Sunday, April 14, 2024

First Chapter Reveal - The Last Lady of the Silver Screen by Deanna Lynn Sletten

First Chapter Reveal

Release date: May 28, 2024

I'm excited to share with you the first chapter of my upcoming novel. It's a dual-timeline novel starting in the 1930s and following the career of a fictional actress until today. She's a tough, snarky, and quick-witted woman who did things her way - even if she does have some regrets. Here is the first chapter.

The Last Lady of the Silver Screen


Deanna Lynn Sletten

Chapter One




Kathleen Carver stood on the sidelines studying the studio with disdain. It was set up to look like a living room with fake walls, an imitation fireplace, cheap carpet, and furniture strategically placed. There were two big cushy chairs facing each other with small tables beside each one, meant to hold drinks for the interviewer and interviewee. Her nose wrinkled as she stared at the thick cushioned chairs.

Don’t these idiots know that elderly people have trouble getting in and out of cushy chairs?

Kath waved to her assistant and beloved niece to come over. “Darling. Will you please have them replace that big, fat chair with one that I can actually sit in?”

Carolyn Gibson studied the situation, then nodded. “Of course, Aunt Kath. I should have noticed it myself.”

Kath smiled for the first time since arriving at the studio. “Carolyn, dear. You can’t be expected to do everything. But please have them switch it out.”

Carolyn patted her aunt’s shoulder and headed toward the director to make the change.

Kath watched as her niece took care of the matter efficiently, as always. Carolyn was sixty-seven, but she moved like a much younger woman and looked young too. She was as active as Kath had been at her age. Now, at ninety-eight years old, Kathleen Carver, the once spry and beautiful, or at least pretty, queen of Hollywood, was a mere shadow of her younger self. Still extremely thin, still wearing trousers—not pants or slacks, they were good old-fashioned wide-legged trousers—and still able to stare down even the most powerful person with ease, Kath knew deep down she was old and nearly useless. But she wasn’t going to let these people see that.

Once the new, less padded, chair was in place, Carolyn helped her aunt walk to it and sit. Kath was relieved to finally rest her legs. Despite changing out the chair, she knew she wasn’t going to feel relaxed throughout the entire interview.

Carolyn left to get water for her aunt and the make-up artist once again approached Kath with brushes and palettes in hand. Kath waved her away as she had the first time she’d been approached. At her age, make-up would settle into her many wrinkles making her appear fake and maybe even a little crazy. Except for the creases, her skin tone wasn’t bad for her age and her eyebrows were well-shaped. She didn’t need liner or color to make her brown eyes more expressive or blush to contour her face. Her square jawline and high cheekbones were all she needed for people to recognize her. The last thing Kath wanted was to look like a clown on television—or Netflix—or wherever this long, drawn-out interview of her life would appear.

“I was finally able to find a mug to pour your water in,” Carolyn said, approaching her aunt. “I know it’s easier for you to have a handle.” She placed the mug on the table and opened a bottle of water to pour into it.

“Thank you, dear,” Kath said kindly. “You always know what I need.”

Carolyn smiled at her then walked behind the scenes. A man was asking for a sound check from Kath, who rolled her eyes and said a few words.

“Would you please speak up louder?” the burly man asked her.

“No,” Kath said. “If I’m to speak for hours for the next few days, then I will not speak up and tire my throat.”

The sound man stared at her, looking astounded by her answer. “Yes, ma’am,” he said. Then he went back to work, trying to get the mike to pick up her voice better.

Kath was getting restless waiting. This was worse than sitting around a sound stage, waiting for your turn while making a movie. She reached into her blazer pocket and pulled out a pack of Camels. In her younger days, she’d smoked the unfiltered Camels but as she aged, she gave into pressure from her niece and others to at least smoke the filtered ones. She also only smoked two a day now, but this incessant waiting was getting on her nerves.

Pulling out one of the cigarettes, she placed it in her mouth and lit it with the gold lighter her dear friend, Rock Hudson, had given her as a birthday gift decades ago. Inhaling deeply, she savored it before releasing the smoke from her lungs.

“Ma’am? Ma’am.” A young, short, skinny man-boy ran up to her looking like the world was about to end. “I’m so sorry, ma’am, but this is a no smoking area.”

Kath took another long drag and then slowly let the smoke out of her lungs. She stared at the man-boy with her eyebrows raised.

“Ma’am. I’m sorry,” the nervous young man said, nearly shaking in his loafers. “You just can’t smoke in here.”

