Writing About What You Don’t Know
But I love glamour and in the 80s, it was all about trophy wives – the beautiful, svelte, charming second or third wives that were arm candy for the newly-minted billionaires who had thrown the first wife (or wives) overboard for someone fresher, more nubile and less apt to tell them to take out the garbage.
I like to title books before I write them so I called the novel Trophy Wives (clever, no?) My protagonist was a woman named Jordan who had come to New York from a little town in Washington state and found herself being courted by a famous financier, getting married in Paris with the reception in the famous financier’s grand apartment on the Left Bank, living in a Fifth Avenue duplex, wearing JAR jewels and taking French lessons. And of course falls in love with her personal trainer who came every morning at 5 a.m. to keep Jordan in fabulous shape. (I knew my audience.)
Now, I’ve never been in a Fifth Avenue duplex or a grand apartment on Paris’s Left Bank. I’ve never seen jewelry from JAR (a bespoke jewelry shop in Paris that is supposedly beyond beyond). And I never met a billionaire. But here I was writing about the life of a woman so foreign to me she could have been a Czechoslovakian trapeze artist.
I read everything I could find about this particular species of women. Writer Julie Baumgold did a sensational piece about them in a New York magazine article but I couldn’t grasp the details. Did her curtains have tassels? Did she send her decorator to Paris on the Concorde to shop for tsatskes? Did she dictate letters or write them by hand? Did she have her maid polish the soles of her shoes (oh, right, that was Diana Vreeland).
Clever me, I decided to give Jordan a mother-in-law that was like my own. Forget that. My husband would murder me if I told the truth about his mother. Does she need glasses? I know a lot about finding good frames. I was on page 411…I couldn’t stop now. Do you understand what it took to write 411 pages of nonsense? (Other people do it…why not me?)
Conclusion: Write about what you know even if you don’t know too much about anything. At least you won’t have to think about tassels on curtains.