We’re up to the penultimate day of our August Adventure series! Our second to last adventure is set in my own hometown of New York, spanning two different time periods: Stephanie Lehmann’s Astor Place Vintage.
Adventure? What do I know about Adventure? I’m not an adventurous person. I’d rather stay home than travel. And if I do go anywhere, the natives will speak English, wifi will be available, and the restaurants will ideally offer hamburgers and apple pie. If I’m feeling particularly daring, I’ll get cheese on my pie. Activities that will never appear on my to-do list are sky diving, mountain climbing or African safaris. I like my routines. Give me the same streets in my boring old neighborhood any day.
I suppose Olive, the heroine in my novel ASTOR PLACE VINTAGE, does something pretty adventurous, especially for a woman in 1907. Soon after moving from a small town to New York City, she experiences a catastrophe that will impact the rest of her life. Instead of moving back to the protective circle of her childhood home, she decides to remain in the city, where she’ll have to forge for herself with no emotional or financial support.
It’s not a coincidence that I moved to New York City at almost the same age as Olive. I came to attend NYU, and though I did have emotional and financial support, the city scared me in a big way. I was timid, quiet, and easily intimidated. Moving to Manhattan seemed like the last thing I would do – even to me. And then, as it turned out, I never left. Coming to New York wasn’t on the order of trekking to the North Pole, but it may have been the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done.
I suppose “adventure” is a relative concept. Some people won’t fly in planes. Some people are afraid to go outside. Some people are even afraid to write fiction. And writers must have the dullest, safest routines of anyone as we sit at our keyboards all day, perhaps venturing out to the library or a coffee shop.
But I have been told by more than a few aspiring authors that a novel is inside, clamoring to get out. They just can’t seem to sit down and write it.
Could it be that writing a novel counts as an adventure? The endeavor does involve undergoing a huge challenge while facing the unknown with totally uncertain results hanging in the balance. The threat of danger just happens to be mental, not physical.
Of all my novels, ASTOR PLACE VINTAGE would certainly have to be my most adventurous. I actually dared to travel back in time. When I began, how did I have the audacity to think I’d be able to re-create the social customs, food, clothes, and language particular to New York City in 1907? I didn’t even know if people back then used toothpaste.
But, I suppose, like an adventurerer, my audacity also involved some bravery – the kind that involves faith that you will rise to the occasion… even as you stay seated at your desk. I have to say, I do feel proud of having traveled to the past and returned unscathed. I’ve definitely become a more well-rounded person, and not just because of the weight I gained from all those hours in front of my computer. I have to say, Olive handled herself pretty well, too. She’s just lucky I didn’t make her take a ship bound for Malaysia to hunt wild boar.
Remember to like the Astor Place Vintage Facebook page, and you’ll be entered to win it and the other nine stories.
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The adventures wrap up tomorrow with… Susanna Kearsley’s The Firebird!