It’s strange how it took me years to figure it out, but sure enough as I was proofreading I stumbled across a gaping black hole.
But wait, I need to tell you something else first. It’s also strange (except this really should be first, which would make the first strange I typed the “also,” oh never mind) how I can go back and read a novel I wrote and blink and grin and even laugh and sometimes gasp because darn it, I’d forgotten that. And this. And THIS.
I wrote a book set in New York City and I’d never been there. And I researched. And I researched. And I researched. And I talked to people who had been there or lived there. And I spent a lot of long distance dollars talking to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and various other locales, searching for the information that my characters would know without asking. I ended up with files and files about Paisley Vandermeir and Christopher Quincy Maitland and their world.
And now I read the book and I see “this” reference and I remember who told me about it. And I see “that” detail and I remember where I got it from. I remember the library books and the conversations, and I’m kind of in awe of myself, because I’m not a detail person. I have trouble holding my own stuff in order in my head, much less detailed worlds I’ve never seen. And here I was writing about a place I’d never been, and the same place where the editors who edited my book lived.
And guess what. It seems to have worked.
But I also find myself reading something and sitting back and wondering. Did somebody tell me this? Did I make it up? Did I just kind of “know” that it would be like this? That half-eaten hot dog in the street that Paisley stepped over and Chris stepped on–that throwaway moment that meant absolutely nothing to the book but now I see with fresh eyes. Did I just know that would have happened or did somebody tell me?
For everything that I am remembering, there are things I don’t remember at all.
Which is one reason that I’m actually amazed about the missing “shocking.”
Paisley was all about vintage couture before vintage couture was cool. It’s all through this book. And see, I am not a girly-girl. I do not know about this stuff. And yet, here it is, all through the book. And I by damn researched every bit of it.
When she shows up at a debutante’s debut ball the hero sees this:
Paisley Vandermeir had declined the invitation and then had come anyway. Unfashionably late. Dressed like a Hollywood extra in a period movie. And now, she was wandering around as if she were lost, or drunk, or both, and attracting undue attention. Of course his mother was uneasy.
No Hollywood extra ever wore a Parisian couture dress designed by Callot Soeurs in 1928, but that’s being picky, don’t you think? But when I saw “Callot Soeurs” I had to google and find The Dress, because yes, of course there had been a specific dress I’d described. Black and beaded and dramatic.
Go ahead. Google. I didn’t find The Dress, but I found omgsomany The Dresses that I went into a sugar coma.
But that’s okay, because the fact that “French, Paris: Callot Soeurs, 1928” survived in the book means I know that dress it out there somewhere (even though I have a vague memory that it might not have been black, and I made it black myself).
But I could not have told you that if it hadn’t been in the book.
But the hole? The missing shocking?
That jumped out at me even though I didn’t notice it before when we were in the middle of rewrites and edits.
The scene where Paisley Vandermeir ends up on the floor of a dirty New York City taxi wearing a shocking pink wool suit designed by Schiaparelli, the artist-designer who put the “shocking” in pink. Only as I was reading, nowhere did it say shocking. Nowhere did it say pink. Nowhere did it say Schiaparelli.
So of course I put it back in.
Better late than never.
Now wait, you’re saying. You said you didn’t know any of this stuff, but oompty-years after you wrote this book, you suddenly remember this kind of detail, a specific suit designed by a specific Italian designer named Elsa Schiaparelli?
Of course I do. Because from the first time I can remember being tall enough to peek over the dressing table surface and see all the pretty bottles until the day she died, this was one of my grandmother’s prized possessions.
You’d better believe I put the “shocking” back in.
It’s really rather astounding that Schiaparelli ever designed something so prim.
It still doesn’t explain why the “shocking” got edited out of the Scandalous.
But now you know more than you ever wanted to know about why it got put back in.