The Intersection of Fiction and Life

May 05, 2014
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My husband believes I’m either the luckiest author he knows,or else I’m psychic. Each time I begin working on a new book, the subject I’mwriting about shows up in the news headlines or there’s a story on NPR. Thenthere are occasions, like now, when something I’ve written about--completelyinvented in my head--actually happens. That really spooks him: how did I know?

In MULTIPLE EXPOSURE, the first book in my new mysteryseries featuring international photojournalist Sophie Medina, two lost imperialFaberge eggs are found in a trunk in an attic in Kent, England. Sophie is hiredto photograph them at a dazzling exhibition at the National Gallery of Art inWashington, D.C. where she also overhears a conversation about a high-profile assassinationplot possibly involving her missing husband.

In my story, I created a new Faberge egg, the brilliantruby-studded Firebird egg, but I also “borrowed” a real egg, the unfinishedBlue Czarevich Constellation Egg which Karl Faberge abandoned after Nicholas IIand his family were executed in 1918. It was discovered tucked away in a Moscowmineralogical museum, which thought it was a lamp stand, and I added the diamonds,silver, and crystal that were part of the original design.

Later Vladimir Lenin sold many of the Romanov eggs for cashin a program called “Treasures into Tractors,” or they vanished. All but eighthave been recovered, and the search for the whereabouts of the missing eggs hastantalized the art world ever since.

In real life, Nicholas II’s mother, Empress Marie Feodorovna,fled Russia after her son and his family were murdered, eventually ending up inEngland with her sister, Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII. So who’s to say--asI hinted in MULTIPLE EXPOSURE--that Marie didn’t bring along one or two of theexquisite eggs her husband and son had given her over the years? And maybe shegave one to someone, or sold it, or . . . well, who knows?

A couple of weeks ago a scrap metal dealer from the AmericanMidwest bought a small gold ornament at a junk market for $14,000, intending tosell it for a quick profit. But when he couldn’t find any buyers afteroverestimating the value of a watch and some gems found inside the egg, hestarted doing some Internet research.

Imagine his surprise when he realized he owned one of the missingimperial eggs, in particular the egg Alexander III, Nicholas’s father, hadgiven his wife Marie Feodorovna for Easter in 1887. When the scrap metal dealerapproached Wartski, a British antique firm specializing in Karl Faberge’s work,he was told his little trinket--the one he nearly melted down for its gold--couldbe worth as much as $33 million.

Since then Wartski has sold the egg to an anonymous privatecollector for an undisclosed amount; the seller also wishes to remainanonymous. When asked if the story was too fantastic to be true since no oneinvolved wanted to go on record and talk about it, the director of Wartski toldReuters, “This story is so wonderful you couldn’t really make it up--it isbeyond fiction.”

My husband would disagree.

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The "Spoiled Author" Tour for THE VIOGNIER VENDETTA

August 11, 2010
It's been a whirlwind week since THE VIOGNIER VENDETTA launched on Tuesday, August 3. Always my favorite part of "the writing life" is when I get to spend time with the people who read my books . . . and so many great booksellers who have become dear friends. On Tuesday, the Community Relations Manager at Barnes & Noble Reston had taken the time and trouble to find flowers that matched my beautiful fuchsia book jacket (I accidentally wore orange and, yes, I clashed!). Wednesday at the fabulous Library of Congress where part of the story of VIOGNIER takes place -- Washington, D.C. in swampy August heat, great questions, a fascinating audience of Library scholars, historians, and researchers. On Thursday fans braved a violent monsoon-like storm and fierce winds (lights flickered & it sounded like cannon balls landing on the bookstore roof) to come to the brand-new Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Fredericksburg. Friday night a lovely party at Books & Crannies in Middleburg with champagne and Virginia Viognier; bookstore owners Pat & Genie made finger sandwiches and ordered a cake decorated in honor of the book. Yes, I'm spoiled! Saturday back to Swedenburg Estate Vineyard in Middleburg -- for anyone who knows the series, it's Lucie's vineyard. So many memories of times spent there with Juanita Swedenburg who passed away in 2007; she would have been amazed to see the crowd that packed the place all day and the tent Marc erected on the lawn to accommodate everyone who showed up before 10am for an informal talk before the signing. Special thanks to Cheryl (aka Frankie Merchant) for taking care of me all day and Rick Tagg, my winemaker/advisor, who came for a few hours to answer questions and just be there for me. He even wore his favorite Hawaiian shirt! Swedenburg's brand-new winemaker and his wife are now living in the house Juanita built on the estate shortly before she passed away . . . and they have told me they see her from time to time. What a great way to end the week . . . with a ghost!

Next week off to Florida, the Library of Virginia in Richmond, and the beautiful Eastern shore of Maryland. All events and a brand new photo gallery on my website at http://www.ellencrosby.com Please come see me!

2010 People's Choice Finalist!

May 14, 2010
I was sitting in the San Francisco airport a few weeks ago when I received a call from Mary Beth McIntire, the Executive Director of the Library of Virginia, who passed on the news that THE RIESLING RETRIBUTION had been selected as one of 5 fiction finalists for the Library's 2010 People's Choice Award. I had to keep it under my hat for a while, but finally the word is out and I'm humbled to be on the same slate as these four outstanding VA authors: First Family by David Baldacci, The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani, and Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls. Voting takes place from May 17 through June 30 in a Virginia library or online--and you don't need to be a Virginia resident to vote. For more information and a copy of the ballot, check here: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/vote.

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