Author Interview - Jeanne Mackin
Author I draw inspiration from: Daphne du Maurier is an author I read over and over, both to study her craft (masterful) and to enjoy the stories. She wasn’t afraid to add a little bit of darkness to a story to give it more depth and her characters are so fully realized. I also reread Romain Gary quite often, for the same reason. I most appreciate stories that have a strong trajectory of narrative and a few surprises as well.
Favorite place to read a book: In my house I have a sofa, in a well-lit corner, with a brass tea table and lots of cushions. I can (and do) spend hours there. In the summer, I have a bench in my garden and I’ll read there, under a huge sunhat, enjoying the hum of the bees going back and forth to the thyme plants.
Book character I’d like to be stuck in an elevator with: Another book I have read probably two dozen times, if not more, is Blessed Are The Debonair, Margaret Case Harriman’s memoir about growing up in the 1920’s, when her father was the manager of the famous Hotel Algonquin in New York. She met all the famous actors and writers of her time and because she was a child, she knew them in quirky, often funny ways the adults didn’t. Her memoir makes waiting for the elevator in this hotel (where the best gossip happens) as exotic as a safari. I’d love to be stuck in the elevator with her and get the gossip that didn’t make it into her memoir.
The moment I knew I wanted to become an author: I can’t remember when I didn’t want to write, but I do remember finishing one of Anya Seton’s novels when I was still in grammar school and thinking “I want to write stories, too. I want to write novels about women in distant times and places.” Historical fiction for me, is a form of travel and my hunger for it came strong and early.
Hardback, paperback, ebook or audiobook: I still enjoy holding books in my hand, that smell of print and paper, that thrilling little brush of paper against paper when I turn the page.
The last book I read: “Red Thread: On Mazes and Labyrinths” by Charlotte Higgins. Higgins is a wonderful thinker and writer, and this nonfiction book about mazes is itself a kind of maze, twisting and turning in on itself. She traces the story of the Minotaur and the labyrinth through books and buildings, giving plenty of interesting facts along the way. Did you know the word clue originally, in Greek, meant a ball of thread, like the one Theseus used to find his way out of the labyrinth?
Pen & paper or computer: Both. Because I’m left-handed and my handwriting is often illegible even to myself, I usually write directly at the keyboard. But when things get stuck in my head I go back to pen and paper to slow myself down a little, to take more time with each word. I had a writer friend who, when she was stuck, would limit herself to one word per page! Slowing down like that, she said, really clarified what she wanted to say.
Book character I think I’d be best friends with: The first person narrator of Nancy Mitford’s “The Pursuit of Love” is a quiet, calm girl with a subtle sense of humor who observes everything going on around her, including the many quirks and foibles of her aunt, uncle and cousins. They all live in one of those ancient, ramshackle English country houses without central heating. The narrator is of this family, but still separate from it and is one of the least-judgemental characters I’ve ever read. She is full of heart and wit and is completely open.
If I wasn’t an author, I’d be a: Perhaps a pastry chef? I love to bake, but I think the stress of a commercial kitchen in a bakery or restaurant would probably terrify me. If I hadn’t wanted to write full time, I’d probably still be teaching college writing classes. I loved teaching eighteen year olds the mysteries of essay writing!
Favorite decade in fashion history: Definitely the twenties, with those straight, boyish lines and sequins and sparkles. I hate constrictive clothing and tight waists. Day costumes in the 20’s and 30’s were easy and practical and the evening gowns were luscious and vampish.
Place I’d most like to travel: Avignon. I’ve been to Paris many times, and Nice and Grasse, and other beautiful places in Europe, but I’ve never been to Avignon. I am drawn to ancient cities with cobbled streets. They always feel like a homecoming to me.
My signature drink: Half sweet, half dry vermouth over ice with a twist of lemon. Or a good Spanish cava or French Bordeaux. In the summer heat, I like orzo from Greece. Should I go on?
Favorite artist: Matisse. He was completely an artist of his times, full of life and jazz and bright newness. The colors…oh, the colors!
Number one on my bucket list: To waltz to The Blue Danube, in a sweeping silk ball gown, on a marble floor, in Vienna, on New Year’s Eve.
Anything else you'd like to add: I don’t like chocolate!Can you imagine!