Bangles singer Susanna Hoffs reveals how her past inspired novel

Although Susanna Hoffs famously recorded the Bangles’ hit “Eternal Flame” while naked, her most recent creative process is less risqué.

“I didn’t sit in the nude when I was writing,” she laughed. “I got to be in my pajamas and slippers at home, just wandering around the house. It was not a very fashion forward look, but it was certainly comfortable.”

The singer’s just-released debut novel, “This Bird Has Flown,” follows singer Jane Start, a one-hit wonder who found fame in her early 20s but is now forced to play bachelor parties in Las Vegas to make ends meet.

There’s a rom-com element, as well, as Jane falls in love with a dashing Brit.

Hoffs was inspired by her own high-profile loves and losses and swift rise to fame, she said in a revealing interview with The Post.

The ultimate ’80s rock babe, Hoffs — now a youthful 64 — said: “It’s almost like rock musicians can only live in the decade from 20 to 30. There’s a sweet spot that seems to go away once you get deeper into your 30s. I don’t know what that is. It’s just a cultural box and the culture sets those standards somehow.

Susanna Hoffs
At 64, Hoffs looks eternally youthful — but admits it’s hard for rock stars to age.
Shervin Lainez

Susanna Hoffs
The singer said being in the public eye was “more fraught” than it looks.

“I did identify with Jane very deeply … in some way I worried for her because I have had a taste of what that feels like to be many decades after you were in your ‘prime.’”

Hoffs, who has been married to her director husband, Jay Roach (“Austin Powers,” “Meet the Fockers”), since 1993, said she definitely felt pressure to be sexy in her youth: “There will always be that element to the music business. [The red carpet] looks so effortless. I know from my own experience of being in the public eye that actually it’s fraught with more than that.”

The pop star was born into and grew up in Los Angeles privilege, the daughter of a filmmaker mother and psychoanalyst dad.

After graduating UC Berkeley as an art major in 1980, she moved back to LA and told her parents she was going to start a band — putting an ad in The Recycler, a “throwaway paper that was for buying used cars and sofas and looking for roommates.”

The Bangles
Hoffs formed the band after putting an ad in an LA paper.

Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson, Debbi Peterson, Michael Steele
The band – including Vicki Peterson, Hoffs, Michael Steele and Debbi Peterson — had hits with songs including “Eternal Flame,” “Manic Monday” and “Walk Like an Egyptian.”

That’s how she met Vicki Peterson, who would become the Bangles’ lead guitarist, along with Vicki’s sister Debbi on drums and Michael Steele on bass.

The Bangles became one of the coolest groups of the ’80s, yet Hoffs mused: “We were always the opening band. We always wondered, ‘Is it because we’re girls that we’re the opener?’ … But opening at Slane Castle in Ireland for Queen in 1986, that was amazing.

“There were fun adventures, in particular the Sanremo Festival, I believe it was 1987, Duran Duran and the Bangles were both performing. We met backstage and John Taylor and Simon Le Bon said, ‘Let’s go have dinner together.’ They were swarmed, it was like Beatlemania, it was exactly like what you see in ‘Hard Day’s Night.’ They were such huge stars, and we were just coming up. We’d finally had a number one hit, which I believe was ‘Walk Like an Egyptian,’ and it was very ‘La Dolce Vita.’

John Taylor, Susanna Hoffs
Hoffs said her first taste of fame came while quaffing champagne with Duran Duran’s John Taylor at the Sanremo festival in Italy in 1987.
Susanna Hoffs

Susanna Hoffs, Simon Le Bon
The singer recalled sitting Simon Le Bon’s lap in the back of a limo in Italy.
Susanna Hoffs

In that famous 1960 film, director Federico Fellini coined the term “paparazzi” — a phenomenon Hoffs would come to know well.

“We had our first paparazzi photo-op where it was just flash bulbs going off blinding us … But Duran Duran were old-hat at it, and we all squeezed in their limo. I sat on Simon Le Bon’s lap, because there was no room anywhere else. We go to the restaurant and we could hardly hear each other because girls were banging on the windows outside going, ‘John! Simon!’ I have a couple of pictures of me and John Taylor with the giant bottle of champagne. There was a lot of champagne!

“It was one of the most iconic moments of my life … Because it was a new phenomenon, we always thought of ourselves as a scrappy club band. We weren’t very polished.”

Michael J. Fox, Susanna Hoffs
Just as she was everywhere on MTV, Hoffs dated Michael J. Fox in the mid-1980s.
Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

While she may have loved the champagne, Hoffs never fell into the rock ’n’ roll sinkhole of substance abuse.

