I love treating the setting for a story as a secondary character. A lively setting allows my main characters to shine brighter. I travel a lot and use the many places I go as backdrops for my narrative imagination. One place that can hardly be outdone for romantic possibilities is New York City.
I first used it in DeMarco’s Café (2012).
I’m using it a second time for Love After All, a story to be published in time for the college reunion season of April 2016. This is the story of Laurel and Gino, two 50-something New Yorkers who are at the top of their professional game but rusty on dating chops. They agree to trade favors in acting as dates for each other’s reunions. Gino’s is in New York City. Laurel’s is at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
I’ve lived in Durham for the past 30 years. Once before I used this location as a setting, namely in The Blue Hour (1996), the first in my time-slip trilogy.
Now, 20 years later, I’m using it again, mostly because Durham is experiencing an urban renaissance. So it was an easy choice for one of the backdrops of Love After All. Needless to say, I didn’t have to go out of my way to do research.
I did, however, have to return to New York City, just to make sure the locations I’m writing about are accurate. I’m either rigorous in my writing standards or good at making excuses to go to great places. Whichever the case (maybe both?), I went to the city on a long weekend in November 2015 to visit my friends, Trish and Louie, who live on Gramercy Park.
I told Trish about my story, and we walked around the places I wanted to visit. Here I am at the corner of Church and Vesey Streets. What you see in the background is the yard of St. Paul’s Chapel, which doubles as a cemetery. You can see from the condition of the headstones that they are very old. St. Paul’s opened in 1764 and is part of an Episcopal parish that dates to 1697.
I wanted to make sure I had a good visual understanding of this corner in mind, because Gino, a prominent NYC restaurateur, has opened a restaurant called All American (purely fictive) on it. His motive is to be part of the revitalization of this part of the city, because it is so close to ground zero.
All American looks out onto both St. Paul’s yard and the backend of the 9/11 Memorial site. The intersection of Church and Vesey is a wonderful study in contrasts. On the southeast side is St. Paul’s Chapel, small, serene, and sacred. On the southwest side is the chaotic construction of buildings still rising from the ashes, cranes bristling. It’s outsized, noisy, and equally sacred.
The November weekend was beautiful, mild weather, blues skies. On the evening I arrived Trish and I went to one of our favorite spots in the Gramercy neighborhood, namely Mari Vanna, a Russian bistro. I’m a fan of their flavored vodkas. You can be sure there’s a scene in Love After All set in Mari Vanna’s.
Other New York sites in the story include Favela Cubana on LaGuardia Place, down by NYU, a classy condo building on East 9th, several of Gino’s eateries (again, both fictive), along with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Plaza Hotel.
I’ll go for the cliché: Love After All is as much a love story of the City as it is between Laurel and Gino. However, I’ll never abandon the central love story, and the development of the relationship between Laurel and Gino is central.
This post was written by Julie Andresen