Trending News
How much of Locke's own experiences have shaped the engaging characters and vivid locales of her debut novel?

An Interview with Liz Locke on “Follow The Sun”

Is it possible to marry the glamour of the Jet Set era, the dazzling power of classic films, and the intoxicating allure of cocktails into a riveting narrative? Liz Locke, the multifaceted author and cinephile, has answered this question with her debut novel, Follow the Sun

In a candid interview, Locke unveils the inspirations behind her vibrant portrayal of the 1960s, her introspective view of the protagonist, Caroline Kimball, and the intricate dance between her personal experiences and the universe she has created on the page.

Following the siren’s call of the sun, the reader is led through the expansive landscape of the 1960s Jet Set era, painted through the lens of classic films and the intoxicating allure of famous cocktails. Locke imbues her character, Caroline Kimball, with a sense of relatableambition, finding echoes of her own struggles in Caroline’s dream-chasing journey. 

As we delve deeper into Locke’s methodical research and her approach to shaping the world of Follow the Sun, one cannot help but wonder: How much of Locke’s own experiences have shaped the engaging characters and vivid locales of her debut novel?

Let’s take a look and see!

Liz, you’ve been described as a lover of classic films, books, and cocktails. How do these elements feature in “Follow the Sun”?

Aesthetically, a lot of the setting descriptions in Follow the Sun can be traced back to some of my favorite films: Two for the Road, La Piscine, The Party, Charade, Blow-Up, and Shampoo, to name a few. Within these movies, cocktail parties are a common element, so naturally I had my characters drinking classic cocktails like a Tom Collins, Margarita, Hemingway Daiquiri, etc. 

In terms of books, Follow the Sun actually grew from my discovery of the book Poolside by Slim Aarons. This collection of photos by one of the most prolific Jet Set photographers of the 20th century sparked a fascination with the time period and made me want to learn more about the glamorous people inside his frame.

How much of yourself do you see in the character of Caroline Kimball? Is her journey to follow her dreams in any way autobiographical?

I can absolutely identify with having an impossible goal, and not feeling like you’re good enough to achieve it, or even allowed to want it in the first place. But I can also identify with having a partner who believes in you, whose confidence and encouragement helps you believe in yourself. 

Caroline’s path to success was much more accelerated than mine (this would have been an incredibly long, slow-paced book if it were my story), but we both know what it is to embark on a career where the odds of success are not great, to get knocked down a few times, but to always get back up. 

How did you manage to write such a detailed representation of the 1960s Jet Set Era? What kind of research was involved?

In addition to Slim Aarons’ books and his Getty Images photo archive, The International Nomads by Lanfranco Rasponi was an incredibly helpful resource in terms of world-building, as was William Stadiem’s Jet Set: The People, the Planes, the Glamour, and the Romance in Aviation’s Glory Years. 

I also found a fascinating autobiography written by Elizabeth Taylor’s personal photographer, Gianni Bozzacchi (My Life in Focus: A Photographer’s Journey with Elizabeth Taylor and the Hollywood Jet Set) that informed some of the details around the character of Tex. 

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Jaffe was a great resource for learning more about the changing roles for women in 1960s music, as was D.A. Pennebaker’s film Monterey Pop, and Andrew Slater’s Echo in the Canyon. 

The character of Tex plays a significant role in encouraging Caroline to pursue her dreams. Can you talk more about how their relationship dynamics shaped the storyline?

I think Caroline needed to hear another voice in her ear telling her she was capable of all the things society (and her mother) had been telling her for years that she wasn’t. She needed to see someone else out in the world, pursuing his dreams, making his living as an artist to know it was possible for her. 

When the book starts, music is the thing she’s been told she’s not allowed to want, and then here comes one more thing to add to that list: Tex. When she gives into her attraction to him, she’s also opening a door to the rest of her desires.

With Caroline’s musical ambitions being a focal point in the book, can you tell us what sort of music inspired you while writing “Follow the Sun”?

For sure, the early work of Joni Mitchell. This was a really interesting time in music, where the idea of the “singer-songwriter” was really just being born. 

Joni’s journey from folk music to writing and performing her own songs definitely inspired Caroline’s. Other artists on my writing playlist included Donovan, Simon & Garfunkel, The Mamas & the Papas, The Beatles, and The Beach Boys. The 1960s was such a creatively fertile era, so it was a lot of fun to dive into my vinyl collection and pretend to be Caroline for a bit. I tried to imagine what songs would have inspired her.

