Monday, March 7, 2016

Susan Meissner & Bella

Who is in the photo at right?

Hello, there! My name is Susan Meissner and I’m a fiction writer who loves to write novels where I place ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. My dog’s name is Bella and she’s a ten-year-old Golden Retriever.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Every morning is coffee time with Bella. My husband and I spend a half hour every morning with a hot cup of java, the morning paper, and the Today Show, with Bella lying between us.

What's brewing?

In the morning I love me two cups (and often a third that I heat up several times from breakfast to lunch) of freshly ground dark roast. Or if I’m in a hurry, a K-cup of Caribou Coffee’s Obsidian also makes me happy. In the afternoons, I like to spoil myself with a frothy Nespresso cappuccino and honestly, any flavor out of the Nespresso is my favorite.

Any treats for you or Bella on this occasion?

I had a toasted piece of beer bread for morning snack and Bella loved the corners of crust that I tossed to her.

How were you and Bella united?

An acquaintance of mine who breeds Goldens was retiring Bella and wanted to find a loving home for her. She was five then and deserving of a cushy life with dog lovers who only wanted one thing from her: affection. We had lots to give and so did she.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

I am not sure how she got her name, but we loved it and didn’t want to change it when she became our dog. We have lots of nicknames for her. Here are just a few: Bellaphone, Cinderbella, Tinkerbella, Bellaphant, Accabella, Tacobella, and Bellacopter.

Does Bella do more to help or hinder your writing?

Bella thinks she’s my muse. She is always as close as she can be to me when I’m writing. If I’m in my writing cave, she’s at the threshold of the room. If I’m writing in the living room, she’s lying on the rug at my feet. Whatever room in the house I decide to plop down in to work, she’s right there. I think she’s under the impression that if she’s not beside me, I am unable to write a word.

Please tell us about your new novel.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard is a book about two studio secretaries who become best friends on the 1939 set of the most memorable film ever made, Gone With the Wind. One sets out to reinvent herself in LA after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart and lands a job at a Hollywood studio where she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow typist. What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future. This story is framed by a shorter contemporary thread about the iconic curtain-dress hat Vivien Leigh wore in the movie which shows up out of the blue at a Hollywood vintage clothing boutique.

Has Bella inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

I would say every time I give a character a dog, I do so because of not only Bella, but our Labrador Retriever, Luke, whom we lost three years ago at the age of 14. Our dogs have been such gentle companions to us. They’ve made our lives sweeter. I have given characters dogs who needed that sweetness because of all the trouble I put them through.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Bella chases nothing. Barks at nothing. She will bark when we get home but only because she’s happy we decided to come back.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

She loves her toys. They’ve all been other animals, stuffed of course. Bear, bird, dragon, zebra. When she chews a toy (usually eviscerating it and pulling out the stuffing) it is the only time she shows a hint of aggression. She will chase a ball but bringing it back to you so you can throw it again isn’t high on her priority list. Or she might have not have figured out that’s how it works.

Who is Bella's best pet-pal?

She loves other dogs. All dogs. Cats, too. She doesn’t think for a moment that they might not like her. She will happily approach any dog or cat with the tail wag of friendship. It sometimes doesn’t go over too well.

What is Bella's best quality?

She wants to please you and make you happy. Her only aim is to make you feel good about being alive.

If Bella could change one thing about Californians, what would it be?

Bella would like to come inside all the stores, not just Petco.

If Bella could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

Have you ever been in a bad mood?

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Bella could speak, who should voice her?

Joanne Froggatt, who plays Anna Bates on Downton Abbey.

What advice would Bella give if asked?

Don’t worry about things that haven’t happened yet or may not happen at all.

Visit Susan Meissner's website.

Writers Read: Susan Meissner.

My Book, The Movie: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Sue, I loved the Coffee with a Canine! It was so cute and informative. I have found that when a person is a dog lover, they are a people lover, too. I loved your latest and am reading it again! Give Bella a good scratch behind the ears, and tell her "Lady" (our Black Lab) sends wagging tails to her, I'm sure they would be best girl friends if we were neighbors.

  2. Oh, what a sweet gray face, Miss Bella! Too bad California is so far from South Dakota. If you were closer, we could hang out together, watch birds in the yard, and reminisce about past events from our long lives with our favorite humans. I would also love to teach you about "honey with a human" instead of coffee with a canine. Roos and tail wags from Gage the English Setter

  3. Nice to meet you, Miss Bella. Lady Caroline