New York *Is* Main character: The story behind that blue-eyed girl

This article is a guest post written by Julie Owen Moylan

When I first came up with the idea for That blue-eyed girl, I know of only one city that I want to visit. A place full of stories where this novel about complicated women trying to overcome my circumstances would fit well. It is also the city that I fell in love with from the moment I arrived.

The first time I came to New York, I was young and out of the ordinary. After accumulating enough money for the flight, I was only able to buy a bunk bed in the local youth hostel to sleep in. of the yellow cabs that I’ve watched people hail on screen since I was a kid.

As we left the airport terminal, I noticed the taxi driver glancing at me in the rearview mirror. As a young woman traveling alone, I was immediately alarmed but in the end the driver said, ‘Is this your first time in New York?’ he said, while continuing to examine me in the rearview mirror. “Yes,” I replied a little nervously. He nodded, “You on your own?” He bit his lip for a moment while I wondered what the correct answer might be in this situation. He seemed like an okay guy though, so I explained that I had traveled all over the US and that New York was my first stop. My friendly taxi driver slammed his hand on the wheel and announced, ‘Lady, you’re so lucky to have me. I have been driving this taxi for 28 years. Here’s what we’re going to do…’

My taxi driver gave me a guided tour of New York, took me around and pointed out the sights or what was there. Julie Owen Moylan

It’s a flat fare from JFK airport to anywhere in the city, so it doesn’t matter which route you take or how long the journey is. My taxi driver gave me a guided tour of New York, took me around and pointed out the sights or what was there. He told me stories of growing up in the city and our tour culminated when he drove through Harlem and arrived outside the famous Apollo theatre. As we sat there in the taxi, he repeated the names of the legends that had played there as if he were sitting in one of those seats and watching them perform. It was the most magical welcome to any city I’ve ever been to and the beginning of a long, passionate love affair with New York.

I have always been fascinated by the concept of time passing in cities. The idea of ​​so many people gathered together, the history of those houses or apartments. Lots of stories about ordinary people walking on those streets and living in the same buildings. If only walls could talk, I used to think and that sparked the idea for this book.

What if I told the story of an apartment over a twenty year period?

One of the things I’ve noticed about the way we all talk about cities is that it depends on your age. Some buildings that we might think are new or just been there ‘five minutes’ are already old to young people. In the city where I lived, my grandmother used to give directions often using landmarks that were no longer there. I find myself looking at the brand new buildings and remembering what was there before, the nightclub I used to dance to at night, the movie theater I went to every Saturday morning as a child. I don’t see the anonymous row of houses or office apartments replacing those, because cities are made of our memories and that way we all live in different times. around us even though we all exist at the same time.

The city of 1975 is very different from the more glamorous 1950s and I wanted to convey both eras on this page.Julie Owen Moylan

The next stage in planning my novel was choosing the time period in which I wanted to include the story. I chose the 1970s and 1950s because they felt like two completely different types of New York stories. The city of 1975 is very different from the more glamorous 1950s and I wanted to convey both eras on this page. I start with Ava, who is almost sixteen at the beginning of the book and lives in the disintegrating city. It was filthy, dilapidated, littered with garbage and on the verge of bankruptcy. Everything has an air of bad reality about it. To reflect what was going on in the city, I wrote a character who was young but weighed down by a broken family. Poor Ava has very few adults to hang out with and so she’s obsessed with finding out what happened to the couple who lived in the same apartment twenty years earlier. To contrast that more dangerous and crumbling period in New York’s history, I imagine the glitz, the smoky jazz clubs, the cocktail bars, and the life my characters, Dovie and Gillian, will live back to the 1950s, while trying to hide their secret. life and love from everyone.

By setting the novel in a long, hot summer, I wanted New York to appear as a supporting character in the book. I want readers to feel the relentless heat in a world without air conditioning, smell the garbage on the street, or feel how lonely people can be even when they are surrounded by rows of people. million others. I wanted readers to be able to step into the world of both 1970s and 1950s New York and live for a short time the lives of other women.

Some of my favorite old movies start with the camera showing us all the New York buildings we’re all too familiar with, then the camera zooms right in to an apartment, to a door. book and we will know that this is only one story out of millions that can be told. That’s what I want That blue-eyed girl and so I started with young Ava standing by her kitchen window while out in the street, people going about their regular business. Our story begins…

Julie Owen Moylan

My love for this city has spanned many years and many visits but I will always be grateful to that taxi driver for giving me a story about New York that I will never forget.


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