Escape to Camelot

I am so pleased to take a break from all things virus and chat with my fellow Berkley author, Stephanie Marie Thornton, about her brand new book, AND THEY CALLED IT CAMELOT, a story about the enigmatic Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Read to the end to see how to get in on a signed copy! Grab a cuppa and get cozy!

Stephanie, Jackie O seems to permanently reside in our hearts and curiosities, but what inspired you specifically to write a novel about her life and legacy?

As a high school history teacher, I had always associated Jackie with her iconic pink suit and the photograph of her scrambling over the back of the Lincoln Continental limousine moments after JFK had been shot. However, as I began researching her as the potential subject of a novel, I realized that so much of her personal story has been forgotten in the decades since her death. This was a woman who endured so much struggle and loss—most especially the assassination of her husband before her very eyes—and yet, she became the icon for everything that was poised and graceful. While there are countless biographies about Jackie, I wanted to reimagine what it was like to be her, to let readers experience her life unfolding through her own eyes.

So what do you think made her both an icon and turned her into an American legend?

At the heart of Jackie’s legend was her love of everything that is beautiful and cultured. She had a bit of a Midas touch about her, and used that magic to transform not just the role of First Lady—a position that had typically been held by much older (and less fashionable) women—but also that of the entire American presidency. There’s a reason that the JFK White House years are called Camelot—it was a time where men dared to dream big while dancing with beautiful women—and that was due in large part to Jackie’s influence. She was already an icon during her husband’s administration, but it was his assassination that turned her into a legend. The images of Jackie’s pink suit in that Dallas motorcade and as a black-draped widow holding her children’s hands during JFK’s funeral procession are forever seared onto America’s collective memory.

What kind of research did you do to write AND THEY CALLED IT CAMELOT? 

To start, I read what feels like every biography ever published about Jackie, the Kennedy family, Aristotle Onassis, and also the Bouviers. I was also fortunate to catch the Portland Historical Society’s High Hopes exhibit about JFK’s path to the presidency as well as making numerous trips to Washington, D.C. to visit the Smithsonian and Arlington. Finally, a trek to the JFK Presidential Library provided me with many more historical details.

And with all that research in mind, what was the most intriguing fact you discovered about Jackie O?

We’ve all seen images of Jackie in Dallas in the back of the Lincoln Continental limousine and then wearing her blood-spattered pink suit standing next to Lyndon Johnson while he took the oath of office on the day that JFK was assassinated—it’s impossible to truly imagine how horrific that day was for Jackie. However, one thing I didn’t realize until I started researching is that Jackie—and not Bobby’s wife Ethel or even his mother, Rose Kennedy—was the family member who signed the consent forms to terminate Bobby’s life support after he was shot at the Ambassador Hotel during his primary campaign. It seemed to me further proof of Jackie’s deep well of strength—that this woman who had survived so much—was able to muster the courage to face so many tragedies.

You’re right. I hadn’t known that fact. Surprising and moving. What do you hope readers will take away after reading And They Called It Camelot?

My greatest hope is that readers take away a deep admiration for the woman that was Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. So many of Jackie’s great personal accomplishments—including her renovation of the White House and preservation of Grand Central Station in New York—have been forgotten, but this was a First Lady who left a beautiful mark on our country and who was revered around the world. Jackie’s grace, poise, and strength made her into a true American legend, and I hope readers close the book with a sense of awe over the life she lived.


Susan here again:

Thanks so much for stopping by, Stephanie. Always a treat to chat with my fellow Berkley gals. Friends, if you’d like to get in on an opportunity to receive a free copy of this gorgeous novel, just comment below by noon Tuesday (St. Patrick’s Day, a fitting close to the drawing) and I will have draw a winner. Would love to hear your thoughts on what you know about this extraordinary woman.

Have a safe and quiet weekend, folks. Wash your hands, be kind to one another, read books. They are virus-free!

Author: Susan

This post has 35 Comments

  1. Kerri Luoma on March 14, 2020 at 5:32 pm

    Can’t wait to read this book!! Yes agree those things the author talks about re: the pink suit and being in that limo before her husband was murdered do stand out…I’m very interested in learning more about this lady of strength and resilience!

  2. Jayda Justus on March 14, 2020 at 5:41 pm

    I so admire her ability to persevere and get through tough times. Looking forward to reading the book!

  3. Colleen on March 14, 2020 at 5:54 pm

    I feel like I know so much about her yet she was so private or mysterious in a way, I’d like to see things through her eyes. I cant wait to read this book!

  4. Melanie Bowden on March 14, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    One of my childhood memories is getting mumps the day JFK was shot, lying on the couch all week, and watching every single thing about the assassination. I remember everything she did…from the shooting to Arlington. She had already had many sadnesses in her life, which made this all the more tragic.

  5. Carol Kriegbaum on March 14, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    So looking forward to reading this novel!

