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10 Quick Questions for Susanna Hoffs

The Bangles lead singer pens her first novel, ‘This Bird Has Flown’

spinner image susanna hoffs holding her suit jacket closed, against light pink background
Shervin Lainez

Susanna Hoffs, 64, is best known for her voice as lead singer of the ’80s band The Bangles, with chart-topping hits like Eternal Flame and Walk Like an Egyptian. In her latest creative endeavor, she expresses her voice in written form. Her debut novel, This Bird Has Flown — part comedy, part romance and written with an insider’s view of the music industry — follows a one-hit wonder who finds herself broke, single and in search of a fresh start.

What was the writing process like for you?

It is hard, but [for me] it’s like escapist fun, because suddenly you’re hanging out with these fictional characters. I found so much joy in it. My characters would just start chattering to me while I was on a walk. I would use my phone to type in what I was hearing in my head.

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And how long did it take?

It took several years. I got the idea in the spring of 2015, but I was still quite active doing a lot of music things — still putting out records and doing some Bangles touring. I started to feel the need to step away as the novel became more real, not just an exercise. I was committed from the instant I decided to do it. The further into the process, the more obsessed with the novel I became.

The book has been described as somewhat of a romantic comedy. What are some of your favorite rom-coms?

My friend Helen Fielding wrote Bridget Jones’s [Diary], so I love the Bridget Jones movies. I love the Richard Curtis films … Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually. They are all fantastic.

You’ve done some acting, including in the 1987 film The Allnighter, which your mother directed. What was it like to work with your mom?

Working with my mom was so much fun. It was a very low-budget movie. I got to work with Pam Grier, a wonderful actress, and Joan Cusack. It was so fun working with my mom because she is an artist through and through.

Do you hope to do more acting in the future?

I have nothing to lose. Everything is just a gift. You know, I wouldn’t mind. You’re the first person who's asked me about that. I would be interested in doing it. Why not?

spinner image suzanna hoffs, michael steele, debbi peterson and vicki peterson
Hoffs, far left, is a founding member and the lead singer of The Bangles, which also features Michael Steele, Debbi Peterson and Vicki Peterson.
Everett Collection

Any exercise and skin-care tips? 

I’m religious about walking. I do it as much for mental health as physical health. I’m always moving. I studied ballet and jazz when I was young. In terms of skin care, I’m so do-it-yourself. I haven’t done anything beyond being extremely diligent about moisturizing. I keep a bottle of olive oil in my bathroom. You don’t want to use too much, but literally [take] a drop of olive oil, rub your hands together and pat your face and neck with it and it will do wonders.

Do you keep in touch with your Bangles bandmates?

We haven’t gotten together in a bit because people are scattered in different locations now, but we’re constantly in contact.

What songs are on your ideal ’80s playlist?

I'm obsessed with the song “Friday I’m in Love” [by The Cure]. I taught it to myself and I've been playing it a lot. There’s so much great stuff from the ’80s — everything from R.E.M. to Duran Duran to Cyndi Lauper to Madonna.

You’re also friends with The Go-Go’s lead singer Belinda Carlisle. What’s that relationship like?

We have been close since the ’80s, and the press made much of this ridiculous rivalry between the bands. It was all invented. In fact, when I was first trying to connect with other musicians, I set out my flyers at a Go-Go’s show, advertising myself. The Go-Go’s were an inspiration for me. It’s a love fest.

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If you weren’t a writer, musician or artist, what do you think you would be?

I loved being raised by a psychoanalyst dad and an artist mom. I think I might want to be a therapist. I just find that the human mind is so complicated. Life is beautiful, but fraught with challenges. In a way, songs are like a salve or medicine. I think being a therapist would be very fulfilling.

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