How have your contributions to Moviejawn and your work with Cinema Sips informed your writing process for this novel? 

More than anything else in my life, writing for Moviejawn and Cinema Sips kept me going through years of revision, rejection, more revision, and then… more revision. Bringing a novel into the world can be a slow process, and it’s discouraging to be doing all this work, knowing most people won’t see it for many years. 

And that’s a best-case scenario! Using my writing muscle to critique films and write blog posts has made me a better writer and self-editor, in addition to keeping me motivated. Writers need readers, and sometimes that means finding ways around traditional publishing timelines.

The character of Caroline Kimball seems to be torn between several paths in life. Was it challenging to write a character dealing with so many internal and external pressures? 

I think the toughest part for me was coming up with the external pressures. In the initial draft, most (if not all) of Caroline’s conflict was internal. She had no idea what she wanted to be, only what she didn’t want to be. 

There wasn’t some big overarching goal, and thus, no great conflict or obstacle to achieving it. Once I finally landed on the “singer-songwriter” aspect of this book, the external pressures fell into place. It became easier to root for her, and easier to want to follow her journey.

What made you choose the locations featured in the book, such as Acapulco, Gstaad, and Formentera? Do they hold any personal significance?

Most of the locations were places Slim Aarons worked, and they’re the settings of some of my favorite photographs. I loved the pink Jeeps and hibiscus flowers in his Las Brisas photos from Acapulco, and there’s something so glamorous about the way he captured Gstaad.

 Formentera was chosen because it was somewhat of a haven for musicians of the time period (Bob Dylan is rumored to have spent time on the island, as well as members of Pink Floyd and King Crimson). I’ve been to Formentera, and although it was many years ago, I’ve never forgotten the beauty of the island. 

I’ve also been to The Breakers in Palm Beach, and The Royal Hawaiian hotel in Honolulu (which inspired the Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi”) and thought both would be incredible settings for a book. There’s something about these grand, historic hotels that makes you feel like a time-traveler, and I wanted to bring that same sense of escape to Follow the Sun.

How does your background from western Pennsylvania and your current life in Austin, Texas, influence your writing and your depiction of the various settings in your novel?

I think people have a natural tendency to want the things they don’t already have, so growing up in a small town made the bigger world-at-large seem incredibly exciting. 

I wanted to experience foreign travel and grand hotels and beautiful vistas—all the things I saw in movies and TV, but never in real life. Although I love living in Austin, and it certainly has a lot more diversity and cultural resources than my hometown in Pennsylvania, the hot climate has made being near water that much more enticing.

 We have some fantastic swimming holes here, but overall, it’s fairly landlocked. Maybe that’s why I write such effusive descriptions of beaches Caroline visits—I wish I was there!

“Follow the Sun” is a tale of empowerment and following one’s dreams, how do you hope this will resonate with your readers?

I really hope that readers will be inspired to think about what it is that makes them truly happy and go for it, despite the odds. Publishing has not been an easy road for me, but I remind myself of the mantra Caroline adopts in the book—keep kicking. Keep kicking to stay afloat, and don’t let the negative thoughts drown you. 

In a lighter vein, if you were to pair a cocktail with “Follow the Sun”, what would it be and why?

There are so many cocktails mentioned in the book (when you run a cocktail blog, you start to live and breathe recipes!), but if I had to pick just one, it would be a Margarita. Simple, on the rocks, just Tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice. This is the drink that sets the whole story in motion.

How has the transition from blogging about film and cocktail pairings to writing a novel been? What lessons from blogging were you able to apply to novel writing?

Blogging has made me a better self-editor, and it’s really helped shape my voice. I write from a very personal place on Cinema Sips, and it’s the way I do all my reviews for Moviejawn as well. In figuring out my voice and tone for the blog, my prose style followed naturally. When people read Follow the Sun, or my blog, or any future books of mine, I want them to realize immediately that Liz Locke wrote this.

Your blog, Cinema Sips, combines your love for cinema and cocktails. If you were to give Caroline a signature cocktail, what would it be? 

Caroline’s signature cocktail would probably be a Tinto de Verano (Spanish red wine + lemon-lime soda). It captures her love of red wine (a connection she shares with her father), but it’s also a fizzy, refreshing drink for summer. I see her drinking this in Formentera, or on her back deck in Laurel Canyon, or even on Bitsy’s patio in Palm Beach, just to be rebellious.

