Traci L. Slatton, author of The Love Of My (Other) Life, on why her heroine is a Strong Woman.
My eight-year-old daughter attends an all-girl’s school in NYC. We love the school. It’s all about empowering young women through self-esteem, strong academics, and interpersonal relationship skills. Recently she came home with a wonderful project. She had to do a poster, an essay, and a presentation about a “Strong Woman” role model.
This project set me to thinking about Tessa, my protagonist in The Love of My (Other) Life. At first glance, Tessa is a mess. She’s broke and she’s about to be evicted. Her husband left three years ago and she hasn’t been on a single date. Mostly she’s sat home watching Netflix, worrying about her ass getting bigger. Worst of all, she’s been creatively blocked because of some serious missteps in her career.
In spite of her circumstances, Tessa has inner reserves of strength. First of all, she’s strong enough to take a risk. She allows herself to take a chance on Brian Tennyson, the physicist who shows up unexpectedly in her life, claiming to be her husband in another universe. It takes courage to open yourself to a man, especially when you think he’s a crazy homeless guy. Of course, Brian does kiss masterfully. But still.
Tessa also shows resilience. When she’s in jail for art theft, she’s able to negotiate kinship with the hookers who are her cell-mates. She finds the spirit to do portraits of the hookers on the wall, using Nars Shanghai Red lipstick. And she’s able to come up with a viable plan to get herself out of jail.
Finally, Tessa has an inner creative core that belongs only to her: her painting. She doesn’t make a man the center of her world. As much as she loves Brian and appreciates his expansive personality and his capacity for loving her, she retains her inner, inviolate sense of self. Brian’s eruption into her life shattered the flimsy constructs of a life that wasn’t working, but it didn’t shatter her. Nor did his leaving. She keeps her self intact, which allows her to approach the Brian Tennyson in our world…
The Love Of My (Other) Life follows the beguiling and uncompromising Tessa Barnum, a 30-something would-be painter struggling to find her rightful place in the city that never sleeps: the ever-bustling, always-magical backdrop of New York City. Frustrated by a world that champions meaningless post-modernism and money over truth, beauty and transcendence, Tessa is about to be evicted, too insecure in her own talent to let her paintings leave her closet, and emotionally exhausted by a recent divorce. When she is suddenly faced with Brian Tennyson behind every corner – a disheveled yet devilishly handsome man who, out of virtually nowhere, claims to not only be a Yale physics professor who has uncovered a gap in the time-space continuum, but also her husband in an alternate universe (!) – Tessa finds herself on a rollercoaster ride the likes of which she never in her wildest dreams imagined she would have to be prepared for.
Traci L. Slatton is a graduate of Yale and Columbia, where she taught freshman composition. She lives in Manhattan, though her love for Renaissance Italy inspired her historical novel Immortal, which is currently in film pre-production. Also the author of The Botticelli Affair and the After trilogy (Fallen, Cold Light and Far Shore), Slatton’s forthcoming novel, The Mission, is a meaty historical saga set during World War II.