The Hidden Life of Aster Kelly
by Katherine Sherbrooke
(Pegasus Books, April 2023)
Women’s domestic life fiction
Inspired by a true-to-life mystery in her own family, Katherine A. Sherbrooke’s latest novel, THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY offers an inside look at fashion, movie making, and clandestine affairs in 1940s Hollywood. A runway model who looks like Lauren Bacall returns home with a child and dark secrets. Decades later, her hidden life is discovered by her daughter Lissy as the younger woman tries to make her own way on Broadway.
The novel is Sherbrooke’s third fictional work after successfully publishing a memoir. Aster Kelly’s story went through many drafts before the author landed her literary agent, Michael Carlisle at Inkwell. In our video chat, she talks with Authorlink about her writing journey, rejections, dreams, small presses, and what motivated her to leave the corporate world for the love of writing.
The story is artfully riddled with conflict among the characters.
It’s 1948, and Aster Kelly leaves New York City modeling behind for Hollywood, determined to realize her dream of designing clothes. Desperate for work, she takes on a job as a stand-in model for Lauren Bacall for one of the industry’s top designers, Fernando Tivoli. The two develop a complicated friendship, as Aster becomes entangled with the head of Galaxy Studios, and Fernando has a clandestine romance with their biggest up-and-coming star, Christopher Page. When Aster faces a crisis and Fernando’s future is threatened, she makes a decision that changes the trajectory of their lives forever. Decades later, Aster’s daughter Lissy discovers Aster’s lies, and mother and daughter are forced to wrestle with difficult truths.
“The idea for this novel sprang from digging into my mother’s past while doing research for my memoir, Finding Home,” Sherbrooke explains. “My mother was a runway model who moved to Los Angeles in the ‘40s and returned to the east coast in 1953 a divorcee with a young child (my older sister Barbara) and went on to marry my father. She refused to speak of her time in Hollywood or even share any information with my sister about her father. I would sometimes garner tidbits from her, like that she travelled with Bob Hope, knew Roy Rogers well, and was roommates with Betty Hensel, a love interest of Cary Grant’s. My research provided some additional detail that only made me more curious, and so I imagined my own version of what might have happened to a young, beautiful woman who becomes entangled with Hollywood royalty and comes home burdened by secrets.”
Praise for the book
“Infinitely readable, atmospheric and emotionally charged, The Hidden Life of Aster Kelly follows Aster, an ambitious young woman in old Hollywood who is following a dream she can’t quite catch. But it’s her journey to find enduring love that makes the pages fly. From the glamorous runways of Hollywood to the glittery shores of a summer island, the novel won’t disappoint with its ability to surprise and delight the reader with its twists and turns. Book club fiction at its best.” —Brooke Lea Foster, author of On Gin Lane
“Drama and secrets saturate Hollywood—on and off the screen. In The Hidden Life of Aster Kelly, Sherbrooke deftly weaves an intimate look at forbidden love, heartbreak, and life-changing secrets, into a journey through decades of braided worlds of fashion and entertainment from New York to California.” —Randy Susan Meyers, bestselling author, Waisted
“Katherine Sherbrooke’s The Hidden Life of Aster Kelly takes us from the haute couture runways of 1940s Hollywood and its galaxy of stars to the quaint island of Martha’s Vineyard, to the Broadway footlights of New York City in the 1970s. Richly detailed and sumptuously costumed, readers will love the behind-the-scenes look at the struggles and triumphs, lives and loves of entertainers on both coasts in two different eras.” —Juliette Faye, USA Today bestselling author of Shelter Me and City of Flickering Light
About Katherine A. Sherbrooke
Katherine A. Sherbrooke is the author of the New York Times notable novel, Leaving Coy’s Hill, a Massachusetts Book Awards Fiction Honors winner. Her additional books are Finding Home, a family memoir, and Fill the Sky, winner of a 2017 Independent Press Award, finalist for the Mary Sarton Award for Contemporary Fiction and a Foreword Indies Book of the Year. An entrepreneur for fifteen years, Katherine co-founded a Boston-based company called Circles, which she ran as President and then CEO from 1996 through 2009. Now a full-time writer, she also serves as Chair of the Board of GrubStreet, the nation’s largest creative writing center and Boston’s first public arts space dedicated to the written word. Katherine grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Dartmouth College (Class of 1989) and from Stanford Graduate School of Business (1994). She lives with her family just south of Boston and spends summers on Martha’s Vineyard.
Visit her website: https://www.kasherbrooke.com/
Questions answered in the video interview:
How do you handle rejection as an author?
What inspired you to write a novel?
How do you create conflict in a story?
Was it difficult to find your agent?
What does GrubStreet Creative Writing Center do?