The Year of Living Famously, Laura’s third novel, tackles the precarious world of celebrity and details the trials that befall a marriage when immense fame is added to the mix. Kyra Felis is a struggling clothing designer in Manhattan. Sure, she isn’t making much money on her designs, but she works temp jobs and has the small payments from the trust fund her parents had set up before they died. Her last relationship ended years ago and she’s hit that point in her mid-thirties when she won’t date just for the sake of dating. She has her girlfrineds, her routine, her neighborhood, her work. Her life is just fine. But after a chance encounter with a celebrity, Kyra’s life changes in ways she could never imagine. The Year of Living Famously explores what it’s truly like to experience sudden stardom from its exhilarating highs to its crushing lows. Bestselling author Carole Matthews (For Better, For Worse) says, “This is a stylish, sassy novel that shows the dark side that haunts the world of glamour and glitz.”
Until that night in Vegas, I was the girl in back of the line at the nightclub, the girl who always had to wait for a cab. I was ordinary. I was just like anyone else.
I was with my friend Bobby that night, and we were staying at Mandalay Bay, where Bobby’s talent agency had unknowingly sprung for a two-bedroom suite. Bobby’s a film agent, and he was there to watch one of his clients in some high-end cabaret show. Bobby and I met when we were in grad school in Manhattan (me at FIT for fashion design, he at NYU for creative writing). Although he lived in L.A. now, and we hadn’t seen each other in a year, we were fabulous purveyors of the witty voice mail and the novel-length email, so we still knew all about each other; we felt as connected as we had back then.
We hit the Strip with a vengeance that Friday night, throwing ourselves headlong into the glitter and the lights, pretending we weren’t in our early thirties, that the vodka martinis wouldn’t make our heads scream the next morning. We roared with laughter at the stories we knew by heart and updated each other with new ones, our exaggerations and outlandish details showing how much we’d learned about creativity in grad school.
At midnight, we were fairly stumbling through the lobby of the Bellagio, past the jangling slot machines and the occasional shouts of triumph from the craps tables, when Bobby stopped and peered through the crowd, his dark eyes narrowing.
“Is it Trent?” I said, referring to Bobby’s friend we were supposed to meet. The guy’s full name was Trent Tanning, which sounded made up and Hollywood. I wondered whether I would like him at all.
Bobby shook his head, and his tight, black curly hair gleamed under the lights.
A pack of about ten people were moving through the tables and slots. Muscle-bound guys flanked the group, swiveling their heads menacingly, like they’d pummel you if you got too close. In the center was a woman who looked familiar — tall and model-thin with hair the color of oatmeal. The others gravitated toward her, glancing at her constantly, leaning in to whisper in her ear.
When they were about ten feet away, they turned and began walking in a different direction.
“Lauren!” Bobby yelled, and the entire entourage froze like deer that sense a rifle is near.
The big guys glared in Bobby’s direction and held out their arms as if to shield the group. The woman looked vaguely in Bobby’s direction, but then her studied expression shifted into a luminous smile.
“Bobby Minter!” she called. “What are you doing here?”
She wafted through her group, past the big men who appeared annoyed at the break in formation. She was wearing a vintage taupe dress with a cowl-neck. By this time I had figured out that she was Lauren Stapleton, the actress. I’d seen a few of her films — romantic comedies, the type people see when they need one hundred and twenty minutes of escapism. Lauren played the geeky but gorgeous girl, the one you wanted the hero to fall for, which he certainly would in the last few scenes, leaving the audience feeling all was right with the world, that it was okay, in your own life, to be divorced, overweight and in debt.
Bobby hugged her. “I’m mixing business with a little too much pleasure. Lauren, this is my friend, Kyra Felis.”
She gave me the wide, toothy grin I’d seen on-screen. She towered over me in her blond greatness, making me feel tiny and dark. Of course, I am tiny and dark about five-one with wide brown eyes and black-brown, shoulder-length hair. None of this has ever been a problem before, but beside Lauren it all felt inadequate.
