The story basically started with three things:
1. The Life Aquatic by Steven Zissou
2. My husband and I making violent threats to each other while bringing in the groceries. Most couples share romantic declarations or whisper sweet nothings - my husband and I plot. It's how we show we care.
3. This photo below:
This is Tatiana Romanov. She was the second daughter of the last Tsar of Russia. I’ve always had a sort of morbid curiosity when it comes to the Romanov family. It’s a strange and tragic story that, only until recently was shrouded in mystery and conspiracy. But left behind from these haunting lives is so much evidence—letters, furniture, clothing, jewelry, and countless photographs.
Old black and white photos creep me out. But I’m drawn to them like a crowd to a crash. I study them with a frown because I feel like they could at any moment turn into a ghost story. And everyone seems so sad and tormented in them. This one in particular struck me. It rooted itself deep in my psyche. It’s her expression, right? She’s this willowy, delicate beauty with such a stern, unabashed stare. I wanted her to be a character. I wanted to create a story for her that I could live in and be a part of. I wanted to spend just a little more time with her. And that’s where groceries and a Wes Anderson movie come in.
In “The Life Aquatic with Steven Zissou” Bill Murray’s character is married, though estranged to Angelica Huston’s character. They’d been living apart but come together and have this undeniable connection and chemistry. They just can’t get along. And in one of those moments where they don’t want to be away from each other, but can’t stop bickering, Angelica Huston’s character tells Bill Murray’s, “We’re doomed to be together.”
One bright, Texas afternoon as my husband and I were bringing in the groceries, we were making our usual, playful threats on each other’s lives. He with his usual, “I’m gonna throttle you,” and me with my, “I’m going to stab you in the throat.” (No need to call the police – we really do love each other, but I’m not romantic at all, I can’t do the sappy love declarations. We get a kick out of this. It’s fun for us.) And after him wondering how we live with each other, I quoted to him, “We are doomed to be together.” And there blossomed in my mind the story of two people who fall in love, but then act so atrociously towards each other, both irredeemable so that when they do kill each other, they are doomed to do so again and again and again. Until they can—if they ever can, learn to forgive and repent for their behavior. And that was my opportunity to create a longer life for Tatiana Romanov. To share the world with her a little longer and give her the chance to fight for her life.
Eventually I’ll publish the prequel to Always Me, titled Inheritance of Storms. The title comes from a Byron poem, Epistle to Augusta, and I think it’s well suited for Xander and Nicky’s story. The stanza reads:
If my inheritance of storms hath been
In other elements, and on the rocks
Of perils, overlooked or unforeseen,
I have sustained my share of worldly shocks,
The fault was mine; nor do I seek to screen
My errors with defensive paradox;
I have been cunning in mine overthrow,
The careful pilot of my proper woe.
In honor of this post, I’m currently listening to “Photograph” by Weezer.