Today I am so pleased to welcome E.J. Russell to Joyfully Jay. E.J. has come to talk to us about her latest release, Silent Sin. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!


Thank you, Jay, for hosting me during release week for Silent Sin, my very first historical novel! I’m thrilled to be here and can’t wait to share this book with everyone. So let me tell you a little bit about Robbie and Martin’s world.

Dorothy Arzner

In Silent Sin, Robbie’s first day at Citadel Motion Pictures is almost his last when he inadvertently ruins a complicated shot. He’s rescued by Dorothy Dashwood—aka Dottie—who becomes his first friend in Hollywood.

Dottie is a cutter—the silent-era equivalent of a film editor—who dreams of writing her own pictures and also directing them. My inspiration for Dottie (including her name) was Dorothy Arzner, one of the earliest accredited female directors in Hollywood.

I say “accredited” because Mary Pickford, for one, held enough sway through her star power and the production company, United Artists, that she formed with Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, and Douglas Fairbanks, to essentially “direct herself.” And while Arzner wasn’t the first female director—Cleo Madison, Alice Guy, and Lois Weber preceded her—she was the one with the longest career, and was the only female director working in Hollywood from 1927, when she directed her first feature, until she retired from Hollywood in 1943.

Arzner left USC medical school in 1919 to take a job typing scenarios (silent film scripts) at Paramount. At that time, most studios didn’t have a dedicated scenario department—scenarists, many of whom were women, worked from home, writing out their stories in long-hand before submitting them. The stenographers at the studio would transcribe them, typing them in the accepted format for a shooting script. Arzner didn’t consider this a come-down—she viewed it as the perfect place to start out in the motion picture industry because it allowed her to see how films were constructed:

“Some might think that a stenographer typing scripts is pigeon-holed for life, but it’s a motion picture education to a girl with imagination.”

Arzner moved from typing scripts to being a “script-girl”—an early version of a script supervisor, responsible for continuity on the film set—to cutter, to being a scenarist herself, which is the trajectory I’ve given to Dottie in Silent Sin. Arzner directed her first feature film, Fashion for Women, in 1927. She directed Paramount’s first talkie, The Wild Party, starring top box-office draw Clara Bow (pictured here with Arzner). She worked with other major stars over her Hollywood career—Katharine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, Lucille Ball—and always managed to skew her films so that female friendships outshone heterosexual monogamy.

After she left Hollywood, Arzner’s career didn’t end. She made Women’s Army Corps training films during WWII (something else I borrowed for Dottie!); taught filmmaking classes at the Pasadena Playhouse; became associated with Pepsi (through Joan Crawford, a personal friend) and directed Pepsi commercials (many featuring Crawford); joined the staff of the UCLA theater and film program’s Motion Picture division (where one of her students was Francis Ford Coppola).

Arzner and her long-time lover, choreographer Marion Morgan, bought their first house in 1930 and were together until Morgan’s death in 1971, although apparently their relationship was termed “flexible,” particularly when Morgan was traveling and away from home for long periods. Arzner, who favored suits and ties, never hid her identity or sexuality, but didn’t flaunt it the way Alla Nazimova did. (But then, Nazimova was pretty extra in all ways…)

Arzner’s work was rediscovered in the early seventies when she was recognized for her importance to film studies both as a female filmmaker and a lesbian filmmaker. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk (on Vine Street), and the Director’s Guild of America honored her with a tribute in 1975. Katharine Hepburn sent her a telegram as part of the tribute:

“Isn’t it wonderful that you’ve had such a great career, when you had no right to have a career at all?”


A novel of early Hollywood

When tailor Marvin Gottschalk abandoned New York City for the brash boomtown of silent-film-era Hollywood, he never imagined he’d end up on screen as Martin Brentwood, one of the fledgling film industry’s most popular actors. Five years later a cynical Martin despairs of finding anything genuine in a town where truth is defined by studio politics and publicity. Then he meets Robbie Goodman.

Robbie fled Idaho after a run-in with the law. A chance encounter leads him to the film studio where he lands a job as a chauffeur. But one look at Martin and he’s convinced he’s likely to run afoul of those same laws—laws that brand his desires indecent, deviant… <em>sinful</em>.

Martin and Robbie embark on a cautious relationship, cocooned in Hollywood’s clandestine gay fraternity, careful to hide from the studio boss, a rival actor, and reporters on the lookout for a juicy story. But when tragedy and scandal rock the town, igniting a morality-based witch hunt fueled by a remorseless press, the studio brass will sacrifice even the greatest careers to defend their endangered empire. Robbie and Martin stand no chance against the firestorm—unless they stand together.

Buy links:

Note: Silent Sin will remain in wide distribution until March 10, 2020, when it will be exclusive to Amazon and enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.


Multi-Rainbow Award winner E.J. Russell—grace, mother of three, recovering actor—holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business intelligence consultant (as one does). She’s recently abandoned data wrangling, however, and spends her days wrestling words.

E.J. is married to Curmudgeonly Husband, a man who cares even less about sports than she does. Luckily, CH loves to cook, or all three of their children (Lovely Daughter and Darling Sons A and B) would have survived on nothing but Cheerios, beef jerky, and satsuma mandarins (the extent of E.J.’s culinary skill set).

E.J. lives in rural Oregon, enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.

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E.J. has brought a copy of a backlist book, plus a $5 Amazon gift card to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Tuesday, March 10th at 11:59 pm ET.

  • By entering the giveaway, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
  • Winners will be selected by random number. No purchase necessary to win. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
  • If you win, you must respond to my email within 48 hours or another winner may be chosen. Please make sure that your spam filter allows email from Joyfully Jay.
  • Winners may be announced on the blog following the contest. By entering the contest you are agreeing to allow your name to be posted and promoted as the contest winner by Joyfully Jay.
  • Prizes will be distributed following the giveaway either by Joyfully Jay or the person/organization donating the prize.
  • All book prizes are in electronic format unless otherwise specified.
  • By entering you are agreeing to hold Joyfully Jay harmless if the prize or giveaway in some way negatively impacts the winner.
  • Readers may only enter once for each contest.  Duplicate entries for the same giveaway will be ignored. In the event of technical problems with the blog during the contest, every effort will be made to extend the contest deadline to allow for additional entries.
  • Void where prohibited by law.
FILED UNDER: Giveaway, Guest Post
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