“We definitely had fun on the road with wine — we liked our wine,” she said. “We had our ‘chardy’ and I usually would lean upon that.” (She quit drinking 11 years ago and said: “I had to find another way to have a feeling that was similarly wonderful. So I started to go, ‘Well, I’ll just watch a movie every night, or I’ll start binging another season of ‘Inspector Morse’ … I started to just replace the wine with something similarly diverting.”)

The band had their first big hit in 1986 with “Manic Monday,” written for them by Prince, who was said to be smitten with Hoffs.

Susanna Hoffs, Jay Roach, Jackson Roach, Sam Roach
The singer and filmmaker Jay Roach married in 1993 and and have sons Jackson and Sam.

Hoffs’ book character Jane also takes a song from an elusive megastar and turns it into a smash.

When Prince died aged 57 from an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2016, Hoffs said, “I was devastated. I had just been with Tom Petty doing his radio show and we had talked about Prince. A day or two later, I’m walking home from my local coffee shop and my phone rings with an unrecognized number.

“Someone said, ‘Do you have anything to say about Prince?’ I’m like, ‘Who is this? What is this regarding?’ They said, ‘He’s died.’ Then they started asking me things, and I just shut off my phone. I was shaking and I began to cry.”

Chris Martin, Susanna Hoffs
Hoffs paid tribute to Prince at the 2020 Grammys alongside Chris Martin.
Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Calling Prince’s talent “supernaturally amazing,” Hoffs continued, “When I got that phone call … I just immediately called Tom and we sat together … We were both so saddened and traumatized. Then to lose Tom a few years after that [also of an overdose, brought on by drugs including fentanyl], it was just so tough.”

Hoffs had high-profile romances with Donovan Leitch, the actor son of ’60s folk singer Donovan and brother of Ione Skye, as well as Michael J. Fox before meeting Roach on a blind date. They will celebrate their 30th anniversary on April 17.

In “This Bird Has Flown,” Hoffs’ main character has also had a string of romances and is left reeling from a bitter break-up with a Hollywood producer.

Sam Roach, Susanna Hoffs, Jay Roach
Roach — here with Hoffs and son Sam — has directed several hit movies, including “Bombshell.”
Getty Images

Asked whether she drew from her own past, Hoffs grinned and said “Yes.

“It was cathartic to pull from, and sometimes I didn’t know that I was pulling from it … and then I would realize, ‘Oh, that was that person in the ’80s.”

Hoffs also wrote some highly-charged sex scenes and admitted she had to throw her husband out of the house while she wrote.

“That was really a fun part of the book for me. Jay would walk in and I’d be sitting at the kitchen table giggling,” she recalled. “He’s like, ‘Who has fun writing?’ I would say to him, ‘Well, I’m writing this really sexy scene right now with my character’s fictional boyfriend. Please leave so I can keep going.’

Susanna Hoffs
Hoffs performed at the Grammys salute to Paul Simon in 2022.
CBS via Getty Images

“But it was so fun to write about romantic love and that first flush of a new romance where there’s so much yummy sex that I wanted to dig into and just explore. For me, it was endlessly gratifying and delicious to write. I did pinch myself: ‘Do I say that? Do I go there?!”

Hoffs, who has been writing fiction since 1989, has two grown sons with Roach — Jackson, 28, and Sam 24. The couple met at a dinner party in 1991, two years after the Bangles broke up. While the singer launched a solo career that same year, she said she can relate to the feelings of her character as she tries to figure out life after being on top of the charts.

“I thought… ‘Jane Start should be a musician’, because I understand that world, and I could bring something of my knowledge to the character,” Hoffs said. “She feels small and washed up, a washed up musician who just can’t seem to get over all the rejections.”

Susanna Hoffs
The singer has just released her fifth solo album, “The Deep End.”

Hoffs has managed to chart her own path, though. She just released her fifth solo album, “The Deep End,” and remains close friends with her fellow Bangles, including Annette Zilinskas, the band’s original and current bassist.

The Bangles reunited in 1999 — at the request of Hoffs’ director husband, Roach — to record a song for “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.” They’ve since played several concerts.

A documentary and book are being made about the band, and Hoffs is crossing her fingers that one day they will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

She’s already sold the film rights to her novel to Universal Pictures and written the screenplay — and has a “sexy fun” idea for a new novel.

Susanna Hoffs' book, "This Bird Has Flown"
Hoffs’ novel follows a one-hit wonder singer who falls in love with a dashing Brit.

“I am embracing being 64. I’m not so inclined to wear a miniskirt anymore, but who knows? Maybe I will, if I feel like it,” she said. “But I feel more comfortable in my own skin at this age, dare I say it, than I did when I was younger, because I felt more pressure …

“I don’t regret any of my choices, I’m just saying that I feel like I think times have changed in a good way … If [celebrities] want to walk a red carpet in a T-shirt and jeans, that goes too.”

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