But this is what his Google search brought to light that day:
What I am now going to attempt to explain may not make a lot of sense if you have not read the Abigail Phelps Series, but I'm going to give it a shot, because it is essential to my Simsbury story. And my Simsbury story is a big part of the reason these books and this character are so important to me.
In 1980, my fictional Abigail was just becoming an international sensation in figure skating, thanks to her pairing with Christopher Dean of Great Britain. But she was still young, and still not sure she would have any real success, so she was also attempting to get her degree at Brown University. Her fame began making it difficult to carry on like a normal college student, however, and one day as she ran away from photographers and reports, she tripped over a tree root, and there to help her up was the only student at Brown who was even more famous than Abby. JFK Jr. And that was that. The relationship between John and Abby is at the center of the rest of the series.
Now, here's where it gets tricky... It's known that Abby is delusional. It's known that Abby is making up these stories. Obviously. The reader is told in the very first chapter that that is the case. But the question is why? Well, suffice it to say there is much more to it, and beginning about halfway through book two, Scenes From Highland Falls, the reader becomes an active participant in a psychological scavenger hunt. Every single aspect of Abby's "delusions" are actually clues. Everything represents something. And the decision to lead Abby's story down that path came about because my husband found that photograph online.
There's an excerpt to come, but first let me round out the Simsbury story by saying how thrilled and honored I was to have the opportunity to visit Simsbury in May of 2014 and discuss the books there. It was quite the trip - I live in Colorado - but completely worth it. Talking about the books was fantastic, of course, but even more meaningful was just getting to be there. I felt as if I already knew Simsbury so well, because of my research, but being there? Visiting the locations which were so instrumental in my Abigail's life? Well, that was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Thank you for sticking with me through this incredibly long blog post. There is just no quick and easy way to tell this story! But I believe it's worth telling, and truthfully all of the details would be worthy of a book of their own. But now...an excerpt. This is found in Scenes From Highland Falls. Alec Redmond, Abigail's psychiatrist, has just been handed a transcript. The transcript is a record of a conversation between Abigail Phelps, John Kennedy Jr., and Arthur Schlesinger - the great historian. This is not one of Abby's stories...this is an actual conversation, and Alec - though he doesn't at all understand what is happening - knows for the first time that there is much more to Abby's story. It's the same series of events which he had already been told - tripping over a tree root and meeting JFK Jr. - but this time, they don't bond over the need to escape from photographers. They bond over their mutual need to escape their legacies.
John Kennedy: She may not have been impressed with me, but I was crazy about her, from that first moment.
Abigail Phelps: Probably because I was so indifferent to you!
JK: Maybe. I mean, that may have been part of the initial attraction. It was pretty refreshing, and I guess you presented me with a challenge I wasn’t used to.
AS: Meaning you didn’t often have to go to any effort to win over the opposite sex?
JK: Truthfully, yes. Does that sound egotistical?
AP: Yes. (laughter)
JK: (laughter) But it’s true.
AP: I know.
JK: But Abby just could not have cared less about the things most girls usually cared about with me. The money, the fame, the name - none of it meant anything to her.
AP: I just thought that in so many ways your life was like mine, just on a larger scale.
JK: And that was actually what kept us there talking, wasn’t it? We were from such different places, in a lot of ways, and yet it was pretty amazing to see just how much we had in common.
AS: Such as?
JK: Such as why we were both at Brown to begin with.
AP: My family has been going to Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut since 1823.
JK: And of course I was expected to be a typical Kennedy Harvard man.
AS: Going to Brown, a prestigious Ivy League school, was an act of rebellion?
JK: Way to show ‘em, right? (laughter)
AP: It was about rebellion and trying to escape the legacy, for us both. Remember John, we were talking under that tree and I was starting to open up about how I had struggled to get away from my family, and I started talking about how difficult it was to grow up in a town where to get anywhere you have to drive down Phelps Road, and pass the Phelps Homestead, and the Phelps Tavern? And of course the worst thing of all: the Abigail Phelps Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
AS: The Abigail Phelps Chapter?
AP: My namesake. Abigail Phelps had three sons serve as officers in the American Revolution, and half of the people in town are direct descendants. So I was whining about that to John, like, “Oh, can you imagine what hell my life must be?” And then of course John says, “That must be so hard for you.” (laughter)
JK: And I told her I had a small idea of what that must be like, which is why I had decided not to enroll in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. (laughter)
AP: I felt like an idiot! I have this little chapter of the DAR in Simsbury, and he has half of the free world!
JK: And then remember that night?
AP: Good grief, yes. I took feeling like an idiot to new heights, didn’t I? I had to go out of town for a few days, so I got up from our spot under the tree and prepared to say goodbye –
JK: But I wasn’t ready to let her go, so like an obedient little puppy dog obsessed with his new master, I got really…
AP: Needy. (laughter)
JK: I was going to go with pathetic, but I’ll take needy! I insisted that wherever she had to go, I would go with her.
AP: Needless to say, he couldn’t go out of town with me, but I told him he could take me to the airport. I was trying to be all casual and act like I didn’t care about any of it, of course, which I didn’t. I mean, it wasn’t like, “John-John likes me!” (squeal followed by laughter from all in the room) But by that point it was very much, “Something is different with this guy. This guy isn’t like other guys.”
JK: And I knew that I was in love with her. Seriously, completely head over heels.
JK: Already. Probably before we’d even gotten all of her books picked up.
AS: What about any of that made you feel like an idiot, Abby?
AP: Oh, well, I told him he could drive me to the airport – I was flying out of New York because it was so much less expensive – and I told him that, and I just knew that when I told him I was flying out of New York he would get less enthusiastic. He wouldn’t want to drive all that way for some girl he had just met. But all he did was pick up his stuff and say –
JK: Which airport?
AP: That was it. “Which airport?” And then the butterflies started in my stomach, because I realized he was really into me and he wasn’t just flirting or playing games. So I’m staring at this guy, feeling emotions I had never felt before, and somehow knowing my life had been changed forever, and I told him which airport. Kennedy. I was flying out of the airport named after this guy’s father! And I felt like an idiot, because it was the first time the legacy really hit me. It wasn’t about him being a Kennedy, per se. It was the fact that his father had been the President of the United States. The cute, goofy college student standing in front of me, the guy I had spent the day talking to, the guy I thought I was falling in love with, was the little boy who had peaked out from under the desk in the Oval Office. My first three years of life I was blissfully unaware of the Simsbury legacy – Daughters of the American Revolution and all - which I would eventually hate so much. Meanwhile, the first three years of his life, he lived in the White House.
JK: I won. (laughter)
AP: Yes. You definitely won.