I know that I've walked through all of this before, but the recent trip to Simsbury, Connecticut - the flagship stop on the #AbbyTour - brought the memories of Abby's origins to the forefront once more. If you've been reading the blog or the Facebook posts with a feeling of, "This is fun, but I have no idea what's happening!" then this is for you. This is the true story of how Abigail Phelps began as nothing more than a fun novel about a fictional character surrounded by real-life celebrities as the supporting cast but became a psychological scavenger hunt.
I've always been obsessed with pop culture, so writing a book which featured people I already knew too much about seemed like a no brainer. Below is a slideshow featuring those who probably would have been characters in the book if I had written it in 1993 or so. (Please note: five people you will see below are actually in Abigail Phelps or Scenes From Highland Falls. I am nothing if not loyal.)
The slideshow below just really makes me laugh. I've never put this many of them together, and I had a little too much fun doing it. Look at the photos and know that the woman in the photo is actually Abby Phelps. Don't be confused or distracted by the different appearances. They're all Abby. That's all you need to know. (By the way...if you read the books, I promise you won't be able to look at them again without thinking of Abby anyway...) Each of these movies or skating routines is prominently featured in the books.
Abigail Phelps met John F. Kennedy Jr. on the campus of Brown University. Abby tripped over a tree root and John helped her pick up her books. Simple as that. But of course nothing involving Abigail Phelps is every truly simple. They bonded that day over their lives in the public eye, and John expressed, much to Abby's dismay, his relief that she had actually taken a bit of pressure off of him. She had become so famous and such a media darling that - at least for a time - John got to walk around campus relatively unnoticed. They were too busy watching for Abby.
That was the story. It was written and almost complete, and simple compared to what it became. I've told this so many times, but I still believe it's worth telling... It was already decided that Abigail Phelps, a fictional character with a name I had chosen randomly, would live in Simsbury, Connecticut. Why? Because Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov lived there and trained there. Abby had already taken over Ekaterina's life of course... Christopher Dean flew into New York from London to train with Abby, and Simsbury was a pretty easy drive for them. She was close to New York, she was close to Providence, Rhode Island where she and John attended Brown...it was just a convenient and easy decision for me to make for my character. And then my husband stumbled upon the real life history. In Simsbury, the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is named the Abigail Phelps Chapter. Abigail was born in April of 1706 and was the mother of three Revolutionary War heroes. You can't pass through town without encountering the Phelps name at every turn, and the Phelps family is interwoven throughout every bit of Simsbury's history.
My Abigail Phelps had been given new life. That was her real story. That was her real history. She was part of this historic family in this historic town - so why did she run from that? Why did she create this delusional world in an exceedingly driven effort to keep her past hidden? And how was it possible that the story at the center of it all - the one in which she didn't take over anyone else's life, but still managed to rewrite history - was the one based in truth? The one which seemed the most unrealistic of all - the hidden love story between Abigail Phelps and John F. Kennedy Jr. - was the one that held all of the answers.
I've been putting an Oscar Wilde quote everywhere lately. It goes like this: "No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.” The time for Abigail Phelps had come - that much was clear. And please don't mistake that comment for me tooting my own horn, or elevating my idea to greatness. Ha! I wish I could take credit for the most brilliant parts of Abby, but her story actually seemed to write itself. Her time had come, and I just got to experience the sheer joy of putting it on paper.
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