Luxury, prestige and a million-dollar estate serve as inspiration for Alex Brunkhorst’s book entitled, The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine. Set in the city of Angels, I had the opportunity to interview the author on her modern-day Gatsby novel filled with gold and the glamour.
EM: How long have you lived in LA and what’s your favorite area in LA?
AB: I’ve lived in LA for over fifteen years now. I moved here from Washington, DC, where I went to college.
I have an incurable case of LA wanderlust. When I visit friends in Silver Lake I want to live there, when I show a house in Bel Air I want to be there. Ditto with the Bird Streets and Venice. In my heart of hearts though I’m a beach girl. So Malibu wins by a hair.
EM: How much of a role did the environment of LA play in the novel?
AB: The novel is such a Los Angeles book – from the weather to the houses to the geography to the characters. I don’t believe the story could have taken place in any other city. The fairy tale aspect and dreaminess is very LA. LA is a place where dreams can come true in a matter of months. That’s very important to the core of the book.
EM: As a real-estate agent specializing in multimillion-dollar estates for Los Angeles’s wealthiest professionals, how realistic is the world of Matilda Duplaine? Does art imitate life?
AB: While I don’t believe there’s a girl hidden away on a vast estate in Bel Air (it’s fun to think about though), in this case art definitely did imitate life. I pulled many of the settings from places I have been to in real life, and though none of the characters is based on anyone I know per se, I certainly took mannerisms, style, and choice of attire from people I knew.
EM: Walk through the process of creating the character of Matilda Duplaine.
AB: Matilda was created through my hypothesis that with wealth came isolation. I noticed that the uber-rich were buying private planes, vast hedged estates, private screening rooms, private trainers … and the list goes on. I thought of writing a novel about it, but I needed a sympathetic main character who wasn’t making the choice of isolation herself; instead, she was born into someone else’s choices.
EM: Who would be your ideal actress/actor to play the role of Matilda and of Thomas in a movie version of the novel?
AB: I think Lily James and Chloe Moretz would both be awesome Matildas. Thomas is tougher for me. I imagine him looking like a 26 year old Leonardo DiCaprio.
EM: Tell us about your experience writing novels and how you find the time to work in real estate.
AB: It’s honestly a tough juggling process sometimes. I definitely have my time very carved out. I generally write from 5:30 to 8:30 AM and then work my “day job” until the early evening. When I’m editing a book all bets go out the window though. I remember slipping into Starbucks for fifteen-minute writing sessions in between showings when I was editing Matilda.
EM: What is your most favorite property you ever sold?
AB: Oooh, that’s such a hard question. I’ve been so lucky to have worked with amazing houses. One of my first sales ever was a beautiful modern house in Beverly Hills that I sold for $6.2 million. That one will always be really significant because it was the first time I remember someone (my client) truly believing in me. She took a real risk listing with me, and I will always be grateful to her for it. That sale was life-changing for me on so many levels.
EM: What is the root of your interest in the world of luxury and why do you think people have a general interest in wealth and prestige?
AB: I grew up in very down-to-earth Milwaukee, but I was always fascinated by wealth. My father had a significant car collection and so I was exposed to luxury through his social circle. I remember running to the mailbox to get Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and lustily looking at the models in their head-to-to Dior and thinking that someday I, too, would wear past-the-elbow gloves.
EM: What are you working on now?
AB: I’m working on my next novel, which I hope to have completed by the end of the year if real estate doesn’t get in the way of that goal.
Contributed by Elena Murzello