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Kate Spencer on romanticising New York

Kate Spencer on romanticising New York

There is nothing inherently romantic about living in New York City. It’s a place that makes you earn your stay, whether with the absurd cost of rent, a twenty-minute walk from your apartment to the bus stop in the middle of a blizzard just to get to work, or squeezing onto a crowded subway car at rush hour in the summer heat, only to find out the air conditioner is broken. Life in New York demands blood, sweat, and tears. But once you band-aid up your blisters, wipe your brow, and dry your eyes, you begin to see it: the absolute magic the city gives you as a reward for making it through another day.

As a former New Yorker, this is what I treasure most about it, and what I wanted to capture in my novel In a New York Minute. The romance, the magic, the spark of New York City — this shines through in spite of the hard moments, like sunlight beaming in through a cracked door. The older neighbour who’s lived in your apartment building for decades and leaves cookies in the mailroom, the quiet that falls the streets in a snowstorm as cross-country skiers race down avenues covered in white, the shared eye roll with a fellow sweaty stranger across the train. These extraordinary moments are the beating heart of the city, and what can make even the most jaded New Yorkers fall in love with the place all over again.

Of course, I’ve long adored the romantic comedies that capture the city’s classic beauty, whether it’s Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal meandering through Central Park under a canopy of fall’s brightest leaves in When Harry Met Sally, or that ice skating scene in Serendipity as Nick Drake’s ‘Northern Sky’ plays (I could cry just thinking about it). New York is easy on the eyes, and its picturesque neighbourhoods and stunning sunsets are endless. This part of the writing process was especially fun for me and allowed me to escape back to the city I love, even though I now live thousands of miles away in California. I’d sit at my desk in Los Angeles, and daydream about my main character, Franny, walking through her picturesque Brooklyn Heights neighbourhood, with its gas lantern-lit brownstones and tree-lined streets. Even though I’ve never attended a black-tie gala, much less one in the iconic Great Hall of the Natural History Museum, writing the swoony, slow-dance scene between Franny and her love interest, Hayes, was almost as exciting as scoring a real-life invite.

But more than anything I wanted to make sure that the love that grew between them was born in the challenging and authentic moments that I remember most about the city. It’s easy to fall in love with a handsome stranger in a dimly light ballroom. But true love, like living in New York, isn’t that simple. You have to work for it, struggle with it, and fight to find those cracks where the light comes through. The happy endings we love in romance books mirror the magic the city unleashes if you just stick with it. And that is what makes living and falling in love in New York City so damn worth it, whether it be in fiction, or the real thing.

In A New York Minute by Kate Spencer, published in paperback by Pan, £8.99 

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