Elizabeth Hickey's fascination with art history paints every page of her atmospheric, sensual debut novel The Painted Kiss -- in which she re-imagines a tempestuous relationship between painter Gustav Klimt and the daughter of a bourgeois businessman. "It was my thesis at Columbia, where it was referred to as 'fictionalized art history' -- not a compliment!" Hickey reveals in our interview.
From the author's official web site:
I was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. My father is a retired lawyer, my mother a Presbyterian minister. I always knew that I wanted to be a writer, and I used to give my mother stories I had written as Christmas presents, but during childhood and adolescence I was more interested in becoming an Olympic swimmer. Unfortunately, I was stymied by a lack of athletic talent. In high school, my art teacher had us paint copies of famous paintings. I attempted to replicate a painting by Vuillard that I found in the Armand Hammer exhibition catalog, and I wrote an essay about the artist's life. That was my first real introduction to art.
I went to Williams College in Williamstown, MA, where I majored in art history. I knew before I got there that the class I most wanted to take was a writing workshop with Jim Shepard, but I was very intimidated. I applied as a freshman and didn't get in (few freshmen did) and then waited until I was a senior to reapply. Jim turned out to be an amazing teacher and mentor, and once I became serious about writing there was no going back.
After graduation I went back to Louisville and worked at a publishing company and an independent bookstore while I prepared my graduate school applications. I was rejected by many writing programs and was wait-listed at both Indiana University and Columbia. I was considering moving to England and other radical life changes when I got the call from Columbia in August 1995. I was, I swear, the last person they took off of the waiting list. I had about two weeks to pack myself up and get to New York. While at Columbia I was able to regularly visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick Collection, The Museum of Modern Art -- all of the great museums in New York. I received my degree from Columbia in 1999 and moved to Portland, Oregon, where I worked as a secretary at a law firm. After a year, I quit and lived off of my savings while I worked on The Painted Kiss.
Good To Know
Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Hickey:
"My mother is a Presbyterian minister whose specialty is funerals."
My favorite food is marzipan."
"When I was four years old my ambition was to be in the Olympics. It stayed my ambition well into high school, when I was a serious competitive swimmer. To this day I despise water so much I dislike taking showers, and I have recurring nightmares about practices and meets."
"My current hobbies are yoga, hiking, and travel. In 1997, my then-boyfriend, now husband and I went on a seven-week trek through Central America, riding local buses and staying in dives that in some cases were no more than stapled-together cardboard boxes. I had never been farther from the U.S. at that point than Halifax, Nova Scotia. We saw Mayan ruins in Belize, volcanoes and truckloads of soldiers in Guatemala and El Salvador, colonial architecture and coffee fields in Nicaragua, toucans and howler monkeys in Costa Rica. Since that first wildly adventurous trip, I have been to Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Spain, Portugal, and England. I never want to stop traveling!"