An Interview with Beatriz Williams
TINY LITTLE THING is a fascinating look at wealth, love, power, ambition, and to what length family members will and won’t do to protect each other. The historical events in the book are intertwined perfectly within the lives of the characters that make for a realistic and gripping story. Incorporated within a character driven mystery are the issues of the mid-1960s, including political intrigue, the controversy of the Viet Nam veterans, and the treatment of women.
Elise Cooper: Did you base your characters on the Kennedy family?
Beatriz Williams: Yes, I wanted to write a compelling story of a political dynasty with the patriarch pushing behind the scenes for this to happen. I always loved history from childhood. In college I majored in Anthropology that included the study of history and human nature. I was able to incorporate my studies into my writings, where history becomes the scenery, weaved into the plot. I think of myself as a historical novelist.
EC: Did you want to explore the political wife?
BW: The 1960s presented the friction between the traditional and the modern, which included intense social, political, economic, and artistic change. There was the choice of being married to your job or your man, but not both. Political wives had a specific role. I call it the “maniquinization” of the American female. We expect our political wives to dress and act in a certain way. Just look at Kate Middleton who acts in a lady-like manner and is judged by what she is wearing. Of course, Jackie Kennedy became a symbol for the celebrity politician’s wife, starting that culture. John and Jackie Kennedy were the visual image of perfection. She was the Queen to his King.
EC: You also discuss the Vietnam issue. Why?
BW: I did a crash course in the Vietnam War. I want the readers who were against the war to recognize they were blaming the wrong people. I deliberately portrayed one character, Tom, as obnoxious toward the Major. He is someone who enjoys privilege without recognizing the sacrifice of those serving. He would certainly never make that sacrifice himself. My grandfather was a torpedo bomber in the Pacific during World War II. I understand the sacrifices made by soldiers. That is why I had Caspian lose a leg in the war. I wanted to emphasize people change in a fundamental way either physically or mentally.
EC: Part of the mystery is the car found in the shed. How did you come up with the idea?
BW: I read about a car found in a shed in Greenwich, and was sold for about $12 million. I loved the idea that artifacts can connect the past and the present. In the next book, Along the Infinite Sea, I continue this car story: who buys it and why it was put in the Cape Cod shed.
EC: Another mystery surrounds a photograph. Do you have an interest in it?
BW: Not a personal interest. I wanted to show how in the 1960s photographs played such an important role. I used photography to enhance the plot. Tiny was expected to look good in all the photographs and there was that one sent to blackmail her.
EC: It seems a lot of female authors are writing about miscarriages. Why did you have Tiny experience one?
BW: As I wrote in the book, during the 1960s it was not an issue talked about much. Now it is given a lot more attention. I thought about Jackie Kennedy who also struggled with fertility and was expected to give birth to the perfect child. I am also very conscious that women of my generation have tended to have babies in their 30’s. It seems that fertility problems are much more on the radar screen.
EC: What do you want the reader to get out of the book?
BW: An entertaining story about trust, integrity, and the personality of politics.
EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book?
BW: It takes place in Europe during the 1930s. Nick Greenwald is back. He is the friend of Stesan, a Jewish man who is fighting to stop Nazism, to affect change from within. Stesan is having an affair with a French American woman who is married to a German army officer. I delve into the treatment of Jews during Hitler’s early years. There is a lot of discussion about the Nuremberg Laws and ends with Kristallnacht in 1938.