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Six Fun Facts You Should Know About the Talented Author, Amor Towles

Best-selling novelist


Amor Towles in his lodge home
Photo: Isabel Magowan for TIME

Within the last year, I've read A Gentleman in Moscow and The Lincoln Highway, (twice.)


I thoroughly enjoyed both novels and was bowled over by the talent of the author, Amor Towles. This was a guy who could craft two detailed, complex, exciting stories that were vastly different from each other.


A Gentleman in Moscow focuses on an aristocratic Russian man, Count Rostov, who is forced into confinement at the Metropol Hotel by the political party in power in the early 1920s. The Count must spend his life within the walls of the hotel. It's hard to imagine that such a restrictive plot could translate into a compelling, multi-layered story, but it did, spanning thirty years.


The Lincoln Highway takes place in the 1950s and follows the adventures of four boys, three of whom have been in trouble with the law. The entire novel takes place within nine days and covers much of the territory of the United States, east of Nebraska to New York City.

I got curious about the author who could write two such diversely different novels, clearly a man of great talent.


Here are six fun facts about the talented, terrific, Amor Towles:


ONE:

Towles described a huge, beautiful lake house in his debut novel, Rules of Civility in 2011. (I have not yet read this novel although it's on my very long list because it's about a young woman in jazz-age New York who ends up connected to the publishing world of Conde Nast). In an interview with Time Magazine, Towles admits that he had never been under a 30-foot vaulted ceiling in the communal room of a lake like the one he had described in Rules of Civility.


The "fun fact" here is that with the money he earned from Rules of Civility, he bought a lake house, complete with his own lake and a 30-foot ceiling, quipping


“It was this weird thing where I was kind of buying the living room that I had written about…which, in a Stephen King novel, would end badly!”

TWO:

Towles claims he had an "upper-middle class" background, but most of us would describe it without the word "middle"!


Towles attended private schools, including Yale and Stanford, which I would think would make it decidedly an "upper-class" background.

He also says that his great-grandparents, (like Wooly’s in the novel, The Lincoln Highway), would have been comfortable in Edith Wharton's novels. (Edith Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It was 1921. She had written and published The Age of Innocence which depicted the aristocracy of New York society.)


THREE:

Towles started writing in 1st grade and never stopped. At a seminar at Yale, Towles connected with the co-founder of The Paris Review, Peter Matthiessen. Matthiessen recognized Towles' potential, and the two made a pact to cultivate Towle’s talent.


Towles, however, wanted to please his father by working in the financial industry on Wall Street.


Matthiessen was furious for losing what he perceived as another literary talent to the business that sucked the best minds away from other careers. He told Towles that people don't come back from Wall Street.


“So you should assume that at this moment, you have turned your back on writing for the rest of your life.”

FOUR:

Towles knew what he was doing in choosing a career on Wall Street over an uncertain career in writing.


Good decision.


He made a fortune as a partner in a boutique investment firm.


FIVE:

But the urge to write didn't dissipate.


Towles continued to write while working on Wall Street. He spent the next seven years constructing a novel. After all that time, Towles decided that the manuscript he'd written was terrible.


He did, however, believe that the best part of his "bad" novel was written in the first year. So he made a rule. Towles would take as long as necessary to create a detailed outline of the entire book, (crucial in his mind,) but only spend a year writing the first draft.


SIX:

The Lincoln Highway takes place over ten days. Contrary to his "rule," Towles took more than a year to write the first draft. The six-hundred-page manuscript was developed over eighteen months. The same was true for A Gentleman in Moscow.


Good things take time, after all.


More to Come from Amor Towles

Amore Towles' next book, A Table for Two, will be released in April 2024. It's a collection of short stories, six set in New York, often at the turn of the 20th century, and one novella placed in Los Angeles.


As multiple characters connect, often over A Table for Two, Amor Towles puts his special talent to work unmasking the truth of life in sophisticated, stylish historical fiction.


Buy A Gentleman in Moscow from Bookshop.org (supports independent bookstores)

Buy A Gentleman in Moscow from Barnes & Noble (brick and mortar & online retailer)

Buy A Gentleman in Moscow from Better World Books (used books that donate a book from every sale to literacy efforts)


Buy The Lincoln Highway from Bookshop.org (supports independent bookstores)

Buy The Lincoln Highway from Barnes and Noble (brick and mortar & online retailer)


Buy Rules of Civility from Bookshop.org (supports independent bookstores)

Buy Rules of Civility from Barnes & Noble (brick and mortar & online retailer)

Buy Rules of Civility from Better World Books (used books that donate a book from every sale to literacy efforts)

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