Monday, December 26, 2011

The Russian Boy

When I was fourteen, I was lucky enough to be sent on a summer study program to France. My first taste of freedom from home came when we landed in Nice, on the French Riviera, in late June of 1972. I was intoxicated by the glamourous beaches, the gorgeous landscape and the ever-present sun. Right then and there I fell in love with Nice.

I went back some years later, for the summer between my junior and senior years in college. I rented a cheap apartment a few blocks from the beach (toilet down the hall, no shower anywhere, French doors that looked out to a busy street) and sat down to write a novel. When I wasn't writing I was wandering the city on my mobilette (moped), going out into the countryside or traveling along the coast road.

I was fascinated by the huge Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Nice, on the Boulevard du Tsarevich, and to learn that there was a sizable community of Russian nobles in Nice in the years before the Russian Revolution. I kept wanting to write something set there, but it wasn't until I came up with the idea for The Russian Boy that I was able to.

It was great fun to research the period. What did they eat? What kind of underwear did the men wear? How did they celebrate the holidays?

I also had to research current-day Nice, which is a lot different from the city I remember. But as the story took shape-- a painting created in 1912 that is stolen in the current day from a restorer's studio in Paris-- I fell in love with Nice all over again-- as well as with Rowan, Taylor, Dmitri and Alexei, the four point of view characters who tell the story.

To see more about the book, and read the first chapter, go to