Inspired by my lifelong love of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and my more recent interest in the Morgan Library in New York, I wrote The Ghost of Madison Avenue, a novella set in 1912 NYC.
I'd always loved a Christmas ghost story. Much of the novella takes place at J. P. Morgan’s Library, at Madison and 36th Street, one of my favorite haunts (so to speak!) in New York City. In 1912, it was not a museum — it was where financier Morgan spent much of his time, as did his brilliant head librarian, Belle da Costa Greene. After I wrote this in 2019, I was excited to see an explosion of interest in Belle, such as the 2021 historical novel The Personal Librarian.
But one of my other chief motivations was to tell the story of an Irish-American family. My main character, Helen O'Neill, is a young widow with certain gifts that she herself doesn't understand. I've dedicated this novella to my mother, whose maiden name was Mary Elizabeth O'Neill. She grew up in Chicago, not New York. But in both places, the Irish experience is a rich, textured, dramatic one. It was wonderful to write about it!
Mariah Fredericks, author of The Lindbergh Nanny and the upcoming The Wharton Plot, said about the novella:
"The Gilded Age splendors of the Morgan Library come to life in this wonderful, warm-hearted tale of Christmases past, present, and future. Bilyeau weaves a wealth of gorgeous period detail into her ghost story of old New York, delivering genuine chills, family drama, and poignant romance with equal skill. A gorgeous holiday treat!"So if you're in the mood to read a Christmas ghost story, think of mine!