Mélanie and I spent a stormy afternoon yesterday at the Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. The building itself is a treat, a replica the Palais de la Legion d’Honneur in Paris, surrounded by a rolling golf course, overlooking the city on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Mélanie calls it a “castle.” We saw Raphael’s “Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn” (and left with two stuffed unicorns from the gift shop) and a Pierre Bonnard exhibit, visited the 18th century Salon Doré that I love and the teacup display Mel loves, and listens to a wonderful organ concert.
The late 18th and early 19th century artworks and furniture and other household items feel like old friends and have inspired scenes and characters in my books. It’s fun now to tell Mélanie “that fireplace could be in on of Mummy’s books” or “doesn’t that lady look as though she could be on one of my book covers?” And just being in the museum – the soaring ceilings, the marble floors, the beautiful artwork and beautiful views is at once inspiring and relaxing – like stepping into another world. As we took a break in the café (Mel enjoying strawberry shortcake, me sipping a glass of brut rosé) I looked through the glass doors that run along one side of the room at the rain-splashed garden outside. Gray sky, a tracery of trees branches whipped by the wind, statues, a thick ivy hedge. Suddenly, a scene for the next Malcolm & Suzanne story (a novella following London Gambit) sprang to my mind. I’ve busy with research and plot logistics and felt a long way from writing, but this scene sprang vividly to mind, though I’m still not sure quite how it fill into the story. I left feeling refreshed and inspired to write and had a bonding afternoon with my daughter that exposed her to new things. Thank you, Legion of Honor!
Are there particular locations that you evoke scenes in books for you, as a writer or a reader?