Many people have asked me about how I got the idea behind the story of GRAVESEND. Well, in truth, I actually lived it! You see, although Gravesend is a supernatural historical fiction novel, it is based on the real experiences I had when growing up as a teenager in Brooklyn, NY and Danvers, Massachusetts. There are many parallels between the life of Robbie Mauro and mine, so many, in fact, that sometimes the line between the two blurs!
Robbie and I were both born in Misericordia Hospital in New York City, during a time when The Nuns of Mercy ruled the roost. Our families were indeed very close, deeply religious, and culturally Italian to the core.
As youngsters, we both lived in an old New York style walk- up apartment with our parents. I had a brother, but Robbie did not. I was very close to my father, as was Robbie, and I often played catch with him in the long-darkened halls of our building.
My family was very close. My paternal grandmother, aunts and uncles, and several cousins all lived within a few minutes walk from my apartment. Food and drink were a very big part of my life growing up, and Robbie shows how important those were in his life as well.
All the names and characteristics of the main characters and their relationship to me are also true. My grandmother was indeed a courtesan, my father a common laborer, my uncles were “in the family business” and my dearest cousin Linda was my best friend and worst enemy at the same time. It should be noted that all the things Linda did to Robbie in the book, she really did…to me! She was a treat and I love her dearly. She now lives in Connecticut and I am still very close to her.
I did move to the Gravesend section of Brooklyn before I was five years old. The trip from New York to Brooklyn on the subway and the elevated railway was drawn from memory. The photo above is from the actual address where we lived, 2220 East 5th Street Brooklyn, NY. The house was not quite as modern and beautiful when Robbie and I lived there, so many thanks to the current owners for keeping my family home so nicely!
Robbie relied on his two best friends throughout the book, brothers Roger and Mark. They, too, were my best friends but, Robbie’s story plays out in Brooklyn while my personal story moved to Massachusetts when I was around ten years old.
Roger and Mark lived a few houses away from me in Danvers, while I have them as next-door neighbors in the book. In either event, as with Robbie, Roger, Mark and I were inseparable. We were as close as brothers and remained close friends until time intervened in my early twenties and we drifted apart.
In our early teens, Roger, Mark, and I did find a very old Ouija Board in a closet and soon became fascinated with trying to contact the spirit world. Much like Robbie, we did contact a spirit in real life. The story behind the witch in the book is entirely true. The events described on our Ouija Board sessions are only marginally embellished and reported directly from memory. We spent many a long hour in the school library researching the witch. Those were the days of index cards and printed books. No internet back then! We did have candles and lights burn out, and I was warned that I would die on my 21st birthday.
I recall that, the few days before my 21st birthday, I was driving a Fiat 128 Spider on the New Jersey turnpike. I was pulling into the toll booth behind a car that had just finished paying the toll. As I rolled down my window to pay my toll, the driver of a large truck behind my car, lost control and slammed into my car, driving me forward. Had he hit me a few seconds sooner, the car in front of me would have still been in the toll booth and I would have been crushed between the truck and the car, perhaps fulfilling the prophecy.
Robbie attended Rutgers University, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences in New Brunswick, NJ. I attended he same school and, in 1975, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and, in 1977, I was privileged to earn a master’s degree in Microbiology. We both wrote our master’s thesis on Avian Infectious Bronchitis Virus. Robbie continued to earn a PhD; I married the love of my life Cathy.
So, you can say that the story of GRAVESEND is based on my life with a little extra thrown in here and there. I really enjoyed writing the story and reliving some of the adventures I had growing up and especially revisiting time with family and friends. I hope this helps the reader understand the origin of GRAVSEND and that you now have a better understanding of the story and its background.
Thank you for your support. I hope you like reading GRAVESEND as much as I enjoyed writing it. Drop me a line on the link above and let’s start a conversation.