With her sixth book, Jericho novelist Ellen Meister got a boost from a family "Friend" — her cousin Lisa Kudrow.
"Congratulations Ellen. Thanks for letting me preview #LoveSoldSeperately BECAUSE I NEEDED A GOOD BREEZY BOOK TO READ. Sooo good! So proud of my cousin!! Woo hooo," Kudrow, 57, who played Phoebe Buffay on the hit NBC sitcom "Friends," tweeted late last month. She followed up two days later with a similar Instagram post about the mystery rom-com "Love Sold Separately," published Aug. 25 by the Harlequin imprint Mira.
"My dad and Lisa's dad, Lee Kudrow, are the sons of sisters and grew up together in Brooklyn, very close, like brothers," explains Meister, 62, who was born in the Bronx, raised from childhood in Jericho, and after leaving returned there 22 years ago. "The families were sort of almost like one family. And then Lee moved to California and became a doctor and they stayed close. We used to go on family vacations together with the Kudrows." Meister's father, Gerard, who owned a taxi fleet, died in 2018; Ellen and her two siblings' mother, Marilyn, now lives in Florida.
Ellen Meister began her career as an advertising copywriter after graduating with an English degree from SUNY's University at Buffalo. Eventually leaving that field to raise her and husband Michael Mogavera's three children, now in their twenties, she wrote her debut novel, "Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA" (HarperCollins 2006) "probably over a two-year period between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. before the rest of the family woke up. It was the only time I could carve out to write."
With regularity every couple of years, she continued to publish novels: "The Smart One" (HarperCollins 2008), "The Other Life" (Putnam 2011) and two about the ghost of a celebrated Algonquin Round Table author: "Farewell, Dorothy Parker" (Putnam 2013) and "Dorothy Parker Drank Here" (Putnam 2015).
Her latest follows the misadventures of Dana Barry, an unsuccessful aspiring actress with a penchant for getting high and screwing up, who stumbles onto a gig as a shopping channel host. When that network's difficult star is found dead, Dana, who knows the prime suspect is innocent, entangles herself in both the investigation and the handsome chief investigator.
On the surface, Meister — who self-deprecatingly calls herself "an old married lady … all I do is work" — is unlike her protagonist. But, "I very much rebelled against Jericho when I was a kid. I liked to think of myself as different, as an artist. But you grow up and come to a different understanding of what it means to be part of a community and what it means to raise your children in an environment with a very strong school district."
She and her financial-consultant husband, 63, also wanted "something that was a good commuting distance to Manhattan, and we also really wanted a colonial. And because I wanted a fresh start, I was refusing to look at Jericho. I was looking at all the towns around Jericho and it was my sister who said to me, 'You know, you're being an idiot. It's such a good place to raise kids. It's got everything you want — just be open to it.' And I said, you're right, I'm being a stubborn idiot." The walls around Jericho tumbled.
Meister, who also teaches writing at LIU Post, will be among the authors participating in a free online panel for Long Island LitFest on Sept. 30, moderated by Newsday columnist and editorial writer Mark Chiusano.