Featured Interview With Renee Yancy
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I grew up Catholic and for many years I wanted to be a nun. When all my mom’s white towels went missing from the linen closet, my parents knew I had taken them to create a nun’s habit. For years, I begged my Dad to let me go into the convent after 8th grade. Wisely, he said if I still wanted to be a nun after I graduated high school, I could go then. In high school I discovered boys, and that was the end of my “vocation.”
I also wanted to be an archaeologist. (I don’t remember how I thought a nun and an archaeologist could be combined!) In the 60s, my Dad brought home a full-color coffee table book about the discovery of Tutankhamun’s gold-filled tomb and I was an Egyptophile from then on. Mummies fascinated me, and my love of archaeology was born. This is reflected in some of my blog posts.
As a young, rather naïve woman, I thought God was calling me to be a missionary. So I went to India for three months with another young lady who thought the same thing. We had wildly varying experiences while there, from staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in New Delhi, living in a houseboat in Srinagar for two weeks, and visiting remote missionary outposts and sleeping on charpoy beds.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I was a voracious reader from a young age, regularly coming home with more books than I could carry. I’ve always loved historical fiction. I didn’t start writing until 2004. Wish I’d started twenty years sooner!
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
Favorite authors: James Clavell, Anya Seton, Diana Gabaldon, Oilive Ann Burns, James Golden. Historical ficion all the way!
Tell us a little about your latest book?
The true story of Consuelo Vanderbilt inspired my new historical romance, The Test of Gold. Consuelo was a “Dollar Princess,” the nickname coined for heiresses in the late 20th century who possessed multi-million dollar dowries and married cash-poor British and French aristocrats.
The Gilded Age occurred after the American Civil War, from 1870 to the early 1900s, a turbulent time of rapid economic growth in America. Captains of industry such as Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and John D. Rockefeller amassed huge fortunes, but were considered nouveau riche by the patrician bluebloods of New York City. The exclusive list of people who could comfortably fit into the ballroom of the queen of high society, Caroline Astor, was called the famous “400.”
Social climber Alva Vanderbilt craved entrance into the 400, and schemed exactly how to achieve it. First, she built an extravagant “chateau” with one hundred and fifty rooms at 660 Fifth Avenue. Nothing like this had ever been seen before. Then she planned a huge costume ball, the cost of which by today’s standard was $6,000,000!
When young Carrie Astor, Caroline’s daughter, didn’t receive an invitation to the ball, Mrs. Astor was forced to “call” on Alva to receive an invitation, and Alva was in.
During the Gilded Age, European aristocrats flooded New York City to find a wealthy bride whose dowries could shore up their crumbling ancestral estates, trading titles for dowries. Have cash, will marry! Consuelo’s mother, our infamous Alva Vanderbilt, forced her daughter at the tender age of eighteen to marry the Duke of Marlborough to obtain a royal title for the Vanderbilt name.
It was a loveless marriage, and in time, Consuelo escaped it and achieved personal happiness with Jacques Balsan, a French aviator and industrialist.
For my research, I explored some amazing estates of the rich and famous, read books about the etiquette of that time, and studied the fabulous gowns of Charles Worth, who was the premier Paris designer of the Gilded Age. I searched out the jewelry designs of Tiffany, Cartier, and Marcus & Co. Such fun and so beautiful to look at!
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