Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It was a real treat to come across this essay by Janis Cooke Newman, whose novel, Mary (a first person account of Mary Todd Lincoln's life), was just released.

In the essay, Newman writes about how she baked some of Mary Todd Lincoln's recipes (namely her "white cake", a vanilla/almond confection) to help get under Mary's skin. She talks about how the scent of almonds during the baking process helped her understand Mary's response when the spirit of her dead son Willie came to her during a seance. Willie's skin smelled like almonds, Newman decided, so when Mary smelled almonds in the air, she knew his spirit was in the room with her.

The main character of the novel I'm working on is a 12 year old girl who thinks her family is the Lincoln family reincarnated; she believes she used to be Willie, herself. It's interesting to see how another author envisions Willie's life/death. I don't plan to steal Willie's almond-smelling skin for my own book, but I'm eager to see what Newman does with the Lincoln family in her novel. And I definitely want to try that cake.

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