Interview with Jon Foyt
Marcel Proust in Taos
A Los Alamos physicist, Christopher, retires to Taos, New Mexico to write a novel about nuclear terrorism. There he meets aspiring artist Marlene, and the two fall in love. Together they open a microbrewery and find themselves confronting terrorism of a new sort—in unmapped emotional territory.
Jon: I’m 81 years old and active in a large (10,000 population) adult retirement community in Northern California. I have a degree in Journalism and an MBA from Stanford University, with an MHP from the University of Georgia, am a widower with 8 grandchildren, and have completed 60 marathons.
Tricia: When did you begin writing?
Jon: I began writing in 1990 after the inspiration from a master’s degree in Historic Preservation at the University of Georgia.
Tricia: Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?
Jon: Fiction is sort of like jazz—it flows with fresh thoughts and ideas as you and the characters play along. I write mostly in the early morning and then right after a run, which for me is a right brain stimulus.
Tricia: Can you tell us about your most recent release?
Jon: Marcel Proust in Taos is a thought-provoking romance between a retired Los Alamos Nuclear Physicist and an immigrant German artist who fall in love in Taos, New Mexico. They open a microbrewery as he writes a novel within the novel about the threat of nuclear terrorism.
Tricia: How did you get the idea for the book?
Jon: Having lived 16 years in the Land of Enchantment, ideas came often to me based on the environment and the magic of the place.
Tricia: If you could recommend just one of your books to my readers, which book would you choose?
Jon: I think the Landscape of Time is a fun and historically interesting novel about the origins of the Erie Canal in Upstate New York in 1808.
Tricia: Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?
Jon: Christopher in Marcel Proust in Taos is my favorite because of his advanced age (into retirement) and his concerns about the safety of the planet and its people.
Tricia: What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
Jon: The biggest challenge is to be true to the characters.
Tricia: What would you like to tell us about your book or your writing that someone wouldn’t discover during a casual review of your blurb or website?
Jon: Writing is hard work and a novel is never really complete, as you always think of another way for the characters to say something or express ideas, or for your own narration as a writer.
Tricia: What is your primary goal as an author?
Jon: To convey thoughts, information, and concepts, as well as to introduce the reader to the characters.
Tricia: Which authors have inspired your writing?
Jon: D. H. Lawrence and Joseph O’Kane Foster (writing about D. H. Lawrence in Taos)
Tricia: What projects are you currently working on?
Jon: A searching novel, Time To Retire, about life in an active adult retirement community.
Tricia: What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?
Jon: Write your ideas, then re-write, then edit, and then polish. Go with the words and their true meaning.
About Jon Foyt:
While standing in the checkout line at the art supply store, Marlene reproached herself for her curt and inelegant response to Christopher’s invitation. For sure, she felt, he hadn’t been particularly suave in his outreach to her, either. In the two weeks of waiting for his call, she had gone over every nuance of their conversation in the Taos Inn, regretting that she hadn’t teased him into a more serious, or at least a fun relationship. She’d been too focused on her art, and she knew men were attracted to women who flirt, even if the man was married—Christopher wore no ring, but so what did that mean?
That afternoon in the tavern she should have invited him to her studio, changed into alluring attire and produced a romantic air for scintillating conversation by uncorking a bottle of Moselle wine, preparing a tasty tray of vorspeisen, turning on enchanting Bavarian music and lighting her scented candles—all against a backdrop of her prized art. As she paid the cashier, she brought herself back to the moment. Enough of this playful fantasizing! She was nervous about showing her art to this wealthy patron. Christopher would have to wait.
She reminded herself to concentrate on how she would present herself and her art to this woman with the name of “Mrs. Powers.” She vowed she would never abdicate her own ideals to a person who might be a domineering fuhrer in a skirt. Blumy and the other Taos artists had benefited from sponsorship those years ago and still did. Because of the railroad’s beneficence, their Taos School was indelibly imprinted upon the annals of world art, mentioned in every art history book and probably taught in every MFA program. Other individual artists, not so fortunate, had been readily co-opted. Marlene didn’t want such a destructive fate to befall her. She could think for herself, and she vowed to continue to paint, but solely for her own satisfaction.
