Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Making of a novel: research, road trips, reading, ocean crossings and patience

European travels took us to Paris to Gertrude Stein's home

Click here ==> Lilian's Last Dance

The legendary 
Gertrude Stein and Alice
B. Toklas made many
Atlantic crossings,
and are cameos in
"Lilian's Last Dance."
                           STORY By    CHRISTENE MEYERS

Crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth II was
part of the fun research for "Lilian's Last Dance."
Here William Jones and Christene Meyers enjoy!

CREATION of "Lilian's Last Dance" took many years and trips to England, France, Australia, Peru and 11 North American states. The idea survived the deaths of my two husbands, Bruce Meyers in 1992, and William Jones, in 2005.   Bruce and I had dreams of a Broadway musical about a sharpshooter from France.  Billy and I collaborated on the concept that would become "Lilian's Last Dance."
HE AND I determined to visit each place featured in the book. In the "good years," before chemotherapy and radiation, we made exciting pilgrimages to Europe and South America's rain forests.  We took a
dozen happy U.S. road trips. We plotted research weekends, working vacations and photo shoots. We read three dozen hefty books and studied articles on the post 1907-era.  We visited 20 museums and arranged interviews. We crossed the Atlantic three times, in the fashion of our invented characters and "real life" people who have cameos in our novel, including Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.
OUR U.S. TRAVELS took us through Texas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Montana, San Francisco and Los Angeles, places our characters inhabited before the novel's 1917 ending.
The iconic Eiffel Tower
plays a part in "Lilian....".
Our characters came alive as we retraced their fictional footsteps.  We felt that we, too, were players in the novel. We talked to working paniolos on the beautiful Parker Ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii.
A trip to the lush Peruvian rain forest was part of our research for the
 birthplace of the character Elfego who becomes a famous painter in "Lilian...."


We interviewed historians about turn-of-century bank robberies.  We talked to fashion and art experts, to determine what kinds of guns and disguises our outlaws might have used, what fashions and paintings people were buying.
WE READ a dozen books about World War I, since part of the action unfolds on the Front.  We located Gertrude Stein's salon in Paris, where she and Alice  entertained at their famed salon. We saw in the fabulous Musee d'orsay some of the paintings which hung in the jam-packed treasure trove collected by Stein, Toklas the Gertrude's brother Leo.

Picasso's famous portrait of Stein.
She hung it in her Paris salon,
where our characters are invited.
  We booked shows in the  much photographed Moulin Rouge. 
Famous Parisian gardens, avenues and night clubs all
play a part in the drama of "Lilian's Las
t Dance." 
WE TRAMPED all over Paris -- from the Left Bank to Montmartre to the Jardin du Luxembourg, to the Moulin Rouge and  the Tuileries Garden, all of which were frequented by Stein and her lover cum secretary, Toklas. We found the home where Stein entertained, at 27 rue de Fleurus.  There, our character, Elfego Fuentes, comes calling, along with "real life" writers Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound.  By chance, we met an elderly woman whose aspiring painter grandmother was taken under Stein's generous wing. She provided marvelous detail.
PAINTER ELFEGO is one of the novel's major characters, a South American born artist whom Stein befriends. So we booked an Amazon cruise to find a village where Elfego might have grown up.  We flew to Quito, Peru, then cruised through the rain forests to Brazil.
Curiosity about the Hawaiian paniolo provided an excuse for
a return trip to Hawaii's Big Island and the Parker Ranch.
We were smudged by witch doctors. Deep in the Peruvian jungle, we found a village settled in the early 1900s.  This would be Elfego's birth place! More later...

WE'RE EXCITED about early reviews for "Lilian's Last Dance." Here's one from Elle Pieffe, of Rome, who liked the title character and her relationship with painter Elfego Fuentes: "Lilian's daring, beautiful soul shines in the brush strokes of her Peruvian soul mate artist, in the sizzling shots of a western gunfire duel, in the silvery rain blessing Paris in winter.... a colorful portrait of a person we'd love to have met.....and won't forget! You'll love this book, absolutely. (Find "Lilian's Last Dance" on Amazon eBooks.)

Bill Jones painted this
cowboy watercolor on
a research trip to Hawaii.

Terrific trio: Cortez Johnson,
Jacque Wilke, DeLeon Dallas are
terrific in San Diego Rep's "Honky,"
up next at: www.whereiscookie
COMING SOON:  Having fun revisiting the locales we researched for "Lilian's Last Dance."  Soon, we hit Hawaii to bone up on the Hawaiian paniolo, or cowboy, who figures in the plot of "Lilian..." in the form of a wahine paniolo, yes, a female, a cowgirl in love with Pancho Villa.  But first, we critique the raucous "Honky," just opened at San Diego Repertory Theatre.  It's a deftly written, well acted play about racism, consumerism, marketing hype and a drug that could cure bigotry!  Remember: carpe diem, so explore, learn and live and visit us Wednesdays and weekends at: www.whereiscookie.com

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