Author's Nook,  Blog Tour,  Women's Fiction,  Writing

Guest: Author Lian Dolan (The Sweeney Sisters) on her most memorable vacation

About the Author

Lian Dolan is a writer and talker. She’s the author of two Los Angeles Times best-selling novels, Helen of Pasadena and Elizabeth the First Wife published by Prospect Park Books. Her next novel, The Sweeney Sisters, will be published in 2020 by William Morrow. She’s a regular humor columnist for Pasadena Magazine and has previously written monthly columns for O, The Oprah Magazine and Working Mother Magazine. She’s also written for TV, radio and websites.
Lian is the producer and host of Satellite Sisters, the award-winning talk show she created with her four real sisters. On Satellite Sisters, she’s interviewed everyone from Nora Ephron to Madeleine Albright to Big Bird. Satellite Sisters began life as a syndicated radio show and is now a top-rated podcast for women. The recent book by the Satellite Sisters, You’re the Best: A Celebration of Friendship, is popular with book clubs.
A popular speaker who combines humor and heart, Lian has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Sunday Morning and The Today Show and many local TV stations. She’s been a featured speaker at the LA Times Festival of Books, the Santa Barbara Celebrity Authors Lunch, the Literary Guild of Orange County Festival of Women Authors and dozens of other events at libraries, book stores, schools and women’s organizations across the country. In 2020, she’ll be on the faculty of the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.
Lian graduated from Pomona College with a degree in Classics. She lives in Pasadena, California with her husband, two sons and a big German shepherd.

My most memorable vacation in my life – Lian Dolan

In 2018, my college son Colin was spending a year abroad, studying history, archaeology and art history in Greece and Italy. My husband surprised me at Christmas with a trip to Rome to meet-up with my son at the end of his term. For reasons that I can’t exactly pin down, I hadn’t been to Europe in thirty years. Life just got a hold of me—children, work, mortgages, college fund, a husband who isn’t too fond of travel. When I unwrapped the homemade Trip to Rome gift certificate in my husband’s jumbled handwriting, I jumped at the chance to plan this mother-son vacation.

Of course, being a writer, there was also a critical research angle. After telling a friend about my upcoming trip, she recounted a tantalizing true story of her visit to Rome as a twenty-something. My writer brain recognized a plot bunny and filed that story away as a great premise for a novel. I wanted to soak in some atmosphere to see if the idea stuck around. (It has.) Rome is too romantic not to be inspiring.

But I didn’t let the writing get in the way of the seeing and walking and eating and laughing and talking. I landed in Rome on Mother’s Day 2018. My son, who had been in Florence for a month, took the train into the Eternal City, his first visit. He brimmed with the confidence and maturity that comes with travelling on your own in a foreign country, especially one where you don’t speak the language. I brimmed with jetlag from my unsuccessful attempts at sleeping on the 14-hour flight from Los Angeles. But Rome was glorious, the weather was perfect and we spent our first day wandering through the Forum, eating gelato and catching up.

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From there, I let my son drive the agenda. He had a list of sites and statues and vintage clothing stores that he wanted to see. I lined up a few guided tours, including the Vatican because the last time I’d been there, the Sistine Chapel was a dirty, smoky mess! Now, you can actually see the paintings. We took our time in museums. We walked like crazy. We bought those “overlay books” with photos of what the Circus Maximus looks like now and looked like then. He rattled off facts about Michelangelo and Bernini and I choked out a few coherent phrases in my college Italian. Rome had changed tremendously in the last 30 years—more archaeology uncovered and restored, more English and many, many more tourists. But the sense of glamour and history and vitality are still the same.

For our grand finale, we planned a day trip to Pompeii, a do-it-ourselves excursion to a place that I’d always wanted to visit. I was a Classics major in college and Pompeii captured my imagination. My son was totally game, having studied the site in his courses. Pompeii lived up to our expectations in every way. It was a mild day, the prefect weather for the adventure. We outlasted the crowds and stayed until sunset, wandering the ancient lanes with our map and another essential overlay book of Pompeii Then and Now.  We ate delicious pizza in the Napoli train station and headed back to Rome and then home.

Our mother-son trip seems particularly bittersweet now, with all the restrictions on life and travel. I was so glad to have that time with him in the moment and even more so now, as cancelled plans and study abroad programs are the order of the day. My son will graduate from college this year, in a virtual ceremony. He’ll start his “real life” back in his childhood bedroom, waiting for the world to come back to bloom. But, as we know from history, it will return.

About ‘The Sweeney Sisters’

Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: April 28th 2020
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
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An accomplished storyteller returns with her biggest, boldest, most entertaining novel yet—a hilarious, heartfelt story about books, love, sisterhood, and the surprises we discover in our DNA that combines the wit of Jonathan Tropper with the heart of Susan Wiggs.
Maggie, Eliza, and Tricia Sweeney grew up as a happy threesome in the idyllic seaside town of Southport, Connecticut. But their mother’s death from cancer fifteen years ago tarnished their golden-hued memories, and the sisters drifted apart. Their one touchstone is their father, Bill Sweeney, an internationally famous literary lion and college professor universally adored by critics, publishers, and book lovers. When Bill dies unexpectedly one cool June night, his shell-shocked daughters return to their childhood home. They aren’t quite sure what the future holds without their larger-than-life father, but they do know how to throw an Irish wake to honor a man of his stature.
But as guests pay their respects and reminisce, one stranger, emboldened by whiskey, has crashed the party. It turns out that she too is a Sweeney sister.
When Washington, DC based journalist Serena Tucker had her DNA tested on a whim a few weeks earlier, she learned she had a 50% genetic match with a childhood neighbor—Maggie Sweeney of Southport, Connecticut. It seems Serena’s chilly WASP mother, Birdie, had a history with Bill Sweeney—one that has remained totally secret until now.
Once the shock wears off, questions abound. What does this mean for William’s literary legacy? Where is the unfinished memoir he’s stashed away, and what will it reveal? And how will a fourth Sweeney sister—a blond among redheads—fit into their story?
By turns revealing, insightful, and uproarious, The Sweeney Sisters is equal parts cautionary tale and celebration—a festive and heartfelt look at what truly makes a family.

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