Today I welcome debut author Ariel Allison to the Edge to talk about her new book, eye of the god, (that’s right, grammarians – no caps!!) an intriguing suspense novel about the one and only Hope Diamond. Two things I can tell you right up front: 1. The Hope Diamond has a past – it’s very nearly a character in this book. 2. Someone wants to steal it.
Edge: Where did this idea come from? Are you in some ways like your main character Abby?
Ariel: In the Spring of 1995, I stumbled across an article in Life Magazine on the Hope Diamond. The two-page spread showed Michelle Pfeiffer wearing the jewel and gave a brief history of the legendary curse. I knew instantly that it should to be a novel. Being the curious gal that I am, I dug around and was surprised to find that although most people were familiar with the curse, no one had done anything with the concept. So I began researching and writing. That was fourteen years ago this spring. The main character, Abby Mitchell, has a very broken relationship with her father. Unfortunately, that is something I know a great deal about. My dad died six years ago and I had to ask him on his deathbed if he loved me. So I was intrigued by the idea of a woman who would do anything to gain her father’s love – even if it meant betraying her own values.
Edge: So, where does ‘eye of the god’ as your title fit in? What do you want your title to communicate?
Ariel: According to legend, the Hope Diamond was once the eye of a Hindu idol named Rama Sita (thus the lower case letters in the title). When it was stolen in the 17th century, it is said that the idol cursed all those who would possess it. But that doesn’t stop the brilliant and ruthless Weld brothers from attempting to steal it from the Smithsonian. However, they are not prepared for Dr. Abigail Mitchell, the beautiful Smithsonian Director, who has her own connection to the Hope Diamond, and a deadly secret to keep. Yet, when all is said and done, and the dust has finally settled over the last great adventure of the Hope Diamond, we understand the “curse” that has haunted its legacy is nothing more than the greed of evil men who bring destruction upon themselves. No god chiseled from stone can direct the fates of men, nor can it change the course of His-story.
Edge: Were there other stories of the diamond that you had to leave out for space that really intrigued you?
Ariel: Honestly, that was the hardest part of writing this novel. All told, there were over thirty historic figures that came into contact with the diamond since its discovery and I had to choose three around which to anchor the story. Some of the more infamous characters include Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, George IV, Napoleon, Caroline of Brunswick, May Yohe, Evalyn Walsh McLean, Harry Winston, and Jackie Kennedy. A few of my favorite historical tidbits that I discovered during my research are:
- The Hope Diamond was pawned by Evelyn Walsh McLean in order to pay the ransom in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.
- Jackie Kennedy petitioned the Smithsonian to allow the Hope Diamond to visit the Louvre in
just months before her husband was assassinated. Paris
- The Hope Diamond was confiscated from the possession of Louis XVI a short while before he was beheaded during the French Revolution.
Edge: What kind of research did you have to do to get the details on security at the Smithsonian? Did you spend a lot of time observing the museum in action?
Ariel: All of the security details regarding the Hope Diamond display are accurate, and publicly available, but everything else is a product of my imagination. The Smithsonian is, for obvious reasons, very tight lipped about it security protocol. So I did as much general research as I could and then filled in the gaps. It is as realistic as I could make it without getting my hands on the actual schematics. However, I have never been to the Smithsonian myself – though I would love to go one day. Yet the museum offers hundreds of display photographs, floor plans, and virtual tours online, so in that regard, I’ve visited it dozens of times.
Edge:You have some very intriguing plot twists in the story. Did you plan all those twists from the beginning or did the plot evolve as you wrote? Did anything about the way the story developed surprise you?
Ariel: I am a very serious plotter, so I spent at least a month outlining the story before I ever began writing. I created the characters and charted out everything (major and minor) that happened in the novel. Then I wove together the main storyline and all the subplots so I knew what to write, scene by scene. Once I had the structure in place I felt free to start writing and let the characters grow and surprise me, which they did, on more than one occasion.
Edge:Have you always been a fan of suspense? What are some of your favorite books or writers? Ariel:I first fell in love with mystery/suspense novels when I read Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. I remember being stunned when I finished the book – when I realized that she gave me every clue I needed to solve the mystery and I still wasn’t able to. I had that same feeling the first time I watched The Usual Suspects. Being outsmarted by an author is such a fun feeling. And it’s something I try to bring into my novels. I love giving readers a puzzle to solve.That said, I don’t just read suspense. My reading tastes are very eclectic. A few books that come to mind are: The Narnia Chronicles. The Lord of the Rings. Keeper of the Bees. Anything by George MacDonald. Anne of Green Gables. Watership Down. The Gifts of the Child Christ. The Kite Runner. The Time Travelers Wife. Water for Elephants. Harry Potter. The Shape of Mercy (yes, your book has recently made it to the top of my favorites list). As I look at that list I realize that the first ones were books that my mother read to me while growing up. She didn’t stop at picture books and she didn’t stop when I could read them on my own. These are the books I lived out during my playtime as a child.
The recent titles are the ones that inspire me to become a better writer. Books like The Kite Runner and The Time Travelers Wife are so beautifully done that they almost make me want to quit writing. I aspire to be that kind of storyteller. More than anything, I just love an original story. I can appreciate good writing in most any genre and if the author can take me away to a new place, they’ve earned my respect forever.
Edge: What’s next on the horizon for you?
Ariel: At the moment there are fifteen novels in various stages of development tucked away on my hard drive. But the three books that will be making an appearance soon all involve mysteries: one from Shakespeare, one from 1930’s
Thanks for being here, Ariel. Have a great weekend, everyone!