“Justin, leave Ms. Carver alone,” a tall man with perfectly groomed dark hair and wearing a navy-blue suit said as he walked over to the chair opposite of Kath’s. “An icon of her ilk can do whatever she pleases here,” the man said.

Justin, the man-boy, looked from the gentleman who’d approached them, then back at Kath. He looked like he was going to pass out from anxiety. “But Mr. Connally,” he protested, but was quickly waived away by the man. Looking petrified, Justin rushed away.

The man smiled down at Kath, his blue eyes twinkling under dark, groomed brows. “I’m Roger Connally,” he said, extending his hand. “I’ll be your interviewer for this program. It’s an honor to meet you, Ms. Carver.”

Kath reached up and shook his hand, then took another long drag of her cigarette. “Call me Miss Carver, please,” she told him. “I never was a fan of that title, Ms. I was a liberated woman my whole life and didn’t need someone to tell me I’d been liberated.”

Roger smiled. “You are exactly as I expected you to be, Miss Carver. And I’m thrilled I’m the one working on this special interview with you.”

Carolyn appeared with a clear ash tray just in time for the ashes to fall off Kath’s cigarette. “That’s number one,” she told her aunt, lifting one finger.

Kath sighed as she snuffed out the cigarette in the ashtray. “It’s already past noon. I’ve done good today.”

Carolyn smiled and whisked the ashtray away.

Roger sat in the chair across from Kath, unbuttoning his suit jacket and adjusting his tie. “I have no problem with you smoking on set today,” he said. “But there is no smoking allowed on camera. I’m sorry. It’s a different world from your days on a set.”

“You’re telling me,” Kath said.

The make-up woman returned and did a few touch-ups on Roger, then the hairdresser did the same. Kath reached up to her own hair, now completely gray, that she’d had Carolyn pull up into a simple bun at the back of her head. The hair wasn’t pulled tightly, but instead was loose around her face. She always wore it this way these days. It was easier, and more refined, as far as Kath was concerned.

“Are you ready?” Roger asked once the hair and make-up women left.

“I’ve been ready for two hours,” Kath replied.

He smiled. “Then let’s get started.” He waved over a young woman who handed him a large, thick hardcover book. Roger turned it so Kath could see the front cover. “This was a fascinating read. I’ve marked all the places I want to ask you questions about.”

Kath stared at the book in his hands. It was the biography she’d recently written for an insane amount of money. For decades, she’d turned down offers from the biggest publishers in the country to write her life story. Just as she’d never shared her life with the public throughout her career, she certainly wasn’t going to share her secrets after retirement. She was a private person and had wanted to keep it that way.

But then she finally had to say yes. Not because she wanted the attention—but because she needed the money.

And when Netflix knocked on her door asking to do a documentary of her life, she’d grudgingly agreed again. Money was a powerful motivator. And she’d hated every moment of it so far.

“Then shall we begin?” Kath said.

Roger smiled. “Yes.”

Roger turned toward one of the three cameras, waited for the countdown—3-2-1—and began. “Kathleen Carver has graced the silver screen for more than seventy-five years, entertaining audiences with dramas, comedies, and even Shakespeare. She’s known for her simple lifestyle, sharp wit, and is beloved by generations of fans. But what do we really know about this incredible woman? She’s kept her secrets close to the vest for years. Today, I’m deeply honored to have this time with this illustrious film star to discuss her amazing life as written in her own words in this new biography simply titled, Kath. Please welcome Miss Kathleen Carver.” He turned to Kath as the camera did also.

Kath sat and stared at him. She’d been told this was an impromptu interview, where they’d casually discuss her book. But she’d immediately seen that he was using idiot cards, or whatever they called it these days, on the screen underneath the camera. He probably hadn’t even written the words himself, she thought scornfully.

Roger stared at Kath for a moment and then stumbled a little when he began to speak again. “Thank you so much for being here, Miss Carver,” he said, then lifted her book for the camera to see. “Your biography is fascinating. I just couldn’t put it down.”

Kath continued to stare at him but gave him a little nod of the head. Let him work for this, she thought.

“Tell me, Miss Carver,” Roger continued. “What prompted you to write your biography after all these years of being so private?”

Kath raised an eyebrow. “Money.”

Her answer seemed to startle Roger, but he slowly grinned. “And that’s the sharp wit we all love you for,” he said, chuckling. “But there must have been another reason as well. Perhaps you wanted to share your legacy with all your adoring fans?”