  6. Stephanie Brown on March 14, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    One of my favorite reads always! Love the Kennedys especially Jackie. Thank you for writing.

  7. Susan James on March 14, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    So looking forward to reading this book! It’s at the top of my to be read list!

  8. Judy Horning on March 14, 2020 at 6:48 pm

    Will definitely order this one from my favorite indie bookstore, Warwick’s.

  9. Jessica Owens on March 14, 2020 at 6:58 pm

    Very excited to read this book. I can’t wait to see the authors viewpoint and then discuss it with my parents perspective (since they lived through it).

  10. Victoria Ernest on March 14, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    Can hardly wait. Love her ?

  11. Annie (Ruth) Steinfeldt on March 14, 2020 at 7:02 pm

    I look forward to reading this book, I’m going on B & N after this and see if I can buy one. I think I will always remember Jackie as a classy lady. Not only classy but so brave! Thanks for bringing this book to my attention.

  12. Jennifer Schaley on March 14, 2020 at 7:07 pm

    I’ve enjoyed all Susan Meissner’s books I’ve read. I think Ive read all of them except They called it Camelot. It is on my wish list to read.

  13. Linda Goldstein on March 14, 2020 at 7:38 pm

    I LOVE Susan’s book-just put it on library hold

  14. miriam sarzotti on March 14, 2020 at 7:57 pm

    I am a fan of Jackie’s and read all on her and the Kennedy’s too, so this is an exciting new book to read by an author new to me. Hello Susan!

  15. Kristi VanKeersbilck on March 14, 2020 at 8:32 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful read! Ihave always been fascinated by the Kennedys and Jackie in particular. Can’t wait to read this!

  16. Amanda Banks on March 14, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    This looks great! Jackie has always represented grace and strength, especially during times of adversity.

  17. Carolyn waller on March 14, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    Susan’s books captivate me from page one. I’m excited to get lost in this one too.

  18. Lindsey DiBlasio on March 14, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    Gorgeous cover! So looking forward to reading this novel!

  19. Mary on March 14, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    Looks so good! Thanks for the opportunity

  20. ann garvin on March 14, 2020 at 9:10 pm

    Regardless I am going to buy this for my mother-in-law who is deeply committed to the Kennedys story

  21. Mickey Neilson on March 14, 2020 at 9:48 pm

    Incredible author. Have read all of her books I can get.

  22. Lisa Schroeder on March 14, 2020 at 10:28 pm

    So looking forward to reading more about this amazing lady!

  23. Lynn Robertson on March 14, 2020 at 10:32 pm

    Love your books! Although you didn’t write this one, I’ll read anything about Jackie. Since you recommend this one, it’s a must read. Thanks for the opportunity to win it.

  24. Jennifer Dean on March 14, 2020 at 10:56 pm

    This has been on my TBR list ever since I heard about it. Love anything Kennedy!

  25. Joanne Mielczarski on March 14, 2020 at 10:57 pm

    I would love to win a copy of this book – it looks amazing. Thanks for this giveaway.

  26. Deb Stahlg on March 14, 2020 at 11:08 pm

    This sounds like a novel my book club would really enjoy. I will suggest it the next time we meet. Thank you for sharing this interview!

  27. Judith Hindman on March 15, 2020 at 4:49 am

    Would love to share this book with others living in my retirement community.

  28. Lisa D on March 15, 2020 at 11:42 am

    I would love to read this book. Regardless of what you thought about his politics John and Jacqueline Kennedy were royalty for Americans. There was so much tragedy that followed this family it was almost like a curse. Always interested me.

  29. Nina Cois on March 15, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    Would love to read this!!

  30. Gingie Gavin on March 16, 2020 at 1:09 am

    I have always admired Jackie-such poise,strength and class.Looking forward to reading this!

  31. Shelly on March 16, 2020 at 4:01 am

    Reading As Bright As Heaven now and look forward to reading this one!

  32. Susan on March 17, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    Thanks to all who entered! picked a winner and it’s Kristi V. Congrats! Kristi, I have emailed you privately for your mailing address. Again, thank you everybody for participating 🙂

  33. Susan Campbell on March 27, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    Can’t wait to read this book. How do I sign up for your blog?

  34. Susan on April 13, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    My little widget thing is missing! I will have my webmaster re-install it. Thanks, Susan

  35. Edie Birken on April 25, 2020 at 3:29 am

    Susan Meissner, our small book club of nearly eighteen years, has seen many changes. This Tuesday night, April 28, we’ll be having our book club meeting via ZOOM to discuss my choice for this month’s reading of The Last Year of the War. Is it at all possible you could attend part of our meeting to answer some questions….or, if you prefer, throw questions at us. I believe the ZOOM meeting is called for 6 pm, so perhaps 45 minutes later you could join our discussion….or not.