A Conversation with Elisabeth Amaral, author of Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup
A native New Yorker, I have lived in the city for much of my life. My first jobs after graduating from NYU were jewelry design and case worker for the Departments of Welfare of New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts. This was followed by co-ownership of a children’s boutique (Czar Nicholas and the Toad) and a restaurant (Duck Soup) in Cambridge near Harvard Square. I then worked as an industrial purchasing agent in New Jersey, and for the last 25 years have been a real estate broker in Manhattan, accumulating stories of the wonder and madness that is this city. I published a book of short stories (When Any Kind of Love Will Do), wrote two children’s books and a memoir (Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup), and am currently working on a novel.
For More Information
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Elisabeth! Can you tell us where you are from?
I’m a native New Yorker, born in Brooklyn.
Q: How did you come up with your title?
Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup are the names of the three businesses that I describe in the book. The whimsical sound of the title reflects some of the innocence, fun and excitement of the mid 1960s and 70s. Czar Nicholas was the name of my earring business in Boston and Cambridge. The Toad was the name of a small craft store on Franklin Street in Cambridge. Czar Nicholas and the Toad was the children’s boutique between Harvard and Porter Squares that we opened together based on instant friendship. Duck Soup was the restaurant opened by my first husband and me, in Harvard Square, which wouldn’t have happened had there not been a snow storm.
Q: They say you can judge a book by its cover. Can you tell us a little about your cover and who designed it?
The cover is a photograph of my then ten-month-old son and me, on Second Avenue in the EastVillage, in New York City. It was taken by my ex-husband. My memoir was almost finished when he sent it to me, and I immediately knew that it would be the cover.
Q: Can you tell us something about your book that would make me run out and buy it?
Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup is a true story of the search for sexual identity that many can relate to. It’s funny, adventurous, heartbreaking, and real. I put my soul into it, and the spirit of those times shines through on every page. Also, there are great photographs and recipes, as well as memories contributed by people you may or may not know.
Q: Are there any messages in this book that you want the reader to know about?
Stay true to yourself no matter how difficult it is, and don’t give up.
Q: What was your most favorite chapter to write and why?
It’s a tie between the first chapter and the last. After completing the first, I knew I was on my way. The sense of accomplishment and pride with the last chapter was overwhelming. But for fun, the Wedding chapter, near the beginning, because the occasion was unusually amusing.
Q: Why did you feel you had to write this book?
These are treasured memories I wanted to preserve for myself, my family, and for readers who could benefit and enjoy it. I also knew that many men and women lived my situation in secret or in ignorance. It shouldn’t be.
Q: Now, some fun questions – What deep dark secret would you like to share with us?
I’ve shared them all. They’re in the book. But if I had to share one right now, I stood naked in El Yunque, the Puerto Rican rain forest. That was shortly before I spent the night in a nearby chicken coop.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Istanbul, for the intrigue.
Q: Are you a morning person or a night person?
Q: Are there any members in your family who also like to write?
I don’t know if they like it, but most of them are excellent writers, with several of them quite gifted.
Q: As a child, were you a dreamer?
I was and I am.
Q: Last but not least, the magic genie has granted you one wish. What would that be?
To live long and prosper.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview! Do you have any final words?
Yes. I appreciate the opportunity to describe my book. Thank you.