There are a few things you don’t expect to see on the cover of a novel. Socialite Tinsley Mortimer’s name is probably one of them. And yet next month, Mortimer, the “It” girl-turned-handbag designer-turned-reality star, will publish her first novel, Southern Charm, about a “Southern Belle thrust into the frenzied world of high society in New York City.” In other words, it’s a roman à clef, and not a very veiled one at that. The book’s plot couldn’t any more closely mirror Mortimer’s real life (or that which she is somewhat public about) without having to be marketed as a memoir.
Mortimer, who co-wrote Southern Charm with “a friend,” didn’t feel the need to get overly creative with the book’s characters. The heroine is named Minty Randolph Mercer Davenport. Mortimer’s real name? Tinsley Randolph Mercer Mortimer. Minty has a Chihuahua named Belly. Mortimer’s Chihuahua is named Bella. Minty hails from South Carolina. Mortimer was raised in Virginia. Both Davenport and Mortimer move to Manhattan, marry into old-school, blue blood New York families, become boldfaced “It” girls and then end up in highly publicized break-ups.
Mortimer’s literary agent, Mollie Glick of Foundry Literary + Media told The New York Times that her client received a “healthy six figures” advance “in the ballpark of what TV personalities have been getting.” Not too shabby for the star of High Society, Mortimer’s failed 2010 reality TV show, which has the dubious distinction of being the lowest rated series debut on the CW, the network which also broadcasts Gossip Girl.
But will Southern Charm bring Mortimer fame and front row seats at Fashion Week (which some insiders say she lost due to the dismal response to High Society) or the scorn of the social world? Let’s not forget that celebrated author Truman Capote went from hosting the Black and White Ball in 1966 at The Plaza Hotel (a raving success) to being blacklisted by society swans like Babe Paley after excerpts of his unfinished novel Answered Prayers appeared in Esquire in 1975. After Capote’s chapter “La Côte Basque 1965” was published and was unmistakably similar to the lives of his good friends CBS founder William S. Paley and his wife Babe, Mrs. Paley led a brigade to ostracize Capote who went from being the confidant of the ladies who lunched at La Côte Basque to someone very few people in Manhattan wanted to meet for a hot dog on a street corner. Yet, Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City, based on people she knows in Manhattan, has turned her into a literary star.
“Books are the new handbag lines for socialites and celebrities,” quips Alexandra Lebenthal, a financial advisor, black tie party fixture and the author of The Recessionistas, a roman à clef about four women struggling with the economic downturn. “It’s a good thing to have on your résumé.”