There is a neighborhood in Washington, D.C., called Kalorama. I lived not too far from there for a few years, just down the street in Dupont Circle. Dupont Circle was a fabulous place to live, particularly as a young, single adult — lots of restaurants, bars, clubs, bookstores (what, aren’t all young people looking for a good bookstore?).
Kalorama, on the other hand, is an upscale neighborhood. Imagine big houses with thick walls surrounding large gardens. Black limousines wait in the tree-lined streets more often than taxis. So close, yet a world away.
One house in particular in Kalorama caught my attention. I must have driven past it once while living in D.C. and lodged the memory away somewhere in the back of my brain, because as soon as I got to work on developing the characters for my second book, A Thin Veil, knew that one of them lived in that house. And it didn’t take long to realize he must be the French ambassador to the United States.
I had only seen the house once, several years before, so I did what all diligent researchers do: I googled it. Google maps is a wonderful tool — absolutely no replacement for the real thing, don’t get me wrong, but the details you can find online can be astounding (if not a little frightening).
I spent hours “walking” up and down the street in front of that house, stopping at different angles to see the way the light hit it, to get a glimpse over the wall into the back garden. I also found a variety of photographs of the house, from the inside and outside (mostly from the outside).
By the time I went back to D.C. for another in-person visit, I felt like I knew the house intimately!
It’s a beautiful house. No wonder it proved to be such an inspiration to me. Ambassador Saint-Amand is one of my favorite characters now. Writing the scene in which I first introduce the reader to the house — and the ambassador — was a true joy.
Of course, not all of my characters are inspired by the house in which they live. But it’s fun to think how much anything — a house, a boat, a church, even a city park — can serve as an inspiration.
Meet Ambassador Saint-Amand and get to know the neighborhoods of D.C. in book 2 in the Adam Kaminski mystery series, A Thin Veil.