“You’re in the business?” she asked me. Her voice was pleasant but bored, as if to say, Isn’t it all such a pain in the ass?
“Oh, God no,” I said.
Something snapped shut in her face, and she turned to Bobby. Soon, they were engaged in a serious discussion about whether a producer they knew had a heroin addiction or whether it was just cocaine. Bobby always got very dishy when he spoke to movie people, a trait that amused me, since Bobby’s real goal in life was to write quiet, literary novels.
As they talked, I noticed one of the men from their group, a tousle-haired brunette in a suede jacket, standing at a nearby blackjack table. He was making one of the normally stoic dealers bite his lip with laughter.
I wandered over to the guy, not even sure what drew me. I wasn’t looking for a pillow partner, and although I was bored by Bobby and Lauren, it was something more than that. I keep asking myself why I took those ten steps, because it seems to matter. Everything would be different if I hadn’t.
There I was, drawn to that slightly shaggy hair, the dark gold suede of his jacket, the glow that emanated from this guy as every player at the blackjack table gazed at him and laughed.
I heard the last lines of his joke as I neared. “So your man says, ‘No, I’ll shove it up your arse.'” Although I hadn’t heard the beginning, I could tell it wasn’t my type of humor. In fact, under normal circumstances, even if I had been looking for a little action, I would have turned around right then. But it was his elegant manner despite the crass words. It was his light Irish brogue that sounded, somehow, like warm caramel on the tongue. It was the good-natured, almost childlike, grin that made me chuckle along with the rest of the group.
“Like that one, did you?” he said when he saw me.
“I’ve heard better.”
“Yeah?” He smiled. His teeth were unnaturally white and straight. I should have known then that he was an actor.
“Definitely,” I said.
“So let’s hear one.” He faced the blackjack table. “Lads, the lady has a joke to tell.” There were two older men in golf shirts, a Hispanic guy who looked about fifteen and two mafioso types with slicked-back hair and jackets with huge shoulder pads. They all looked at me expectantly.
“Oh, no,” I said. “No jokes from me. I can’t remember them.”
“Bollocks,” the Irish guy said. “You can’t tell me that you’ve heard better and not tell one yourself.”
“That’s true,” said one of the mafia dudes. “Ya gotta tell one now.”
“Really, I don’t have any.” I hoped Bobby would call my name.
“We’re all waiting,” the Hispanic guy said.
I’m not normally a blusher, but I felt my face coloring. The golden Irish boy was grinning, his face bordering on a smirk, the two older men seemed impatient and the mafia guys looked as if they’d fit me with concrete boots if I didn’t get on with it.
The Irish guy leaned in. “Do you want me to save you?” he said in that wonderful voice, his breath warm in my ear. I felt like kissing him then. The desire came that quick.
“Um, sure,” I said, not clear what he meant. Not caring.
He leaned even closer, so the suede lapel of his jacket brushed against the skin at the scoopnecked opening of my dress. I was wearing one of my own designs, a fifties-inspired number with a high waist, and I wondered if he thought it attractive.
“I’ll give you a wee one,” he said, “and then you can tell them.”
I can no longer remember the beginning of the joke. Something about a priest in a rowboat. I was too aware of the nearness of him, too focused on that warm, smooth voice. Then there was a staccato of sounds like quiet gunfire and everything went white, white, white. It took me a moment to realize it was cameras flashing. In the next moment, the Irish guy was jerked away by one of Lauren’s bodyguards.
“Can’t you leave me alone?” Lauren said as she licked her lips prettily and shook her hair away from her face.
The photographers got a few more shots before the bodyguards grabbed Lauren, too. Within seconds, the pack of photographers was running after the group, leaving Bobby and me alone.
“Welcome to Hollywood,” Bobby said.
I laughed at the commotion. “What was that?”
“Paparazzi,” Bobby said. “Par for the course. I bet Lauren leaked where she would be.”
