Kristin Hannah may well be the most successful novelist of historical and contemporary fiction of our times. She is also one of my favorite people. She is funny, kind, and possesses the good humor of a middle child. I predicted The Four Winds would be a blockbuster, and those of us lucky enough to read the early draft knew it would be a phenom. I am always proud to spread the word about Kristin’s books because I’ve never had anyone come back to me and say, “I didn’t like it.” She is wise, winning and a visionary with a particular point of view- she loves people and life- and overcoming obstacles to find happiness- and so much more- to read her is to love her. She also insists on promoting her fellow authors- and we had a long conversation about The Good Left Undone.
Kristin: So you’re in Italy to do research for your novel.
Adriana: Right. [My husband, daughter, and I] are in the Vatican, and you know about halfway through the tour, they take you outside to the Vatican to get air- and to shore up before you go through the Sistine Chapel. Anyhow, we’re sitting outside with our tour guide who everyone in the Vatican appears to know personally. So we’re drinking from this fountain with fresh water… and I say to [the tour guide], “Who are you? Do you do this all the time?” He says he worked in the Vatican museum as a curator of the Vatican jewels. I say, “I’m kinda working on something about that” and he says, “Well what do you wanna know?”
Kristin: That was fate.
Adriana: Absolutely. He proceeded to tell me the stories and then show us things…a vast array of things- but I got hooked on the rubies…which is why India is in the novel, but I’ll get to India in a second because this is how this stuff happens.
Kristin: You don’t see it coming.
Adriana: And frankly, I was looking to reinvent the way I was telling stories. So, I don’t know if you remember this, but you told me to slow down my publication schedule- You need time to think, you said. I get off the phone and I’m thinking, she’s right. So here it is: Kristin Hannah tells me to slow my roll. This story will take time.
Kristin: Good for you.
Adriana: At the time, the novel was taking shape in pieces. I have this story, a family story, of contemporary cousins in Italy, and then I go into the Vatican. I study the jewels. And so those things start to make a meatball, and I’m like, “Okay, this is interesting.” I got back to New York and went to a jewelry class at Christie’s, and here’s the information I got - which is the jet fuel of this novel: gems have properties and they’re taken from the Earth in India, by very poor miners - which I can relate to, being from Appalachia - Miners are engineers, laborers, and savants who can predict what will happen inside the earth just by the sound.
Kristin: Character development on the way to plot development.
Adriana: Exactly! I discovered a tragedy in India and a whole thing. But why rubies? Because rubies were favored by the Vatican. A Catholic knows, there’s a monstrance where we keep the consecrated host - we have a whole service around that. There’s a tabernacle, which is why the opening sentence is, “The mountain was a tabernacle with one door.” There’s not supposed to be one door in a mine, there’s supposed to be a thing called an adit that goes out the back so you can escape…
Women did not wear jewelry… the king, the Rajahs wore these ornate necklaces. The diamond your husband gave you, Kristin, when you got engaged, likely is thousands of years old, not just in the earth where it developed, but it’s been splintered off from bigger diamonds. Then I found the stories of the stonecutters across Italy and took the tradition from my own family to write The Good Left Undone.
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