Estelle Laure and I met for a coffee late last week to talk about her life in Taos since signing a two-book deal with a prestigious Publishing House.
“Elizabeth Bewley at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers preempted North American rights to Estelle Laure’s This Raging Light, in a mid-six-figure, two-book, deal. Emily Van Beek at Folio Junior/Folio Literary Management represented the debut author. The novel follows a teenager and her younger sister as they try to deal with their mother’s sudden disappearance. Things become further complicated when older sister Lucille falls for her best friend’s brother. The publisher said the book is a “luminous portrait” of two young girls enduring hardship. Laure lives in New Mexico and received an M.F.A. from Vermont College of Fine Arts; Light is set for fall 2015.” ( Publishers Weekly June 2014)
Estelle or Starlet as I know her, by virtue of being a close friend of the uncle who bestowed the nickname, was born at Versailles and spent her childhood in Paris and London before coming to the States. After her parents went their separate ways, her mother came to Taos to start a business for her father who planned to move here upon his retirement.
Estelle’s grandfather, Ambassador William Eagleton met his first wife in Paris, where her father was the American Architect William Welles Bosworth, who had done the restorations on the Palace at Versailles during the 20’s.
Bill Eagleton and Francoise had five children. Dhyana, Estelle’s mother was the only daughter born to the two of them. When they separated, Francoise put herself through Medical School, five kids and all, and went on to become a Harley Street Surgeon.
Eagleton had spent time in Morocco during the late 40’s and 50’s and continued to maintain a residence there all his life with his second wife Kay, with whom he had three more children, one of them, another daughter. His bachelor apartment was passed on to the great American ex-pat writer, Paul Bowles. Bowles kept that flat until he died and the two men remained lifelong friends.
Bill Eagleton was one of the most interesting men of our time. One of the world’s foremost Arabists, a career diplomat, he came to the fore during the Kennedy years and worked for the State Department for the rest of his life. As well as Bowles, he counted among his close friends, the actress Ava Gardner. Famous friends aside, he dedicated much of his life to righting the wrongs of history toward the Kurds. He also collected Kurdish and other rare tribal carpets and had appointed his oldest daughter to open a rug shop in Taos in order to get a business going before his imminent arrival.
Dhyana arrived in Taos with her two kids in time for them to go to Taos High School and installed Bill’s lifetime collection of carpets in a shop on Bent Street aptly named Flying Carpet. When he and Kay arrived, she and her children were already a part of the community. His other children began to visit, a couple of them lived here for awhile but Bill found himself pulled out of his retirement more than once after finally settling in Taos. His expertise in many of the world’s hottest spots was too valuable an asset for him to be let go of that easily.
Little wonder then, given her illustrious and colourful family background, that Estelle has emerged from her own marital breakup, two children later, as a young writer to watch. Her day job as assistant to Emily Van Beek, the Agent who also happens to be her Literary Agent, takes up much of her time but that’s not stopping her from working on her next book.
“I could give up the job but I feel it’s a privilege to be on both sides of the desk,” she tells me.
She loves the Young Adult genre she’s working in, remembering how books were such a comfort to her during those uncertain years and believes that children’s literature period, remains a very important factor in childhood developement.
The book has been sold in twelve countries and is bound to be hugely succesful. She says the pressure is on but she doesn’t let it get to her. She’s going at a comfortable pace, making sure all she has on her plate, stays there. I have no doubt that it will. This beautiful, brilliant young woman has a personal history of dedication and discipline. An incredibly talented actress, Estelle got her degree in Drama at the University of New Mexico in Los Cruces, before working at the infamous Fred’s Place here in Taos for a couple of years. Most who have known her since then believed she’d go into Acting as a profession.
Fate intervened and she met the father of her children. They moved to the East Coast and she eventually returned to school for her Masters once their kids were old enough for her to expand her horizons a bit.
Back in Taos with her two kids, unfazed by the attention, the six figure advance and all the fuss, Starlet arrived for our chat with her son (who wasn’t feeling well) in tow, on her way to pick up her daughter from school.
Dressed in sweatpants, devoid of makeup, hair pulled up in a messy ponytail, she looked like a lot of other young Taos moms on duty and that’s the way she likes it. Taos is where she is free to be exactly who she is with no pretension and no one to impress. She’s home.
“I love Taos,” she says, ” all my friends are here, people who I’ve known since High School, we have kids now, we’re older, but it’s still a close-knit group. I feel so lucky.”
As we got ready to leave the cafe where we met, we exchanged small talk about our families and such, before heading out into the cold, when she stopped before going out the door and turned to me.
“You know Taos is a remarkable place, I think it’s the only place on earth where nobody judges you in terms of your monetary worth or what you do.”
“Here,” she noted, “it’s more about, how creative are you?”
Photographs of Estelle Laure by Melissa Haye-Cserhat