When Life Imitates Art
Do you ever have one of those moments where you feel like you’re living inside a story? Well. It’s one thing if that happens in normal life, but it’s a whole next-level combination of strange and cool when it happens and the story you’re living in is a work of fiction – and you’re the author!
So, there I was, coming off an extremely long and tiring week of work at my day job. It’s a lot to juggle a demanding day job with the marketing and promo side of a debut novel. I’d planned a book event in Windham, NY – a ski community not too far from Albany – and after that, I’d be heading back to the Cape to finish out my summer with my family. I battled Friday afternoon traffic out of the city and drove the long northbound sojourn up route 87. As I got closer, I began to ascend what was very clearly a mountain. I lost cell phone service and saw several deer munching on grass on either side of the road. Very few cars for miles. Welp, I thought, trying not to focus on my fear of heights as my ears kept popping on the endless climb, if I die here at the hands of a rogue deer slamming into my car, at least it’s a pretty view.
Endlessly the optimist, as usual.
There aren’t chain hotels up there. I looked on the Marriott website when I found out I’d be coming to Windham and I think the closest one is about 50 miles away. No, my travels would instead bring me to a quaint little bed & breakfast called the Georgian Garden Inn, where, unbeknownst to me, I would have the most home-like experience of any place I've ever stayed as a guest.
Here are some pictures:
I was greeted by Viktoria, a lovely woman with an accent from her home country of Georgia – one of the two sisters who owns the house. From the moment she said hello, I could tell this was going to be a special experience. She showed me to my room, and I had to rush off to dinner, but before I left, she told me that she was so excited about my stay and about my book. (If you haven’t read The Book Proposal, well, you should – if for no other reason than to understand the irony here.) Viktoria, I would soon realize, was destined to become my own, personal Mrs. A.
“Cheese bread," she announced. "I want to make you a traditional Georgian cheese bread. It is famous in Georgia.” Her eyes lit up. “May I? For breakfast? Or lunch?”
“Of course,” I smiled. “I would love that.”
The next morning, I woke up and Viktoria sat with me on her lovely back deck for a cup of coffee. We talked about Brooklyn (the setting of my book, and yes, of course Viktoria lived along Kings Highway in Brooklyn for many years), Georgian history and culture, her family and mine. We shared stories like old friends. I felt a kinship quite similar to the one I described in my book between Gracie and Mrs. A. She even told me about a friend of hers in Manhattan Beach who has a big, fancy home there, and I thought to myself that the universe crossed our paths intentionally.
She fed me, of course, because that is the culture. She set the table for just the two of us to share a fresh, homemade Georgian Khachapuri (cheese bread), along with several traditional side dishes. We chatted some more, laughing about the fact that I even used the name Viktoria in my book for a fictional television character on a Georgian soap opera who was a school teacher by day and a sex worker by night. (I was nervous to offend her, but instead she offered up a deep, belly laugh about that.) We talked about Goodreads and Google reviews, how some people can be so mean, and how important it is to always be kind and try your best. Viktoria wrapped up some leftovers for me to take back to Cape Cod for my family when I explained that I could only eat one piece of the cheese bread, because my stomach gets nervous before author events, and I just kept thinking that all of it was exactly what Mrs. A would have done for Gracie.
Later that afternoon, Viktoria came to my event at the bookstore, despite the timing being in complete conflict with the arrival time for her new guests at the inn. (“My husband can help them,” she insisted.) She purchased several copies of the book (“for my sister, my niece, my daughter, and me”) all inscribed and personalized as if I am some celebrity who deserves such an enthusiastic welcome to her little mountain town. It was the exact kind of above-and-beyond behavior that made Mrs. A a fan-favorite in The Book Proposal.
I smiled in the car the whole way back down the mountain later that day (except for when I nearly ran over some kind of beaver/gopher animal – don’t worry, we both survived) thinking about how lucky I was to have had such a bizarre and wonderful experience. It was like seeing my book come to life, or starring in my own movie. I wonder if other authors have these kinds of encounters. Like, maybe somehow I manifested it just by dreaming up Mrs. A and writing about her in my novel. Either way, I can say that I now have a face to attach to my character’s name, and anytime I read parts of that book involving Mrs. A, I know I’ll think back fondly upon the evening I spent at the Georgian Garden Inn.
And if I come back to Windham next year, you’ll know where to find me.
Here’s a recipe for Georgian Cheese bread, which tastes great even after being reheated in the oven the next day!