Kath shrugged. She was having fun making this slick ex-anchorman sweat. “Quite frankly, if I hadn’t needed the money for some nagging bills, I would have died keeping my life a secret. But when you live to be ninety-eight years old, the money comes in handy.”

Off camera Kath saw her niece smirk and shake her head. Carolyn knew her well and could see Kath was playing with the man like a cat plays with a mouse.

“At least you’re honest,” Roger said. He opened the book and looked at the page he’d placed one of many small sticky notes on. “Shall we start at the beginning?” he said. “You say that you had a happy childhood. There aren’t too many people who’d claim to have been happy children. Why is it you think your childhood was happy?”

Kath sighed, already bored with this tedious interview. “I don’t think I had a happy childhood. I know I did.” She stared Roger down a moment, until she saw him squirm in his chair. Then she relaxed and continued. “My father and mother were the most amazing people, especially in a time when everyone was so rigid and upright. They’d both grown up in the east, Connecticut, to be precise, and attended college in Pennsylvania. My father studied at the University of Pennsylvania to become a lawyer, and my mother attended Bryn Mawr for two years. They met during the holidays at a mutual friend’s house. My father always said it was love at first sight, although my mother, a very independent soul, only claimed to have liked him very much at first.”

Roger gave a small laugh. “They must have been quite interesting people.”

“They were,” Kath answered. “Although my father believed in hard work to attain what you desire, he also loved to have fun. He was very athletic and taught us children how to swim, play tennis, golf, and an assortment of other sports. My father was also quite competitive, which drove some of my younger siblings crazy, but I loved every minute of it.”

“What about your mother?” Roger asked.

“She was a beautiful woman, and a liberated woman despite the times she was raised in. She was a strong woman, and a kind mother. She believed children needed room to grow and develop character, and she let us run around the neighborhood like wild children.” Kath laughed. “Neighbors would call her and say, ‘Kath is up in a tree,” and mother would say, ‘Good for her.’” They’d call to tell her that my brother Graham and I were miles from home, riding our bikes and she’d tell them, ‘Thank you. I’m sure they know their way home.’” She let us be as independent as we desired and I adored her for that.”

“Your mother didn’t insist on you and your sisters behaving like young ladies?” Roger asked.

Kath laughed. “Absolutely not. We knew how to behave in polite society and did when it was expected, but otherwise, she let us be. Why, I remember when I was seven years old and saw the 1933 movie Little Women starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo. I was so inspired by her character that I went home and cut my long hair off to look like a boy. My sister, Katrina, screamed when she saw me and my brother laughed. But my mother only shrugged. ‘It’s her hair and her choice,’ my mother said. She was incredible.”

“Your parents sound amazing,” Roger said. “You wrote that your father was a lawyer for Warner Brothers Studios. You must have had a high lifestyle.”

“Not at first,” Kath said. “My father worked for a law firm for the first few years after he and my mother were married. I remember moving out of the small apartment we lived in when I was about five years old. Three of my siblings were already born and my mother was expecting my youngest brother. Father had been working for the studio for about six months and we were able to move to the Toluca Lake neighborhood into a big Victorian house with a large yard. My siblings and I loved it there. It wasn’t until years later that my father acquired the beach property in Malibu—but that was before prices were ridiculous and houses became mansions. My father loved the beach and ocean and decided we needed a weekend place away from the city.”

“Wow. Malibu. And you still own that property, don’t you?” Roger asked.

“Yes, yes,” Kath said impatiently. “It’s really the family’s house. My youngest brother lives there permanently, but my nieces, nephews, and I use it too. It’s the same lovely normal-sized home it was when my father built it on the ten acres he acquired.”

“My goodness! Ten acres in Malibu, on the beach? The taxes must be extraordinary,” Roger said.

“They are. Believe me. But I wouldn’t sell it for the world. It’s still paradise,” Kath said.

“So, what did your father enjoy doing at the beach? Was he a swimmer? Or did he play volleyball with you children?” Roger asked.

“All of the above and then some,” Kath said. She sat back and thought about her father and the many weekends he took them to the beach before they owned the Malibu house. She and her siblings loved it. But she really did believe that her father, Crandell, loved it the most.

Preorder now on: 

Amazon Kindle

It will be available in Paperback on release day and also on audiobook on or near the release day.

It will also be on Kindle Unlimited.

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