When Meg Tilly was nominated for an Academy Award in 1986 for her supporting role in "Agnes of God," the 25-year-old sat in the audience on Oscar night hoping Anjelica Huston would walk away with the prize.
Tilly’s portrayal of a novice nun who gives birth and insists that the dead child is the result of a virgin conception is nothing short of stunning, probably the reason she'd already won the Golden Globe Award.
“I remember thinking, however, as I sat next to Anjelica Huston and her boyfriend Jack Nicholson, with Anjelica’s father (famous director John Huston) on an oxygen mask sitting behind me, that I’d have plenty of opportunities to win an Oscar, but Anjelica’s father sounded close to death — and I thought he should see his daughter win,” Tilly said.
Huston won that night, for "Prizzi’s Honor," but what young Tilly couldn’t have predicted was that in less than 10 years she would give up acting, leave Hollywood and move to Canada.
Tilly was trained as a dancer, and even played a ballerina in the background of the movie "Fame." But later a dance partner dropped her in a pas de deux class in New York, breaking her spine. Her actor sister Jennifer (now a professional poker player) urged her to come to Los Angeles and try her hand at acting. Roles came quickly.
But although she co-starred in films including "The Big Chill," "Psycho II" and "Valmont," Tilly soon realized that the gypsy life of an actress on the road wasn’t good for her two children, who were in school, but being dragged along. After shooting "Leaving Normal," she decided to make a change.
“I knew I wanted to stay home and raise my children,” Tilly said. “They didn’t ask to be born, and I felt like they were entitled to lives off the road. By this time, I was divorced, and my plan became to accept movies that took the least amount of time and paid the largest amount of money, so I could save money quickly, and have enough to live on while my children grew up.”
Moving to Canada with British actor Colin Firth, whom she had met on the set of "Valmont," she led a domestic life of home-baked cookies and family dinners. Eventually, she had a child with Firth, but the relationship couldn’t survive the ups and downs of show business and travel.
On a whim, she thought she’d try her hand at writing. Her first book, “Singing Songs” was autobiographical, but she passed it off as fiction, since it explored sexual abuse in her young life at the hands of a pedophile she knew.
Her second book, “Gemma,” began as a short story, but her agent thought it should be a novel. Reluctant to explore any more darkness in her life, she dropped a character into the book that could take the brunt of the appalling behavior she encountered.
“I was proud to stand up and tell my truth in these books, but I wanted to move on,” Tilly said. “After a couple of young adult novels and some lighthearted little books, I made a choice to delve into romantic suspense, because it’s my favorite genre. ...It’s what I like to read.”
Enter the Solace Island trilogy. The first book, “Solace Island,” posted online, was written under the pseudonym Sara Flynn, so it wouldn’t be associated with Tilly's previous works. She even went to a book convention in disguise. But when the book earned a starred review from the Library Journal and publishers came calling, Tilly and her agent decided the second book would need her name attached to it.
“Cliff’s Edge” is a romantic comedy with edge-of-your-seat suspense and mystery, topped off with some pretty steamy sex scenes.
“I like a nice hot bath, a little chocolate and a book that’s going to be a fun ride,” said Tilly. “I like novels that have happily-ever-afters. There may be a few dead bodies along the way, but it all turns out well in the end.”
Life has turned out well for Tilly, too. Happily married since 2002 to screenwriter and author John Calame and living on Canada’s idyllic Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, now that her children are grown she takes sporadic and selected acting roles. She recently played Brad Pitt’s wife in the Netflix movie "War Machine."
And she greets her many fans at book conventions around the country. She’ll be at Book Lovers Con in New Orleans on May 15-19 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The event brings together authors and their book-loving fans. Go to bookloverscon.com for ticket information and schedules.
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