Yesterday I had the pleasure of reviewing Studio Saint-Ex by Ania Szado, an eloquent historical fiction set in 1940s New York City. Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Ania for a guest post in which she writes about inspiring coincidences behind the writing of her novel.
Writing a novel can be exhilarating but also excruciating. It can seem, at times, as though forces beyond our conscious control are taking the reins or holding us back. No wonder we grasp for any indication that we’re on the right road. All the better if the signs are so odd and unexpected that they can’t be rationalized away.
I experience eerie and helpful coincidences as I worked on Studio Saint-Ex, a novel in which Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is writing The Little Prince in WWII Manhattan while navigating the devotion and ambitions of his fiery estranged wife and a beautiful young designer, Mignonne.
One delightful head-shaker relates to setting. I invented an elegant social club for WWII Manhattan’s French expats, including Saint-Exupéry. I put my “Alliance Française” where the Cartier store stands, across from the East 52nd Street studio where Saint-Ex worked on The Little Prince. Only later did a source check the real Alliance Française’s archives—and found that the membership had indeed borrowed space to gather in that exact location at that very time.
One stroke of luck had to do with character development. I struggled to get a handle on Mignonne’s vision and attitude as she grapples to become a star of New York’s fledgling fashion design scene. Then, midway through my least-organized research trip ever, I stumbled across a show at the Museum of the City of New York: the first exhibition to trace the forgotten legend of Valentina, a celebrity designer who brought sensuality and boldness to the fashion attitudes of WWII New York. Suddenly, I understood Mignonne’s ambitions for her career and her creativity. I spent the afternoon in the exhibit hall with tears of gratitude rising to my lashes.
The final incident makes me ponder the mystery of how characters speak to writers. Saint-Exupéry disappeared in flight in 1944. For half a century, no one knew what had become of his body or his plane. Then a fisherman in the Mediterranean caught the author’s identity bracelet in his nets. It was as though Saint-Exupéry had decided that the time had come to be found. It gave me hope that he would approve of my shining a light on his work through my own.
That seems to be the message of coincidences. They prod us to keep going. They promise that—out of the blue, if we do our part—the path and inspiration will appear.
Life’s little coincidences are quite moving, aren’t they?
Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of Studio Saint-Ex for giveaway. This contest is open to US and Canadian residents only. To enter, please fill out the form below. The winner will be notified on Friday, June 28th.