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Issue Date: September 2012

High Society

Claire McMillan's debut novel pays homage to her literary obsession while adding a bit of debauchery.
Lauren McGrath

Lawyer-turned-author Claire McMillan moved from Pasadena to Cleveland Heights eight years ago, and now lives with her husband on a farm just outside the city. In her first novel, she adapts Edith Wharton's classic The House of Mirth to present-day Cleveland. Complete with old money, scandal and sex, Gilded Age highlights plenty of landmarks and history that define the city — a place where the author now feels right at home.

Q. What made you decide to update The House of Mirth?

A. I first read Edith Wharton in college. After reading that book, I became a little bit obsessed. A few years ago, my husband actually gave me a first edition House of Mirth for my birthday because he knew it was one of my favorites.

Q. How did you decide what parts of the book to update and include in Gilded Age?

A. When I first decided to try this, I was too nervous to actually read my first-edition because I didn't want to mess it up, so I went out and bought a new paperback and I read it through once. I didn't refer back to it again. I just kind of let the scenes that lingered in my memory and what impacted me the strongest come through.

Q. Why did you base the book here?

A. I'm a huge Cleveland fan. I knew I wanted to set a work here. I just think Cleveland has really interesting social dynamics. I also thought that it was showing a side of Cleveland or telling a story about Cleveland that doesn't often get told.

Q. What did you learn about the city?

A. I started to feel a little bit more like Cleveland was actually my home. I started to feel a little bit less like a transplant from the West Coast and more like this is really a place I know now and really a place where I feel comfortable.

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