Pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn.
Irresistible boys with mischievous smiles and dangerous intentions.
White lies, dark secrets, and scandalous hookups.
This is Manhattan, 1899.
Any chance you could hurry up and publish Splendor now??? Because I'm DYING to find out what happens!!!
Aside from writing sweeping, epic, incredible historical fiction, Anna is also a pretty great person (who said some lovely things about The Season, which you can read on the back jacket of the book). I'm so happy that she agreed to come chill here for the week!
The Luxe series is juicy and fantastic and, while I'm certain it would be no matter what the setting, the historical period doesn't hurt! What is it about Victorian New York that makes for such meat fictional food?
Thank you for saying so! I agree, the era is really rich for a writer, and I think this is in part because of the fantasy and pretension of the period. Just look at the architecture and the clothes—that is some overblown, self-important and yet also deeply romantic stuff! And also because the rules of behavior were so stringent—any time you have a situation where flesh and blood humans are trying to conform to very narrow codes of being, you're going to have a lot of wrenching decisions and drama.
From one historical writer to another, what were the best and worst parts of writing historical fiction set in Victorian New York?
I think that historical fiction is always a particular kind of challenge, because you deprive yourself of your own individual observations and have to depend upon the watered down accounts of memoir, newspapers, etc. Luckily, the culture in which my series is set was a very verbal one—there is a lot of source material to work with. But the flip side of that is that I, as well as most readers, come to the project with a lot of preconceived ideas of what Victorian era New Yorkers looked and talked like, and I as a writer don't want to fall into clichéd images or notions or phrases, and I hope that my readers won't be distracted by the pictures of Michelle Pfieffer and Daniel Day Lewis stored in their cerebral cortexes.
You write about four very different, very compelling young women and, while you're supposed to love all your children equally, we all know you definitely like some more than others. So who's your favorite, and why?
I adore them all, and they've each in their way taken on some traits of their creator, but Diana is my favorite—she is really the beating heart of the series, the character with the greatest mistakes to make and lessons to learn. She is the one readers will most likely relate to also, because she is an imaginative, dreamy reader type, and because she is full of this rather modern desire to seek out what the wider world has to offer her, rather than just accept the joys and sorrows of her native milieu.
You live in New York and set so much of your book in places that remain part of the fabric of the city...tell us a story about Anna in one of these great locations.
I remember walking out of the New-York Historical Society one hot October afternoon—I had been doing research, this was after my series had sold, but before I'd finished writing it—and into Central Park. The Historical Society is in a grand old building, next to the Natural History Museum, and it might be a good location for a costume drama. And the park, of course, neutralizes the signs of aging that you see around the rest of Manhattan; it might be any time in the last century and a quarter or so. I strolled through the park, feeling kind of keyed up with all the possibilities, and exited near the Plaza and went to Bergdorf's and bought an outrageously expensive sweater. Then I had this sensation of having been in a Woody Allen movie—everything seemed very zippy and New York and I could hear a little ragtime in my mind.
And finally, Anna Godbersen on:
Carnegies? Or Rockefellers?
I don't actually know much about the Carnegies, but I think you'd have to go Rockefellers for the sheer scale of their wealth, their weirdness, and the aftershocks of their business dealings and importance on the twentieth century.
New York Parks:
Gramercy? Or Central?
Gramercy is charming, but Central Park has grand vision and mystery going for it. Not to mention the fact that anybody can experience it—what good is a park with a locked gate to me or almost every other New Yorker?
Authors of the Gilded Age:
Wharton? Or James?
I love Wharton, and that kind of shrewd observation greatly appeals to me both as writer and reader. But Portrait of a Lady is a book that teaches me something new about the character and myself and life every time I read it, so I think if I were heading to a desert island, it's the gentleman I'd bring with me in my tote.
Outline? Or see what comes?
I live by outline. Of course small details and realizations come to me magically out of the air when I am writing, and I can go by intuition on the arc of a paragraph or scene of dialogue, but there's no way I could get narrative build or explore my themes without having a very clear sense of a book from above.
East coast? Or West?
I won't choose, and you can't make me! I grew up in California, but I became a grownup in New York—I moved there for college at eighteen. I currently have this low rent bicoastal existence going—my apartment is in Brooklyn, but I do a lot of visiting friends in Los Angeles and my parents in the Bay Area—and I wouldn't give it up for nothing.
Thanks so much for coming over to play, Anna!