Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Renée Rosen Interview - The Social Graces

Photo Content from Renée Rosen

Renée Rosen is the bestselling author of historical fiction. Her novels include Park Avenue Summer, Windy City Blues, White Collar Girl, What the Lady Wants and Dollface as well as the young adult novel, Every Crooked Pot. Her new novel, The Social Graces, a story about Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt vying for control of New York society during the Gilded Age, will be out April 20, 2021 from Penguin Random House/Berkley).

Renee is a native of Akron, Ohio and a graduate of The American University in Washington DC. She now lives in Chicago where she is at work on a new novel.


Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in Indianapolis, grew up in Akron, Ohio and after a few pitstops in Washington, D.C. and New York City, I now call Chicago my home

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
There’s so many, but I have to say that for me, it’s the sheer joy of being able to wake up each morning and do what I love. And if I can slip in something else, it’s all the friendships I’ve formed along the way with other authors, publishing colleagues, booksellers and readers.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
From the time I was a little girl, even before I was a reader, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I was always making up stories, writing poems and plays. I wrote my first novel when I was back in high school and thankfully it never saw the light of day. My first published novel was EVERY CROOKED POT. It’s an autobiographical coming-of-age novel and love letter to my late father, R.W., who was a larger-than-life character. Writing that novel was a way of preserving what it was like growing up Rosen-style.

Tell us about THE SOCIAL GRACES!
THE SOCIAL GRACES is the story of Alva Vanderbilt and The Mrs. Astor vying for control of New York society during the Gilded Age. I like to think of it as the original “Real Housewives of New York City”. It’s a fun, romp-of-a-book filled with juicy scandals, outrageous antics and over the top balls that are based on real events. Believe me, I couldn’t have made up some of this stuff.

Back in the 1800s, women had very few rights and the only place they could exercise any power, any sense of control, was in society. Caroline Astor, known as The Mrs. Astor, represented the “old money” and she ran society until her rival, the upstart Alva Vanderbilt arrived on the scene. The ladies end up going head-to-heard and tiara-to-tiara, trying to outdo and outspend each other with their lavish parties, their gowns and jewels.

But it’s not all fun and games and dancing till dawn. There are scandals and heartbreak along the way as both women come to understand themselves and discover the true purpose of their lives.

What do you hope for readers will take away from your novel?
Mostly I hope that readers will be able to escape into the story. We’ve all been through such a horrific experience with the pandemic and I think a little levity is in order. Levity, but with heart. So, I hope that when someone turns the last page, they will have a smile on their face.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Alva?
Oh, she was a marvelously complex woman to write about. She was so spirited and defiant. A real firecracker and way ahead of her time. She never shied away from a scandal, either. What surprised me most though, was that she’d lived her own rags to riches story. When Alva was sixteen, her father lost the family’s fortune and she’d been impoverished before marrying W.K. Vanderbilt. I think it was precisely because she’d lost everything that her appetite for status and wealth was at times insatiable.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Great question! I would love to introduce Ward McAllister, who was the self-proclaimed tastemaker of the Gilded Age, to Holden Caulfield from THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. Ward was an incredible snob, and I can just hear Holden calling him a phony. Holden would hate Ward McAllister for being so consumed over things like how long a hostess frapped her wine, or what sauce was served with the fish in their nine-course dinners. Oh yes, Ward and Holden would be a fun pairing!

Where can readers find you?
I love connecting with readers and am fairly active on social media. 

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Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from THE SOCIAL GRACES
I think my favorite scenes throughout the novel are all centered around the various balls and dinner parties, which started out as very refined, elegant affairs and rapidly escalated into outrageous spectacles. Every hostess tried to outdo one another. Themed balls were very popular and so there was Alva Vanderbilt’s famous masquerade ball, the horse ball at Sherry’s restaurant, the Martin-Bradly ball (estimated to have cost $9.7 million in today’s money) and Mamie Fish’s dinner for a mysterious prince Del Drago of Corsica who turned out to be a chimpanzee. Take a look at Harry Lehr’s famous dog ball:
The Field Spaniels, English Setters, Fox Terriers, Saint Bernards and Great Danes arrived with diamond collars, satin bow ties, and hats perched between their ears. With the dogs gathered around a table off to the side, we owners looked on while the pets slurped from individual water and food bowls. One of the little Pointers overindulged on the mutton and passed out under the table. Aside from some attempted mating caused by a Spaniel in heat, and an accident by an overly excited Collie, the dog ball had been a huge success and the talk of the town. 
The author of Park Avenue Summer throws back the curtain on one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor's notorious battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.

In the glittering world of Manhattan's upper crust, where wives turn a blind eye to husbands' infidelities, and women have few rights and even less independence, society is everything. The more celebrated the hostess, the more powerful the woman. And none is more powerful than Caroline Astor—the Mrs. Astor.

But times are changing.

Alva Vanderbilt has recently married into one of America's richest families. But what good is money when society refuses to acknowledge you? Alva, who knows what it is to have nothing, will do whatever it takes to have everything.

Sweeping three decades and based on true events, this is a gripping novel about two fascinating, complicated women going head to head, behaving badly, and discovering what’s truly at stake.

You can purchase The Social Graces at the following Retailers:

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.


  1. What I usually think about before falling asleep is my 8 grandchildren.

  2. "What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?" The fact that I want to fall asleep.

  3. Unfortunately, I end up thinking about what I need to do for work the next day.

  4. What all I need to do the next day.

  5. I usually think about what I have to do the next day.

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  6. I think about my day and what I need to do the next day.

  7. I usually think about what I just watched on TV.

  8. I go through my "checklist" of what I have to do the next day.

  9. I think about what I need to do tomorrow.
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  10. I usually think about not being able to fall asleep !

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