Today’s post by author Megan Caldwell | @meganf
True story: Vanity Fare came to being because of Laurence Olivier.
Every few months, a friend who I’ve known since high school and I get together to drink wine, watch period dramas, and talk. If you haven’t sat on a couch with a very full glass of red wine urging Michael Fassbender’s Edward Rochester just to take his shirt off, already, I highly recommend it.
Anyway, one evening we decided to watch the Laurence Olivier version of Wuthering Heights, with Joan Fontaine. We’d already seen the Timothy Dalton version, which features a very young (and stunning) Dalton as Heathcliff. The film itself is meh, but Dalton is as psychotic and charismatic as you (or maybe only me) wants their Heathcliff to be.
(Those Brontes, huh? In college I wrote a senior thesis on a Psychoanalytic Interpretation of Wuthering Heights, and man, oh, man, could Freud go to town on Heathcliff and Catherine’s possibly incestuous love! I got a good grade on the paper, too).
Olivier’s version is naturally more circumspect. The undercurrent of sexual obsession is missing, and Laurence hardly gets smooch at all with his Catherine. So while returning to the wine bottle for a refill, I made a joke about “Mothering Heights,” and that sparked an idea—what if I wrote a book about a mom who loved classic literature and romance who was at a low—but not necessarily psychotic—period of her life?
My friend and I laughed about it, and the wine was finished, and Wuthering Heights ended and the evening was done. But the idea remained, augmented by the ‘what if’ of ‘What if my husband left me? What would I do?’ and it kept developing in my brain until I sat down and wrote the first sentence (which since got changed):
“He never said he loved me.”
And Mothering Heights—which then became Vanity Fare—was born. Thanks, Laurence!