Wednesday, August 17, 2011

the country mouse and the town mouse

Here are the two settings for THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES: the first photo is of the empress Sisi's summer home, Possenhofen. A charming little castle, don't you think? Somewhat shabby by the standards of Bavarian royalty, but beloved to my character (who is a fictionalized version of the actual Sisi of Austria).

This is where Sisi frolicked and misbehaved, chasing her rabbits and dogs and siblings. Cooking up schemes to undermine her governess's agenda of civilizing the wild, spirited girl.

Here's a short passage from my book, illustrating this:

I could not wait to return to the comfortable worn splendor of our farm-castle, “Possi,” where my two ponies, Psyche and Cupid, were allowed to wander among the roses at will. Where my dogs roamed freely inside the house and out. Where my days began as the sun warmed the tops of the trees and ended when I decided it was time to return indoors.

This other house is where my contemporary character, Liz lives during the summer the novel takes place. It's a farmhouse I lived in for three years in the early 90's. Like Liz, I had a hard time adjusting to country life. The whole, 'cooking on a stove from the 1930's' thing (seriously, it was hooked up to a five-gallon propane tank like a Coleman, and I lived in fear of it running out every evening as I cooked up the soup).

Here's a little bit of Liz, toiling with her new digs, after an abrupt move from the posh lofts of Portland's upscale Pearl district:
The windowless staircase was illuminated by a single antique sconce, which tossed its anemic light at a bent-over sunflower painted directly onto the wood paneling. At the top of the stairs Pops grunted and yanked my suitcases around a corner and continued down a long hall. I followed. We walked past a screened porch. Two wasps with spindly legs tangled with each other in the opening to the porch, and beyond them a different cat than the one that had rubbed against me downstairs sat coiled in a yoga pretzel licking its anus.

Now, oddly, the top picture looks fancier, but nevertheless, it was considered a shack by the Bavarian Royal Family. Sisi loves the country. Liz adores a penthouse view. Identical cousins, they are not. Plus, they were born a hundred and fifty years apart. So, dear readers, my question to you is: are you more like Sisi, or more like Liz? Is you a country mouse, or a town mouse?


  1. When I'm in the city, I'm a country mouse, and when in the country, I'm a city mouse. Of course.

  2. Anonymous11:35 PM

    town mouse who likes a country view (but view only, i want all the luxuries of luxury while i'm looking out over sweeping fields of green).

  3. Country/Town blend, I think, is the prevalent desire. Some of each, and sometimes both at once. Me too! And I think that was one of the drivers for me, in writing this book. Thanks you guys.

  4. Definitely a city mouse, but you knew that.

    I can't wait to read the trilogy! Though I recommend you spend another word or two describing the cat's anus.

  5. Good question! Having just got back from ten glorious days in the high desert (including a visit to Summer Lake Hot Springs!), this is in the forefront of my mind. My fantasies take me to places that don't exist: a tiny rural town far away from any loud highway in a breathtakingly expansive setting, yet with sidewalks where I can look people in the eye as I walk to a cafe for a Stumptown latte and the New York times, and continue on to a gym/art gallery/yarn store/movie theatre.


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