“She’d do that?”
“Lauren? Oh, sure. C’mon, let’s find Trent.” He took my arm and led me toward the bar.
“So, who was that Irish guy?”
I tried to sound only mildly interested. Bobby and I had fooled around once in grad school and since then we didn’t often talk about the people we were sleeping with or the ones we wanted to sleep with.
“Some actor. Declan something. He’s in her new film, so they’re dating now.” Bobby made air quotes with his fingers as he said the word dating. “She had to do something to deflect attention from that rapper business.” He named a rapper who Lauren used to be involved with, someone who was now in prison for drug trafficking and murder-for-hire.
By then Bobby’s eyes were darting around the room, looking for Trent, bored already with the topic of Lauren and the Irish guy. So I dropped it. I’d never see him again anyway.
* * * * * * * *
I’m a minor celebrity now.
A minor celebrity should be distinguished from a true-blue-can’t-shop-for-Tampax-without-a-photo-being-taken celebrity. That’s not me, thank God, not anymore. I couldn’t stand the constant staring, the feeling that you always have to look presentable when you stop at a gas station. A minor celebrity, in contrast, is someone who gains notoriety for something quite small or, rather, on the coattails of someone else. In my case, I suppose both of these are true.
Only occasionally does anyone recognize the minor celebrity on the street, but once introduced at a party, people respond with, Oh, I know you. I read about you in People magazine. And suddenly others at the party who’ve heard the comment turn to catch a look at you, and the buzz slips through the party like smoke. Soon, people are watching how much salmon mousse you put on your cracker, whether you’re getting blotto on that red wine.
My celebrity status has been good for the sale of my designs, certainly. All my clothes with my diamond circle logo (some of them with real diamonds now instead of CZs) are moving fast. Still, I was never one of those people who worshipped celebrities, probably because I didn’t need it. I’ve always had at least a vague sense of who I am, where I’m going, what I want to do with the next minute of my life. This trait made me something of a freak when I was younger, one of those girls who was bored by the cliques in school, the sharing of nail polish and the double-dating for dances. I was more interested in reading the novels and short stories my parents left behind or making skirts from old tablecloths.
It’s not that I didn’t have friends throughout my life. There was Bobby. There was Margaux and the girls here in New York. And of course there was always Emmie, my godmother, who’s cared for me since I was a kid.
Anyway, I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that, relatively speaking, I had it together. I knew myself, my life, my place in it. So if you’re looking for a story about a poor neurotic girl who finally turned her life around, this isn’t it. This is about how I met Declan McKenna, and how my world went spinning.
“Plenty of women wonder what it would be like to be married to a movie star, but designer Kyra Felis finds out when she marries Irish actor Declan McKenna. When Kyra meets Declan in Las Vegas, he is on the cusp of stardom. The two have a whirlwind courtship, and Declan proposes after a few months. Kyra is reluctant to leave New York for L.A., but her love for Declan wins out. At first, it’s just a matter of adjusting to the culture and attending a premiere here and there, but then Normandy is released to rave reviews and an eager, vast audience, and its star, Declan, and, by default, Kyra are launched into superstardom. Everyone wants to interview Declan, and the paparazzi follow the couple everywhere. Declan’s success helps to launch Kyra’s clothing line, but she is not sure she can deal with life in the spotlight. Caldwell’s snazzy, gripping third novel gives readers an exciting taste of life in the fast lane, exposing the truth behind the fairy tale.”
“To sit down and write a book about the pitfalls of achieving sudden fame in Hollywood is bold for a born-and-bred Chicago girl, but local author Laura Caldwell, who just published her third novel, is quite adept at pushing the “What would happen if?” button. Her last book, A Clean Slate, pursued the question, “What would happen if one were to mysteriously lose her memory of the past five months, and suddenly have the option to start anew?” Her newest, The Year of Living Famously, posits, “What would happen if an aspiring young fashion designer were to unwittingly fall into the limelight by marrying an Irish It-Boy actor?” Close your eyes. Imagine Colin Farrell as the lead. OK, now open your eyes and read — we promise it will be as fast and fun as reading US Weekly. Only better, because, thanks to the talented Caldwell, you’ll actually like the people you’re reading about.”
