Most of you know what my book covers look like, some of you know what my book content reads like, but very, very few of you (only those I signed up to this newsletter against their will and who don’t unsubscribe because they are either -A- family -B- close friends or -C- scared of me) know the ME behind the pen—or the laptop since I type everything.

Now, I’m not writing to tell you about my likes and my dislikes, because I doubt you care that I hate mango and love unsweetened chocolate. Unless you’re thinking of sending me gifts in exchange for free books: then definitely no mango.

What I wanted to share with you today is where my inspiration for The Masterpiecers stemmed from. I grew up around art. I’m the fifth generation in an art dealing family who adopted the name of a feudal castle in France as their last name when last names became the latest trend. Before that, your last name was –ben + your father’s name. So if you were named Ben, and your dad was also named Ben, you would have been: Ben Ben Ben. But thanks to the great Emperor Napoleon, Ben’s have been spared.

nathan et laure
Back to my story, my great-great-grandfather, Nathan, before being an art dealer, was a tailor and a talented salesman. So talented that one of his customers came to him one day to ask if he could help her sell a few paintings (I’m not sure what that said about his aptitude for tailoring).

He knew absolutely nothing about art, yet he accepted her proposal and journeyed to the great city of Paris. Once there, to learn about Art, he locked himself up in the Louvre for 10 days—like my contestants in The Masterpiecers who were there 10 days too (total coincidence). He made 1,000 French Francs profit from this transaction, which he reinvested immediately in art. He bought two paintings (a Boucher and a De La Tour) and sold those right away again. And so on and so forth.

It was around that time that he met his wife, Laure, an educated woman who wrote beautifully and loved reading (Go, great-great-grandma!), and they fell madly in love in spite of his apparently awful accent, and he finally abandoned his vagabond life. Now I could go on about their love story because it is an epic one. And perhaps in a future letter to you, I will write about love stories—real love stories—not the ones that are born from a person’s mind but the ones that are born from a person’s heart. But this is about art, not love. Just like The Masterpiecers is about art, not love. However, The Masterminds, book 2 in this series, is about love, all-encompassing, imperfect love. More on that very soon. I promise.

fontaine papa

A stylish bunch, aren’t we?

Being the daughter of an art-dealer, I got to travel throughout Europe and visit each and every museum that was ever built, and each and every historical relic (like fountains). Today, I am thankful to have been towed along on these incredibly boring and blister-inducing adventures. Back then, not so much. Instead of listening to a historian drone on about paint smears on a canvas, we’d make up games with my three siblings.

fontaine de treviI’m in the middle in yellow & green. (Nice hat, Vee…)

This mischievous companionship with my brother and two sisters, combined with creamy Italian gelato and glass dolphin necklaces made in Murano remain my fondest memories of my treks through Italy.

Actually the glass necklace is rather a sad memory for me. While both my sisters wore them nicely around their necks, I spun it around my finger to look at the light shine through it. My mother warned me that it would break, and that if it did, she wouldn’t replace it. Sure enough, it gyrated right off my finger and smashed against a car, shattering right along with my heart (there was no damage to the car).

True to her word, Mom did not buy me a new one. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the glass dolphin incident made me wise beyond my years, but it did teach me to be careful, just like visiting all these museums and historical sites taught me to care about art.

Art, be it painting, sculpture, photography, and more recently video art, reflects human emotions. Why didn’t I become an art-dealer? Because unlike Nathan, I’m a sucky salesperson. But I’d like to think that I became a form of artist through my writing.


Me in front of Jackson Pollock back in April. I’m pretty sure it was the day THE MASTERPIECERS hit bookshelves.

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