The Hollywood Mirage - Mo Fanning Author
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The Hollywood Mirage

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What do people think of when they hear the word ‘Hollywood‘? Is it the iconic Hollywood sign perched on Mount Lee, a symbol of glamour and dreams realised? Or perhaps it’s the scenes of opulence at premieres and award shows where celebrities dazzle and mingle. Hollywood is where dreams come true—a small-town boy can become an overnight sensation.

In my upcoming (6 June, if you still need to ask) dark romantic comedy, Husbands, I dig around in a town that isn’t all about the glitter and the gold. I’m here to scrape barnacles off the grimy underbelly of Hollywood.

The mirage and the reality

Husbands by Mo Fanning - Love and Lies in La La LandHollywood has long dazzled with curated accounts of luxurious lifestyles and exclusive parties. You go there to be happy. In Husbands, I peel back this facade and reveal a grittier truth. Inspired by real-life accounts of movie industry exploitation, the novel isn’t always an easy read.

Kyle, my leading man, finds himself catapulted into this world thanks to a drunken Vegas marriage (years before) binding him to a ‘red flag’ movie director. As he navigates the bustling arrival halls of LAX, he can’t begin to guess what’s waiting in Tinsel Town.

Way back when, I read an interview with a young gay actor who became involved with a big-time movie director. One whose films you will have heard of. Their relationship was sexually and emotionally abusive. He witnessed a ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ man assaulting younger men.

Hollywood Filmstrip

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His story stayed with me. And thanks to Google, it didn’t take long to find more. Expecting nothing back, I reached out to some of the young gay men who had shared their experiences, asking if they might consider talking to me by way of research into a possible novel. As any writer can attest – we hardly ever hear back.

A month later, after five harrowing phone interviews and one slack-jawed cup of coffee on Sunset, I knew I wanted to tell this story.

At the same time, I needed to think about the people who’ve been kind enough to buy my previous novels. Mo Fanning is not a gritty, hardcore down-and-dirty writer. I write stories about people in love. I try to make my readers smile. My characters just so happen to be gay. If I was going to write this story, I had to be sure my existing readership would like it too. Finding a way in wasn’t easy.

Personal connection and narrative drive

My roots, coming of age in Birmingham’s vibrant gay scene, and my time as a primary school teacher helped infuse Husbands with a realism that grounds Kyle’s extraordinary circumstances in relatable struggles. I wanted readers to think of Kyle as a lovable fool – a man with big dreams but little common sense. But I also wanted them to go with him no matter how dumb he might act.

Hollywood’s allure is not only a backdrop in Husbands. I wanted it to become a pivotal character driving the plot. And so, Kyle’s dream of making it big in acting is pervasive, seductive, and ultimately, destructive. There are other antagonists, but Hollywood is the bad guy here.

I decided to surface the industry’s issues with exploitation and abuse, reflecting the real-life scandals that have rocked the industry in recent years. Issues that continue to rumble. Kyle encounters young gay men harmed by ‘the system’. Teenagers with dreams as big and bright as his. Men who found themselves caught in a cycle of exploitation. Kyle forces himself to confront a crucial question: Is the price of fame too high to pay?

Romantic comedy heart

Despite the subject matter, I needed Husbands to have a romantic comedy heart. The challenge was to knit serious themes with the charm and wit my readers love. So far, I’ve peered through my fingers at just a handful of advance reviews – and been hung out to dry by a very small but very fierce Scottish woman who works as my editor. I think I’ve got it right. Whilst I know I’ll never please everyone, those who I’ve trusted to see the book early have said kind and lovely things about the authenticity of Kyle and Noah, and their on-off relationship.

Husbands is, though, more than just a critique of a certain side of Hollywood. It’s an invitation to look beyond any sort of facade to what truly matters in life—integrity, love, and self-worth.

Have you ever experienced a situation where the reality differed vastly from your expectations? Share your story.

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By Mo Fanning

Mo Fanning is a British author of dark romantic comedies including the Book of the Year nominated bestseller 'The Armchair Bride', 'Rebuilding Alexandra Small' and 2022's hit holiday romcom 'Ghosted'.

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