewels to help her and her husband escape to South Louisiana. Ever since I was young and heard that story about my namesake, I have thought of her whenever things were difficult because no matter what I am going through, I can’t imagine it being a harder than leaving the court of France, and ending up in the wilds of South Louisiana. So in a funny way, I have always felt very connected to her.

BOTB:  Your book, “The Safety of Secrets” centers on a female friendship.  Do you have a lifelong friendship like Fiona and Patricia’s?

DM:  I feel very blessed that I have a number of lifelong friendships, some from early childhood, and some from high school, though none of those were an exact model for Fiona and Patricia’s friendship in this book.

BOTB:  Do you think friendships are more important to women than to men, and if so, in what way?

DM:  I don’t think that they are more important to women than to men, but I think they get expressed differently. There was a study from UCLA that showed that contrary to long-held beliefs, not everyone has the fight or flight reflex when faced with stress or danger. Only men do. Women don’t respond by fight or flight. Women turn to their community, to their friends. We process, and get feedback, and find strength by turning to a friend. Not to say that men don’t, but it isn’t their first impulse when faced with those situations. I think that is how they are different. And that is one area that I wanted to look at in this book. Fiona’s connection with Patricia is so strong that Fiona feels she has to juggle her loyalty between Patricia and her husband. A lot of readers have told me that they really related to that. I don’t think that is something men go through the way we do. 

BOTB:  Do you think women feel more secure, or safe, in telling their secrets to other women?

DM:  It depends. There are secrets I’ve told to men that I know will never be revealed. But I think that a close friendship between women is marked – at least the ones I have – by an ability to tell each other pretty much everything, so in that sense, revealing a secret to another woman is easy because it is so natural. Definitely in this book, Fiona feels more safe keeping secrets – particularly the big one – with Patricia than with her husband, and the effects of that is something she has to deal with.

BOTB:  How much do you think childhood friendships shape our lives as adults? 

DM:  Very much, particularly ones that are like siblings, as Fiona and Patricia’s is in this book. And I think sometimes we find a friend to be a kind of family member that we didn’t get to have, or for us to be the person that we can’t be with our own family. 

BOTB:  The book is mostly based in Los Angeles and the main characters work in the film industry.  You seem to know LA and the business of Hollywood quite well- the realistic side of it rather than the glamorous.  Do you live there?  Were you/are you in the industry?

DM:  I live just above New York City, right near the Hudson River. But I lived in LA for many years, and while I was there, acted in television and film, so, yes, that world is one I know quite intimately. And I loved writing about it. It was wonderful to be able to take a trip there every day in my mind, and then return home easily. I wanted to show a side of that industry that isn’t written about very much. Most books that are set in Hollywood only show the upper echelon, and while Patricia is hugely successful, Fiona works steadily but hasn’t achieved that level of fame or fortune yet, if she ever will. I thought it would be interesting to show what that kind of career is really like, since that is the kind of life most working actors in LA have. And besides, some aspects of that life are so ridiculous; it was fun to be able to write about it, having lived through it myself.

BOTB:  What would you like readers to take away from The Safety of Secrets?

DM:  I hope that it will enable them to look at their own friendships, and the issues of loyalty and betrayal that are at play in them, even on the smallest scale. Eudora Welty said that the novel is the most intimate art form because it is the writer’s words in the reader’s mind with the reader’s life, and imagination, and beliefs creating the story. I love that. I also think that that old saying that if a tree falls in the wood and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound applies, too. I think novels don’t really exist until someone reads it and brings it to life, so I hope that the life that the reader creates with me is one that has resonance for them, and enables them to see their world from a new angle. I do a lot of book clubs in-person and via speaker phone chats (I can be contacted at delaune@delaunemichel.com), and I love getting to hear how women view Fiona and Patricia’s friendship and how it relates to their lives. 

BOTB:  What are you currently working on? 

DM:  My third novel. I wrote my first two novels while I was pregnant with my two sons, so this will be the first novel that I write without being pregnant. I’m enjoying not being sleepy or nauseous while I work! My husband asked me how I’ll be able to finish the new book without that built-in deadline, but I assured him that I will find a way! 

BOTB:  Thanks so much for your time!  

DM:  Thank you for your very thoughtful questions!

BOTB:  Many thanks to DeLaune Michel and to Jennifer Ballot from Over the River Productions for sending me 2 copies of the book- one for me and one to give away- and for arranging this interview with DeLaune!  If you would like a chance to win a copy of The Safety of Secrets, leave a comment here by Friday, August 8th.  Good luck!

You can read fellow blogger Sheri’s review of The Safety of Secrets at a Novel Menagerie.