I grew up in an environment that was decidedly different from the majority of my peers. There were cooks, maids, butlers, and chauffeurs. Both my parents were socially prominent. Their guests ranged from Prince Rainier and Princess Grace to David Niven. I even managed to pee on JFK. I was two at the time, but I did meet him some time later at the White House. To my relief, he didn’t remember the incident, at least he never mentioned it.
“My grandfather would tell me stories of my Russian ancestors and so would my father. I would listen in wonder. They inspired me. I love the writings of Gabriel García Márquez. I wanted to write a novel that was realistic but had magical elements. “
My grandfather would tell me stories of my Russian ancestors and so would my father. I would listen in wonder. They inspired me. I love the writings of Gabriel García Márquez. I wanted to write a novel that was realistic but had some magical elements.
Although I was not often at Rhinebeck, it was a mysterious place, and I felt it would be a suitable background for a story. It was seriously creepy in a visceral and sensational way. At times, it was downright scary. One governess refused to return to Rhinebeck. She had apparently seen my grandmother’s ghost and was traumatized by their meeting. The story was told in whispers and overheard in snatches. There were others that my father or grandfather took great pleasure in telling over lunches at the St. Regis when I was very young. My brother, sister, and I would sit spellbound as we listened to tales of past ancestors and our heritage. Some died most horribly; their enemies, too.
While the past was readily discussed, the present not so much. In our family, children were protected from adult goings-on. We never went to funerals, and any scandals were kept from us, only to be discovered years later. Some were more interesting than others. It took real skill to steer conversations into areas that were considered inappropriate and retrieve small nuggets of information, that when put together over time electrified us as we compared notes.
Outside of fiction at the beginning of the 20th century, only a few stories took place in the sumptuous surroundings that I grew up in. Some, such as Nancy Mitford’s Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, took place in England about the aristocracy there between the wars. They were not American and certainly not many have taken place in the United States after the 1950s.
Calvin Coolidge stated that the business of America is business. I thought I would start with that. The theme of contracts features prominently throughout the novel. Almost every relationship is contractual in nature. I wanted to explore this theme because a contract is a legal construction that provides trust between parties. The ideas of faith, friendship, and what it really means to trust, are some I wanted to explore.
I loved to listen to stories growing up. Later, I learned their true power. I imagined being a citizen of Athens and listening to the Iliad or the Odyssey as told by a single orator for a full three days. When darkness was at the door, and the night was filled with primordial fear, it was the tales told around the fire that kept people alive with their inspirations and lessons. These not only instructed, but ultimately formed the myths and stories that give our lives meaning. They link the past with the present and the future. Today we have films, television, and the Internet and they do move us, but nothing can take the place of a real person talking in a hushed voice as the fire dies and the night closes in.
“I wanted to see if I could write such a story. In a world that is so disconnected while appearing the opposite, it is important to highlight the significance of conversation.”
I wanted to tell a story that would ultimately delight the reader and allow him or her to connect with something magical and wonderful. I wanted to see if I could write such a story. In a world that is so disconnected while appearing the opposite, it is important to highlight the significance of conversation. The art of simply talking. Not much happens physically in the novel, but it’s in the dialogue where everything does, and the participants are changed forever as a result.
The themes that weave through the novel are relevant today because it is through real connections that we experience the magic that is immanent around us. It’s my hope that the novel gives the reader a glimpse and perhaps even an experience of the magic that I see. It is why I wrote it.
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