The review by Maureen Lee Lenker compares your novel to an episode of Mad Men. Do you feel that’s a fair comparison and why?

First of all, I am incredibly flattered by that comparison because Mad Men is one of my all-time favorite shows. There’s actually an episode called “The Jet Set” that was a big inspiration for this book, and the character of Caroline. Don Draper meets a glamorous young woman at the Beverly Hills Hotel and follows her to a fabulous home in Palm Springs (where, of course, he sleeps with her). 

This mysterious girl was so fascinating to me, and just as I did with the Slim Aarons photos, I started to imagine what her backstory might have been. Who are these people she’s travelling with, and is her whole life really just about pleasure? Does she want more? 

The thing about Mad Men is that even these minor characters remain memorable to us, and a lot of that had to do with not only the writing, but the production and costume design. I really hope that readers will be immersed in this world of the 1960s the way viewers were when they watched Mad Men. I hope I created characters and settings that will linger after the story’s over.

How did your very adorable rescue dog help or hinder your writing process for “Follow the Sun”?

Sometimes, I think maybe my bio should have labeled her as my emotional support dog! Peaches has been there from first draft to finished book and put up with all my tears and frustrations along the way. There aren’t any dogs in Follow the Sun, but the next manuscript I’ve written does pay homage to her.

Can we expect to see more novels from you in the future? If so, will they follow a similar theme or genre? 

I actually do have a completed manuscript that I’m hoping to sell, and it’s something I’d been working on while waiting for Follow the Sun to find a home. 

It’s women’s fiction with a strong romantic arc, however it’s set in modern-day Pittsburgh—about as far as you could get from the glamorous locales of Follow the Sun! It’s a lot lighter in tone because I think after the trauma of the last few years, we’re all looking for a little laughter.

 The main things this next book has in common with Follow the Sun are that they both feature a strong heroine, a lot of family drama, tons of pop-culture references, and a memorable love story. And of course, a happily-ever-after. I’m not interested in writing books with sad endings—the real world has enough tragedy!

How does it feel to make your debut as a novelist with such a strong and intriguing storyline?

This isn’t the first book I’ve written, but I’m glad it was the first one that sold because Follow the Sun is truly the book of my heart. I’ve been obsessed with the 1960s since I was a small child, and in some ways, it feels like I’ve been researching this story my whole life. 

I grew up wanting to be the next Danielle Steel or Jacqueline Susann, so to be debuting with a story full of glamorous people and romance and drama is an absolute dream come true.

How did you navigate the challenge of incorporating the tragic death of Caroline’s father and her mother’s hidden secrets into the narrative?

It was tricky because I didn’t want this to be an overly sad read, but I also didn’t want to shy away from the challenges life throws our way. 

I lost my father and stepfather during the course of revising this book, and as traumatic as that was, it gave me new insight into my characters and their grieving process. I think an important step toward becoming an adult is the moment you start to see your parents in a new light, understanding them in a way you couldn’t have when you were younger. 

Neither of Caroline’s parents were perfect, and they both had secrets. What human doesn’t? Sometimes you get to meet their real, authentic selves while they’re still alive, and other times it happens after they’re gone. But this was something Caroline had to experience in order to move forward into the future.

With the current project being a success, do you see yourself transitioning entirely to writing novels, or do you intend to maintain your contributions to Moviejawn and Cinema Sips?

I intend to keep writing for Moviejawn and Cinema Sips as long as I’m able to! This is my low-pressure, low-stakes, “just for me” writing that provides a lot of joy and satisfaction. It’s also been a wonderful way for me to connect with readers, film fans, and cocktail afficionados, and I love the community that’s sprung up around it. It makes me feel connected to other people all over the world, and that’s an incredible feeling.

What message or feeling do you want readers to walk away with after finishing “Follow the Sun”?

I hope that readers feel like they escaped into a fabulous time and place, whether they read this book on a sunny vacation or during a gloomy day at home. I hope they remember that whatever goal or dream they have for their lives isn’t impossible if they keep trying. 

Keep kicking.


What do you think about other stories within the Jet Set era that are strong enough to be made into movies? Let us know in the comments!

Share via:
Sponsored Post
No Comments

Leave a Comment