Elizabeth Ames had been writing fiction about what she was living through — the early days of new motherhood — when she found herself moving, with her husband and young daughter, into Quincy House, one of Harvard’s residential dorms, where her husband serves as a resident tutor.
“I was suddenly carrying my six-month-old around the heart of campus, with all this back to school energy,” Ames said. Watching the students who surrounded her now, Ames added, “I was fascinated by what I perceived as the intensity of these friendships. I love campus novels and I love books about friendship. I became interested in this stretch of time from when you leave home, and sort of forge new identities, to starting your own home.”
Now beginning her fourth year living in a college dorm, Ames has just published her debut novel, “The Other’s Gold,” which follows four roommates through their first days of college over a decade of relationships, marriage, motherhood, and more.
Though she stresses that “nothing in the book comes from any specific person,” Ames said that the kernel of inspiration came from the students and the friendships swirling around her. As for creating four distinct main characters, she said, “I really feel like characters are the part that’s sort of like magic in fiction. If you just keep writing sentences, and keep writing scenes, these people will just reveal themselves.”
Although she’s not sure how much longer her family — which now includes two small children — will inhabit Quincy House, Ames appreciates the lifestyle. “There’s so much to recommend dorm life to adults!” she said. “That time when you have a new child can be really isolating, and I found a real warmth and community at Quincy House during that tender time. I’m so grateful.”
Ames will read, in discussion with Joanna Rakoff, on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Belmont Books.
Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at email@example.com.