“Chicagoan Laura Caldwell plumbs the downside of overnight celebrity in her latest chick-lit offering.”
“An entertaining tale…. The novel shows a dark side to the world of glamour and celebrity.”
-Northwest Herald Online
“Sharply observed, fresh, and compelling, The Year of Living Famously is a captivating look into the cult of celebrity.”
-Author Leslie Stella
“A stylish, sassy novel that shows the dark side that haunts the world of glamour and glitz. Laura Caldwell paints a sensitive picture of two ordinary lives thrown into turmoil by the pressures of fame. If you’ve ever thought you want to live the life of the rich and famous — think again!”
-New York Times best-selling author Carole Matthews
“Hollywood power players, paparazzi and overzealous fans — Laura Caldwell takes readers inside the precarious world of celebrity with a captivating story about the cost of following your dreams and the high price of fame.”
-Author Jennifer O’Connell
“The latest fashion-related fable….”
“With a realistic heroine and plenty of celebrity topics (such as award shows), Caldwell’s third Red Dress Ink novel is sure to please celebraholics and chick lit fans alike.”
“Through the eyes of Caldwell’s narrator Kyra Felis, an average thirtysomething who happens to fall into a relationship with a celebrity, you’ll get a real taste of what it’s like to swim in the fishbowl of fame. By the book’s end, chances are you won’t be so ready to propose to George Clooney, Ben Affleck or Tom Cruise. But you’ll be rooting for Kyra to somehow figure out how to get back to living a normal life without losing the man she loves.”
-The Daily Buzz morning show (which selected The Year of Living Famously as their Chick-Lit Pick of the Month)
“By turn funny, charming, scary, and completely entertaining, I really think that this is one of the finest chick lit books I have ever read … a thoughtfully written story with an ending that will have you cheering, ‘You go, girl!'”
-The Beacher Weekly Newspaper
“Ever wonder what it would be like to be married to a famous movie star? Do you think you’d be able to handle the constant attention, media circus and fame that comes along with it? No matter what your answers to those questions are, you will enjoy Laura Caldwell’s novel The Year of Living Famously. In this novel she explores the ups and downs of having a famous husband…. Will Kyra be able to handle this? Will her sudden fame help, or destroy, her budding design business? Find out by reading this well-written, absorbing novel. I’ve come to expect that any novel by Laura Caldwell will be well-written, out of the ordinary, unusual story lines that are ultimately satisfying. The Year of Living Famously is no exception — I adored it. The characterization is excellent; the story moves right along and is riveting.”
“The Year of Living Famously surprised even this reader. Let’s face it — I’ll probably never marry George Clooney, but I can now sympathize with his various significant others, and, even though I may be totally in love (why won’t he return my calls??), I can sort of empathize with Kyra’s plight of putting up with paparazzi 24/7, lots of backstabbing, and even the agony of deciding which dress to wear to the Oscars. For a change of pace, pick up The Year of Living Famously. You’ll never look at the red carpet the same again.”
-Romance Reviews Today
Some girls seek fame, others have it thrust upon them….
Clothing designer Kyra Felis has never been one to worship celebrities — she’d rather read a good book or make a blouse out of an old tablecloth. She marries Hollywood up-and-comer Declan McKenna for love, with no inkling of how his newfound notoriety will send her life spinning out of control.
But once Kyra reluctantly becomes a celebrity by association there’s no turning back. And even though she has all the trappings of success, she can’t do the things that make her happy — throw a party; drink a glass of wine (or four) at a quiet café; confide in her friends. When Declan’s fame literally endangers Kyra’s life, she starts to wonder, can she survive more than a year of living famously?