Hurrying back to her studio, Marlene climbed the stairs only to see a note pinned to her door—Joe’s delinquent rent notice—and she panicked. She needed money and she desperately hoped this prospective patron would be generous, yet allow her to express her talent in the hallowed tradition of the Taos School, where her Blumy and his diverse group had pledged themselves to always remain faithful to their own individual artistic styles.
Marlene remembered that the gallery owner told her that the patron woman was heiress to a molybdenum fortune, and that her philanthropic nature was well known throughout the Southwest. “But, whatever you do, don’t say anything about the mountain top up by Questa that her mining company is scarring in the worst way—she’s very sensitive about the environmental issues about her company having stripped the mountain of its natural beauty.”
Having been both briefed and warned about her potential benefactor, Marlene waited for the knock on her door. Fresh flowers graced her rustic pine table. In her oven baked an apple strudel, its flavors wafting through her studio. Twice she repositioned her canvases, which she had purposely enriched with gilded frames, each time twisting her track lighting to best capture the aura and ambiance of each painting.
“What smells so yummy?” the amply proportioned Mrs. Powers inquired immediately upon entering Marlene’s aromatic stage.
“It’s my mother’s recipe for apple strudel from the old country. You will have a taste in just a minute or two—that is, when it cools.” Marlene rushed on, “There’s no sugar. I use pure honey from a little town outside Nuremberg—my father sends me a jar a month. He says the honey will counteract the pollen from our juniper trees, and I will never have an allergy.
“Oh, please sit down. May I pour you a cup of coffee?” Marlene knew she must put an end to her unrehearsed rapid speech, but she couldn’t stop. “Hasn’t our weather been glorious for this time of year? Makes me want to hike to the top of the unspoiled mountains around here instead of painting them. I’m a very disciplined artist and I know I could complete your assignment quickly and faithfully.”
“Could I have that strudel now?”
“Yes, of course. Do you take cream in your coffee?”
“I prefer tea with two sugars.”
“Would honey do?”
“Oh, forget it, dear. I’m here because Mr. Peters at the gallery recommended your work. My decorator is redoing my living room for this season’s Opera Guild socials. Mr. Peters insisted I select the art because he so values my opinion. Money’s no object, for me color is what’s important.” She looked at the painting on Marlene’s easel. “Not this one, but I do like the shading in that one over there. Don’t you have any landscapes without all these mountains?”
“I can paint a fresh subject for you,” Marlene assured her visitor. “Yes, I think we shall have to do that.”
“Do you have a particular setting in mind? Perhaps I could do an interpretive rendering of your house?”
“Maybe—no, I don’t want to appear overly pretentious, you know. Some people react….” Mrs. Powers produced small decorator color swatches. “Here, these will guide you. Your painting must not clash with my new draperies. I plan to give your painting the prominent space above my grand kiva fireplace, so make sure it blends in with everything in the room. Mine is, of course, quite a large room.”
Hesitatingly Marlene showed Ms. Powers another canvas. “This is my current work in progress. I’m painting my impressions of the Tu-o-ta Pueblo.”
Mrs. Powers pointed to the reddish-brown branches of the red willow trees lining the small stream. “Yes, this color here…a teeny bit softer, I should think. Put in a sweet little deer or two—you artists know what to do—but none of those rickety ladders. I want my friends to feel at home…you know, comfortable…so they’ll come back and donate more money to the Guild. That’s why I hold these socials, you know, to raise money for a good cause. One must support the community, as well as art and artists, don’t you think?”
“How much do you require to get started?”
Marlene didn’t know how to respond.
“Five hundred, then, is that all right?” Mrs. Powers asked, then inquired, “How will you sign my painting? Can you make Marlene look a little like Remington? I don’t want you to actually forge his signature, of course, but I want my guests to be impressed—I mean, they all know that name. Now, could I have that strudel now?”
Marlene cut a slice of her pastry, covered it with gobs of whipped cream and deliberately shoved the culinary concoction into the face of Mrs. Powers.
“Ernest Leonard Blumenschein made me do this, and he hopes you get the message.”