Bertram: What is your story?
Constance: I’m an 18 year old girl who likes to write poetry and study the Ancient Egyptian language.
OK — that’s being evasive. I’m also rather wealthy (my Board of Directors has the preposterous idea that I own 10% of the American economy).
I’m breaking an age-old family rule by mentioning that — our family has always valued anonymity. I suspect my grandfather had a Wall Street Journal editor murdered to keep him from publishing a story about us.
No danger of that happening to me, (at least now): I’m the only one left in my family.
My grandfather (or his minions) had my parents murdered when I was 14 — and then they murdered my aunt and uncle. After my grandfather died (of a stroke!) his subordinates planned to kill me too.
Bertram: Who are you?
Constance: My name is Constance Fairchild. I guess I answered some of this above.
OK — I guess I have to bring this up too. Promise you won’t laugh at me, though (some people do): I believe in reincarnation and recall a past life (by the end of The Mills of God, in complete detail). I have psychic powers too. In The Well of Souls, these powers become positively terrifying (but they save my life).
Bertram: Where do you live?
Constance: Right now, I live in New York City — in the penthouse of the Park Place Hotel with my housekeeper Matilda Appleby. My grandfather bought the hotel so he’d have a secure place to stay when he was in town.
I still operate it as a hotel, though. I love the hustle and bustle, comings and goings, conventions, etc. And I suppose it makes me feel less lonely.
In The Well of Souls, my adopted son, Tim, and his cat, Hamlet, live with Tilda and me.
Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?
Constance: Of course!
Bertram: What is your problem in the story?
Constance: In The Mills of God, I walk a tightrope, struggling to survive and protect my friends. In The Well of Souls, I battle conspiracies to take over the American government and a terrorist plot to blow up New York City with a 20 megaton hydrogen bomb.
Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?
Constance: No, but it always embraces me.
Bertram: Do you run from conflict?
Bertram: How do you see yourself?
Constance: As a shy, introverted person with a good heart.
Bertram: How do your friends see you?
Constance: The same way, I hope!
Bertram: How do your enemies see you?
Constance: As a introverted dingbat, probably. Actually some members of my Board of Directors also think that of me. My friend, Derek Kolodny (deputy director of the CIA), says being underestimated by one’s enemies is always a good thing.
Bertram: How does your author Justin R. Smith see you?
Constance: As his favorite character, I hope! Actually, I can’t speak for him; he has enough trouble speaking for me.
Bertram: Do you think Justin portrayed you accurately?
Constance: He’s a stickler for accuracy! The man is positively obsessive!
Bertram: Do you have a hero?
Constance: I have many heroes: the great mathematician Leonhard Euler, the philosopher and detective Emmanuel Kant, and the greatest poet in the English language, Emily Dickinson.
Bertram: Do you keep your achievements to yourself?
Constance: Yes. My small circle of friends know about them. They are the only people I’d ever want to impress.
Bertram: Do you have any special strengths?
Constance: My brains and psychic abilities.
Bertram: Do you have any special weaknesses?
Constance: I’m shy and terrified of many social situations.
Bertram: Do you have money troubles?
Constance: Those are the only troubles I don’t have!
Bertram: Are you lucky?
Constance: It depends on your definition of luck. Most people think I’m very lucky because I’m wealthy.
I’m not a party animal who enjoys expensive jewelry and fast cars — the trappings of wealth. I’m the kind of person who brings a book to a party — and reads it! My housekeeper, Tilda, says I’m the anti-Paris Hilton: if I ever ran into her, there’s be a nuclear explosion.
Bertram: Has anyone ever failed you?
Constance: My parents, in many ways.
Bertram: Has anyone ever betrayed you?
Constance: Yes, my first boyfriend.
Bertram: Do you keep your promises?
Bertram: Are you honorable?
Constance: I try to be.
Bertram: Are you healthy?
Bertram: Do you have any handicaps?
Bertram: Do you have any distinguishing marks?
Constance: What do you mean? A birthmark behind my right ear in the shape of a scimitar? No.
OK, I’m a bit — how shall I say it? — large-chested and men are always hitting on me (when my bodyguards aren’t looking).
