Flight Attendant Writer Turns to Old Hollywood for Lioness

In August 2019, author Chris Bohjalian was attending a matinee film in NYC when inspiration struck him for his next novel, The Lioness (Doubleday), out now.

“I stepped out of the theater into this cobalt blue sky, steaming heat. Ten minutes ago I had watched this film. And I was like, ‘My God, I love Hollywood! Why have I never written a Hollywood novel?” he says.

“I knew my Hollywood novel would take place sometime in my childhood. So I went back to a time of great social upheaval. And I didn’t want the setting to be just Hollywood. I thought, ‘What’s one exotic place in 1964 where a bunch of Hollywood actors and their entourage could get into all sorts of trouble?’”

As it turns out, Tanzania. A-list actress Katie Barstow and her new husband David headed there for a high-end safari, accompanied by a few friends and fellow actors. The trip promises to be a luxurious getaway filled with wildlife and beautiful scenery, until the unthinkable happens – a group of Russian mercenaries take them hostage after killing their safari guides. (“Russians have been the bad guys in my books for a long time,” he notes.)

Chris Bohjalian
Author Chris Bohjalian
Victoria Blower

Though the Vermont-based author is prolific, no two books are the same — it could range from a flight attendant waking up next to a dead body in a Dubai hotel room (“The Flight Attendant,” the basis for the popular HBOMax series). to a Puritan woman accused of witchcraft in 16th-century Massachusetts (“Hour of the Witch”) to a young woman who helped refugees from the 1915 Armenian Genocide (“The Sandcastle Girls”).

“My books are driven by fear. I want my readers to walk a tightrope where one side is sorrow and the other side is hope,” says Bohjalian, who prefers to use a fountain pen to edit draft manuscripts. “I’m not afraid to kill my main characters – I do it a lot. My goal is never to write the same book twice. But all my books have the same characteristics. You don’t know if you’ll end up with heartbreak or hope.”

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