"I am often asked if my work is autobiographical. This is a very hard question to answer, because my imagination is littered with shards of real-life events. For example, Caroline's road trip with her cooler of Dixie beer mirrored my own travels across the United States. Though I didn't leave the Eastern time zone until my junior year in college, I later lived in some fascinating places. "
I grew up in Rye, NY, and modeled the fictional Holt, NY on my hometown. Caroline has many unhappy memories of her child-hood, and while mine wasn't perfect, I still miss many things about Rye: ice skating at Playland Amusement Park, being a lifeguard at the Shenerock Shore Club, eating the world's best pizza at Sunrise Pizzeria on Purdy Avenue.
And there will never be a
cheeseburger more wonderful
than the one at The Mug, the
cozy bar and restaurant that
used to exist a few steps from
the train station. (Now it's the
Rye Grill and Bar, a much snazzier
I went to graduate school in Missoula,
Montana. It's a beautiful town rich
with stories. I lived in the Wilma
Building on Higgins Avenue, so I gave
Caroline a room there. The Wilma
was the first skyscraper in Western
Montana; at one time it had a plunge
pool in the basement. There are
tunnels under the building leading
all over town, and the elevators are
still run by elevator operators.
The building has a theater on
the ground floor, and my room
had a marquee outside the
window. When I threw dinner
parties, people would climb out
my window and rearrange the
letters on the marquee.
My parents-in-law have a home in amazing Ouray, CO, and I have spent many winter days there, writing. I make a pot of coffee and toast a bagel, write all morning while the snow falls, and take my dog, Arlee, for a walk along Oak Street to the Twin Peaks trailhead in the afternoon. While I walk, I try to figure out where the book is
headed. Sometimes, I leave for a
hike completely lost, and things
fall right into place as I crunch
through the snow. Sometimes,
I just enjoy the mountains and
never figure out a thing. Either
way, I wrap up the day with a
long soak at the Ouray Hot
Springs and (if I'm lucky) a
fabulous dinner cooked by
New Orleans, LA
One summer, my husband was offered an internship in New Orleans. I quit my job to try to write a novel. We moved into a friend's apartment on Esplanade Avenue, near the fair- grounds. (This spot became Caroline's apartment.) Every day, I tried to learn how to be a writer. The days seemed really long; I filled them with walks to CC's Coffee House and the New Orleans Museum of Art. In the evenings, we explored New Orleans, from Liuzza's by the Track for Po-boys to the Saturn Bar for cans of Pabst. We loved the Top of the Mart, at the top of the World Trade Center, so I gave Caroline a job as a bartender there.
My grandmother, Alice-Marie Roux, was born and raised on Jones Street in Savannah, and my grandparents had their wedding reception at the Oglethorpe Club. My mother lives in Savannah
now, and I love taking my sons
for walks through the azalea-
filled streets. When I thought
about where dreamy Isabelle
would have grown up, I knew
Savannah was the place.
Isabelle's river house is based
on a home owned by my Aunt
Georgia. My stepfather, Peter
Westley, is even a real-estate
agent in Savannah.