Here's what she had to say...
Growing up, I didn’t want to be a writer; I wanted to be an artist. We lived a block away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and I started taking Saturday morning art classes there when I was just seven years old. I love that museum.
So its not all that surprising that sooner or later I’d write a novel with a museum as one of my main characters and that I’d pick the museum that was in my backyard when I was a kid. But how I got idea for The Hypnotist is surprising, at least to me.
One day about three and a half years ago, on one of my regular pilgrimages to the Met, I headed straight for one of my favorite spots. The Mastaba Tomb of Perneb is a tiny bit of 5th Dynasty Egypt transplanted to Manhattan.
A little girl about seven or eight came into the tomb while I was there and examined the space, giving every section careful attention.
“It hasn’t changed much at all,” she said finally in a wistful voice.
I asked her what she meant.
“Since the last time I was here,” she said.
Something about the way she said it made me curious. “When was that?” I asked.
“When I lived in Egypt.”
“You know this tomb has been on display in this museum since 1916.” I said.
“I lived in Egypt way before that,” she said and smiled. She was about to say something else when from outside the chamber an older woman’s voice called out.
“Veronica, it’s time to go. Now. Please.”
The little girl ran off, quickly, without looking back, without giving me a chance to ask her anything else.
Even though I write about reincarnation, I haven’t had any meaningful reincarnation episodes of my own. I don’t get visitations. I’ve never seen a ghost. But I am not sure what happened that afternoon.
I can picture Veronica in her navy jumper and white blouse that had a dark smudge on the collar. She had a one-inch scratch on her left hand. She had a child’s voice but it was so charged with adult emotion. It was that emotion which sparked the idea for my novel, The Hypnotist. And the paintings and sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum that fueled it.
If you go the Met, please go visit Perneb’s tomb. And if you see a little girl there with long blonde hair and a blue school uniform… ask her if her name is Veronica… and if it is, thank her for me.
A Note from the Book Boost: That is an amazing experience, MJ. A child with a very vivid imagination or and Egyptian princess? Great story either way! Please tell us more about your book.
An FBI agent, tormented by a death he wasn't able to prevent, a crime he's never been able to solve and a love he's never forgotten, discovers that his true conflict resides not in his past, but in a…Past Life.
Haunted by a twenty-year old murder of a beautiful young painter, Lucian Glass keeps his demons at bay through his fascinating work as a Special Agent with the FBI's Art Crime Team. Currently investigating a crazed art collector who has begun destroying prized masterworks, Glass is thrust into a bizarre hostage negotiation that takes him undercover at the Phoenix Foundation—dedicated to the science of past life study—where, in order to maintain his cover, he agrees to submit to the treatment of a hypnotist.
Under hypnosis, Glass travels from ancient Greece to 19th century Persia, while the case takes him from New York to Paris and the movie capital of world. These journeys will change his very understanding of reality, lead him to question his own sanity and land him at the center of perhaps the most audacious art heist in history: the theft of a 1,500 year old sculpture from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
"Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul."
—Edgar Allan Poe
Twenty Years Ago
Time played tricks on him whenever he stood in front of the easel. Hypnotized by the rhythm of the brush on the canvas, by one color merging into another, the two shades creating a third, the third melting into a fourth, he was lulled into a state of single-minded consciousness focused only on the image emerging.
Immersed in the act of painting, he forgot obligations, missed classes, didn't remember to eat or to drink or look at the clock. This was why, at 5:25 that Friday evening, Lucian Glass was rushing down the urine-stinking steps to the gloomy subway platform when he should have already been uptown where Solange Jacobs was waiting for him at her father's framing gallery. Together, they planned to walk over to an exhibit a block away, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
When he reached the store, the shade was drawn and the Closed sign faced out, but the front door wasn't locked. Inside, none of the lamps were lit, but there was enough ambient twilight coming through the windows for him to see that Solange wasn't there, only dozens and dozens of empty frames, encasing nothing but pale yellow walls, crowded shoulder-to-shoulder, waiting to be filled like lost souls looking for mates.
As he hurried toward the workroom in the back, the commingled smells of glue and sawdust grew stronger and, except for his own voice calling out, the silence louder.
Stopping on the threshold, he looked around but saw only more empty frames.Where was she? And why was she here alone? Lucian was walking toward the worktable, wondering if there was another room back there, when he saw her. Solange was sprawled on the floor, thrown against a large, ornate frame as if she were its masterpiece, her blood splattered on its broken gold arms, a still life in terror. There were cuts on her face and hands and more blood pooled beneath her.
Kneeling, he touched her shoulder. "Solange?"
Her eyes stayed closed but she offered a ghost of a smile.
While he was thinking of what to do first—help her or call 911—she opened her eyes and lifted her hand to her cheek. Her fingertips came away red with blood.
"Cut?" she asked, as if she had no idea what had happened.
"Promise," she whispered, "you won't paint me like this…" Solange had a crescent-shaped scar on her forehead and was forever making sure her bangs covered it. Then, catching herself, she'd laugh at her vanity. That laugh now came out as a moan.
When her eyes fluttered closed, Lucian put his head on her chest. He couldn't hear a heartbeat. Putting his mouth over hers, he attempted resuscitation, frantically mimicking what he'd seen people do in movies, not sure he was doing it right.
He thought he saw her hand move and had a moment of elation that she was going to be all right before realizing it was only his reflection moving in the frame. His head back on her chest, he listened but heard nothing. As he lay there, Solange's blood seeping out of her wound, soaking his hair and shirt, he felt a short, fierce burst of wind.
Lucian was tall but thin… just a skinny kid studying to be a painter. He didn't know how to defend himself, didn't know how to deflect the knife that came down, ripping through his shirt and flesh and muscle. Again. And then again. So many times that finally he wasn't feeling the pain; he was the pain, had become the agony. Making an effort to stay focused, as if somehow that would matter, he tried to memorize all the colors of the scene around him: his attacker's shirtsleeve was ochre, Solange's skin was titanium white… he was drifting…
There were voices next, very far-off and indistinct. Lucian tried to grasp what they were saying.
"…extensive blood loss…"
"…multiple stab wounds…"
He was traveling away from the words. Or were they traveling away from him? Were the people leaving him alone here? Didn't they realize he was hurt? No, they weren't leaving him… they were lifting him. Moving him. He felt cool air on his face. Heard traffic.
Their voices were becoming more indistinct.
"…can't get a pulse…"
"We're losing him…quick, quick. We're losing him…"
The distance between where he was and where they were increased with every second. The words were just faint whispers now, as soft as a wisp of Solange's hair.
"Too late…he's gone."
The last thing he heard was one paramedic telling the other the time was 6:59 p.m. A silence entered Lucian, filling him up and giving him, at last, respite from the pain.
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