Renée Rosen Exclusive Author Interview is here and she talks all about The Social Graces. It is her latest historical fiction novel out now. I am so excited to share more about this novel AND to share my exclusive chat with Renée!
The Social Graces was named one of 2021’s Most Anticipated Historical Novels by SheReads. Tell us more about what we can expect from this storyline without giving away spoilers.
This is a fun look at two very powerful women—Alva Vanderbilt and Caroline Astor (better known as The Mrs. Astor)—and their infamous battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age. It’s full of outrageous antics, glittery, glamourous balls, and opulence out the wazoo and ladies behaving badly.
This book is based on true events. Did you have to do a lot of research to capture the voice in this storyline?
There was an enormous amount of research I had to do for this novel. Just the etiquette alone had me turning to a pile of books for nearly every scene to make sure I was getting it right. I read whatever I could find and watched documentaries. The eight-part documentary New York by Ric Burns was immensely helpful. I also went to Newport, Rhode Island, which was the summer playground for New York’s upper crust. I toured the breathtaking “cottages,” which were really 50 plus room mansions. From there, I went to New York, though sadly, there’s very little remaining of the Gilded Age. I did spend time at the New York Historical Society and Trinity Church Cemetery to see the monument erected in Caroline Astor’s memory.
Is the character of Alva Vanderbilt based on true accounts of Alva?
Believe it or not, yes! I could not make this stuff up. So much has already been written about Alva, so I’m not giving anything away here when I tell readers that she was never going to win “Mother of the year”! What she put her daughter through in order to get her married to a duke was absolutely true. Wherever I might have veered away from the facts for the sake of the story is documented in my author’s note at the very end. Always have to include that all-important author’s note.
What inspired you to write the storyline of The Social Graces?
After finishing Park Avenue Summer, I was brainstorming with my agent and editor on what to write next. They both sent me emails, which must have just crossed in cyberspace, suggesting the Gilded Age New York as a backdrop. I can recognize a sign when I see one and did some preliminary research. It didn’t take long to see that there was a juicy story just sitting there, waiting to be told.
How long did it take you to compile your research and write The Social Graces?
I think when all was said and done, it took about three and a half years.
What was your favorite part of writing The Social Graces?
Oh, that’s easy! Re-enacting the famous balls of that era, especially Alva’s 1883 masquerade ball, Mamie Fish’s ball honoring the mysterious Prince Del Drago of Corsica and the granddaddy of them all, the Bradly-Martin ball of 1897.
Before I let you go, tell us if we can expect more novels from you soon or if any of your novels will be hitting the big screen?
I’m currently working on my next book, which is still in desperate need of a title, about the cosmetic icon, Estee Lauder. She was a fascinating woman with a very complicated and controversial past who started out cooking face creams in her kitchen on the Upper West Side and hawking them in beauty parlors throughout New York. The novel takes place during the most pivotal time in her life, 1938 – 1946, when she landed her first major account at Saks Fifth Avenue. I’m having a blast working on this book.
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