Ellen F. Brown is a freelance writer from Richmond, Va. Her first book, Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood, co-authored with John Wiley, Jr., offers a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most popular and controversial novels in publishing history. It was published by Taylor Trade in February 2011.
Co-author John Wiley, Jr., has been a GWTW fan since first reading Margaret Mitchell's book at age 10. He has assembled one of the largest collections of Mitchell and GWTW memorabilia in private hands and has published a quarterly newsletter, The Scarlett Letter, for fans and collectors, for more than 20 years. By day, he is manager of employee communications at a major utility company.
On your nightstand now:
Wiley: The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote. What better time to read this than during the sesquicentennial year? All My Life by Susan Lucci--a fun read. Liberty Bible Commentary New Testament. A couple of years ago, I scratched another item off my "bucket list": I finally read the entire Bible through in a year. I decided to follow up with a commentary on the New Testament. And I'm sort of embarrassed to admit this, but I have a copy of my own book on my nightstand. As a first-time author, I'm still thrilled enough to want to look at it occasionally.
Brown: Elizabeth Taylor: A Passion for Life by Joseph Papa, Planting Dandelions: Field Notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life by Kyran Pittman and Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Chang.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Wiley: Curious George Rides a Bike. As I got older, I couldn't get enough of the Hardy Boys and Happy Hollisters mystery series.
Brown: It's a toss-up between the Little House books and the Nancy Drew mysteries. Both taught me that smart girls have the most fun.
Your top five authors:
Wiley: Margaret Mitchell, of course! Leon Uris, a master storyteller on a grand scale, although under-appreciated today. John Grisham, a most readable author, from the suspense to some of his later forays outside the legal thriller genre. Rick Bragg, a writer whose words and phrases give you goosebumps... and almost make you cry because you know you can never write as well as he does. David Thomson, biographer extraordinaire of Hollywood lives and legends.
Brown: I can't play favorites with authors. There are too many good ones, and I hate the thought of ranking them in any way. But I will say there's a special place in my heart for Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nella Larsen, Nevil Shute and Oscar Wilde.
Book you've faked reading:
Wiley: I've never really done this. I'm too afraid of getting found out and unmasked!
Brown: I couldn't get through the first chapter of Moby Dick. I've never actually faked reading it, but I've probably nodded knowingly on occasion when it's come up in conversation.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Wiley: All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg. I laughed and cried while reading this incredible tribute to his mother, and I called friends to read sections out loud.
Brown: Other than Gone with the Wind, which I think is tremendously underrated by many people, I have been obsessed lately with Audrey Niffenegger's The Night Bookmobile. I first read it while on a family car trip and frightened my husband and children by bursting into tears at the last page. It's a gem of a book about loving to read.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Wiley: Hearst's San Simeon: The Gardens and the Land. I am still enthralled from my first visit to the Hearst Castle several years ago, and the dust jacket (and photo cover) of this book offer only a hint of the breathtaking photographs inside.
Brown: Many, many books designed by Chip Kidd.
Book that changed your life:
Wiley: It's the obvious choice in my case--Gone with the Wind. Not only have I co-written my first book, but many of my best friends have come into my life because of Margaret Mitchell's story.
Brown: Truman Capote's In Cold Blood made me want to be a writer but also terrified me that I'd never be good enough.
Favorite line from a book:
Wiley: Once again, it's Gone with the Wind. (Is this an obsession, or what?) Seriously, the older I get, the more meaning I find in Scarlett's vow that "Tomorrow is another day." With the dawn of each new day, we really do get a second chance, and a third and a fourth.
Brown: The final paragraph of Willa Cather's My Antonia is lovely. I especially like: "The feelings of that night were so near that I could reach out and touch them with my hand. I had the sense of coming home to myself, and of having found out what a little circle man's experience is."
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Wiley: Misery by Stephen King. It was the first book I literally did not put down until I had read the entire thing. I was exhausted, but almost too creeped out to try to sleep. As an aspiring author at the time, I certainly hoped any book I might write would inspire loyal fans... but not like Annie Wilkes!
Brown: Independent People by Halldór Laxness. Although I took a lot from the book when I read it in my early 20s, I wish I could have the experience of discovering it again now that I have a few more years under my belt.