I inherited that from my mother who always claimed to have been an actress. I never found any movies with her in them, though. Maybe she was a porn star who Father became infatuated with. Maybe that’s why Grandfather despised her so. Maybe Grandfather’s minions only intended to kill Mother and Father was collateral damage.
My God — your innocuous question has stirred up so many others!
Bertram: What was your childhood like?
Constance: I was raised by nannies and, whenever I got so attached to one that I called her “mother,” my biological mother fired her.
I must have filled a hundred spiral-bound notebooks with my musings, my poems, and a diary of all my dreams. I called these notebooks ‘my research’: My past life undoubtedly influenced me as a child. It was no accident Nanny nicknamed me ‘the professor’. There are no accidents.
I lived in the grim concrete canyon of Park Avenue South, in a twenty-four-room apartment on the fifteenth floor. My room was the first off the main hallway, and my window overlooked an inner courtyard. Even now, I remember that clearly.
I had a print of Hieronymous Bosch’s Hay Wain on the wall opposite the window. It was inspired by the Flemish peasant saying, ‘Life is a wagon of hay and we all run after it grabbing as much as we can get.’ The central panel depicts a hay wagon with a mob of people chasing it. Men kill each other and women prostitute themselves for the hay. The right edge of the panel shows the people physically changing into the animals they’d always been. And the right panel shows them entering the gates of Hell. On the rare occasions she entered my room, Mother called it ‘That horrid thing!’
Perhaps she saw herself among the writhing throng.
Bertram: Do you like remembering your childhood?
Bertram: Did you get along with your parents?
Constance: On the rare occasions I saw them, yes. When they threw parties and receptions, I was confined to my room or told to go to a movie. Many of their friends didn’t know they had a daughter.
The year before they died, Father promised we’d spend Christmas together as a family. On Christmas Day, my nanny told me they’d flown to Paris the night before.
Bertram: What in your past had the most profound effect on you?
Constance: My past life gave me the skills I needed to survive.
Bertram: Who was your first love?
Constance: A crazy German performance-artist named Walter Hildebrand.
Bertram: What is your most prized possession?
Constance: My most prized possession is a computer printout I found in Switzerland. It’s covered with two seemingly random arrays of numbers. As for why I value it so much — you have to read The Mills of God.
Bertram: Do you have any hobbies?
Constance: Writing poetry. Here’s a sample, from The Well of Souls:
Childhood is a difficult time —
Each season — an arduous birth.
Playing amid unnoticed grime —
Drawn taut between Heaven and Earth.
Graven masks in memory’s shadows —
From times and tales long lost
Haunt their moonlit meadows,
Endowing lives — storm-tossed.
Each awakening stirs a fear —
No adult’s terror can match: —
To pristine eyes — new worlds appear —
New minds must grasp from scratch.
Where they find childhood’s courage, though —
Is a secret — only children know.
Bertram: What is your favorite music?
Constance: I love classical music. My favorite composers are Beethoven and Sibelius. I love the regal bearing of Beethoven’s Ghost trio, and the refined terror of Sibelius’s 4th symphony.
Bertram: What is your favorite item of clothing?
Constance: A dress and piece of jewelry that I’ve only worn twice. They are my parents’ last gifts to me and my most treasured keepsakes. My parents were going to visit me at school in Switzerland and give them to me as a graduation present.
The jewelry is a diamond tiara my grandfather commissioned from Cartier’s, supposedly modeled after the tiara Napoleon gave to Josephine.
The dress is an ankle-length evening gown. Tiny black fish-scales cover it, each reflecting an iridescent rainbow in the light. When I wear it, my slightest movements send cascades of color rippling up and down my body.
Bertram: Name five items in your purse, briefcase, or pockets.
Constance: A pocket computer so I can jot down poems when they occur to me. A lipstick. A hair brush. A can of mace. A sheaf of papers needing my signature, from my company, Horizon International Corporation.
Bertram: What are the last five entries in your check registry?
Constance: I don’t know. My accountants handle that for me.
Bertram: Thank you for being so candid. If someone wanted to know more about you, who should they contact?
Constance: Justin R. Smith, the author of The Mills of God and The Well of Souls. http://www.justinwordsmith.com/
Oh, and here’s a picture me writing out my responses to your questions: