Teaser Tuesday: Why 1999?

Last week, I posted Chapter One of The Ashford Affair. The book goes back and forth between England in the 1910s and early 1920s, Kenya in the mid to late 1920s, and New York in 1999.

If the New York bit is meant to be the modern portion, why 1999? Other than the fact that it’s an inherently cool year (as in “party like it’s….”).

There were three major reasons for the choice of 1999, and not just because everything works better in threes.

1. On a very practical level, I knew that the historical story was deeply rooted in a very particular time frame, World War I Britain and the fallout that followed, and I needed to make sure that my historical heroine, Addie, could still plausibly be alive at the time the modern events were taking place. Addie is just about fourteen when World War I breaks out, eighteen when the war ends, and ninety-nine in 1999. The modern story opens with her 99th birthday party.

2. No Google. We take so for granted the many technological tools at our disposal these days. It was very important that my modern heroine, Clemmie, not have access to any of them. Remember back in the old days when you actually needed to go to the archives to do genealogical work? When you needed a trained researcher to help you find documents? I needed to make it impossible for Clemmie to find out about her family history without really working for it– or asking for help from her step-cousin, Jon, a historian with experience with archives. Amazing, isn’t it, to think how much the world has changed since 1999? Clemmie has a blackberry– as a senior associate at a large law firm, she’s at the forefront of that– but no Google, no smartphone, and certainly no Facebook.

3. Symbolism. I couldn’t resist. Remember all the huge fuss over the millennium back in the winter of ’99? It seemed highly appropriate to put some of the pivotal points of Clemmie’s life on New Year’s Eve as she learns secrets about her family that challenge her very sense of who and what she is….

More about Ashford coming up soon!


  1. Christine on July 17, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Ahh the good old days. It actually really annoys me when books these days are so quick to drop references to things like Facebook for no reason at all so it’ll be nice to go back to a time before everything was so “I need to know right now!” and we were bombarded with oversharing. I imagine that part of the fun for Clemmie (and you as the author, as well as the reader) is the thrill of the chase. Can’t wait to read this!

  2. Céline on July 17, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    I remember 1999… I was shy out of high school and only started to learn to use a computer. We had one at home, but there wasn’t any Internet connexion, so we used it only to type some reports for school. I’m not even
    sure that I had a cell at that time…
    I still wrote letters! With paper, and ink and pen!

    And today, I could barely live without Internet, because it makes life so easy! And how could we keep posted on your writing without it!!! 😀

  3. Nicole Gustas on July 22, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I was a researcher in the mid-00’s. Google didn’t become a good tool for research of the type you’re describing until about ’07 or so. Before that you still had to dig through archives. (And frankly, it’s still worth digging – I found some stuff in the Library of Congress in ’06 that still hasn’t been digitized.) In the early ’00s, Google was a good tool for narrowing down in which archives you might find the documents you were looking for.

  4. Nicole Gustas on July 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    …which was not meant to be a complaint about the time setting! I think your setting makes total sense, and I think a lot of readers would have trouble buying that you couldn’t do all your research online in ’05 (even though it’s true). Just noting that it was still dang hard to do deep research online until about the past 5 years.

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