TWO BOOKS FOR 2012. ONE NON-FICTION, ONE FICTION.
If I could dedicate a book to a place, where I live now would be that place. An 18th-century log cabin on six wilderness acres. The logs have been patched many times, the kitchen is in the basement and the outhouse (a two-seater) is crumbling, but it’s the perfect perch from which to fly to times gone by. James Joyce used to say that history was a nightmare from which he was trying to awake. In this cabin, history is a dream that I’m trying to fall into. It was here that Love, Fiercely came into being, the story of Newton and Edith Phelps Stokes,wealthy and progressive in Gilded Age Manhattan, to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Then, the New Amsterdam-based novel about a 17th-century serial killer on the loose, The Orphanmaster, from Viking.
The past for me is a series of mysteries within mysteries, endless Chinese boxes. In my work I try to crack these open. You go into a mansion of a hundred rooms, say. Enter one room to start. What furniture is there, what hangs on the walls, what style is the hearth (there are as many kinds of hearth as there are houses)? Are the walls plaster? Is that a series of framed miniatures hung beside the mantel? Whom do they depict? Outside, on the façade, do you see Georgian brickwork, Tudor stone or simple clapboard? Of course, learning all of this detail serves to unlock the character of the people who live inside. And we haven’t even gotten to the petticoats yet. If ever I can’t make progress in my writing, I have a simple solution. Do more research. A surefire remedy for writer’s block.
LOVE FIERCELY: A GILDED AGE ROMANCE, March 2012
THE ORPHANMASTER, a novel, June 2012