Author Q&A: Stephanie Azzarone
Heaven on the Hudson: Mansions, Monuments, and Marvels of Riverside Park by Stephanie Azzarone published this week with Fordham University Press, and Stephanie was kind enough to answer some questions for our blog! Find her answers, and information on how to buy your copy of Heaven on the Hudson, below!
1) How did you come to write Heaven on the Hudson: Mansions, Monuments, and Marvels of Riverside Park?
I live in the neighborhood and fell in love with it. I love strolling up and down Riverside Drive, staring at the beautiful buildings, and wandering through Riverside Park, enjoying nature and the views. When I wanted to learn more about the area, I discovered that little had been written -- and nothing combined the neighborhood’s history, architecture and stories of the people who built it or lived there over time. I thought I’d put all of it together.
2) In the course of your research for the book, did you learn anything especially surprising? Do you have a favorite building from along the park?
I learned so much, every step of the way. There were people I had never heard of who were incredibly influential in the 1800s and responsible for the Park’s development. I learned the differences between the park’s original design and the one we have today. What surprised me the most were the backstories of the area’s residents. There was a very long list of celebrities, but also a fair share of headline-grabbing criminals, including a dentist who murdered both his mother-in-law and father-in-law to gain quicker access to his wife’s inheritance. My favorite building has always been the Schinasi mansion, the only freestanding, privately owned villa on the Drive and one with architectural details that are just delicious.
3) Was there any part of the history that didn't make the final draft, but you really loved learning about?
Yes, it has to do with a distinguishing mark that remains on one of the buildings. I wanted to keep it for myself. Still do.
4) Do you have a personal favorite book of all time? If so, can you share it and tell us why?
Pachinko is a book I’ve recommended repeatedly over the past several years. It’s an incredibly rich tapestry of distinct and memorable characters, spanning multiple generations, set against a background of history and questions of identity. It’s a beautiful read.
5) What’s next? Any upcoming book projects in the works that you can tell us about?
Yes, I am working with the same publisher for a non-fiction book that, like Heaven on the Hudson, reveals stories about the people and places – and the design and history -- of New York. This one will not only include the Upper West Side, but also the rest of the city.
Stephanie Azzarone is a native New Yorker who has lived on Riverside Drive most of her adult life. A former journalist (freelancer for the New York Times and New York magazine, among others), she also ran an award-winning Manhattan public relations agency. Currently, she is studying for her tour guide certification to share her knowledge of Upper West Side life along the Hudson River with natives and tourists alike.
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