To write her latest novel, Ashley Prentice Norton eschewed Hamptons tradition: instead of hitting the beach, she spent her days hitting the books.
Photographed at c/o The Maidstone in East Hampton, where she has a home, Ashley Prentice Norton was mentored at NYU by the acclaimed novelist E.L. Doctorow.
“My family thought I was insane,” confesses author Ashley Prentice Norton about the endless hours she logged over the course of three years at the East Hampton Library writing her second novel, If You Left. “I wasn’t at the beach; I wasn’t at tennis. I loved working there all day. It’s a community and an ecosystem, in that there’s the same people, the same rituals, and you work on the same projects every time.”
Like her debut, The Chocolate Money, Norton’s new novel is about a family of great wealth and privilege (a topic she knows something about: Her great-great-grandfather was John D. Rockefeller). And yet, like its predecessor, it’s also a story illustrating the old adage that money can’t buy you happiness. The protagonist, Althea Willows, is grappling with bipolar disorder, which is challenging her marriage, work, and relationship with her daughter.
“I was initially writing a story about a mother having issues taking care of her child and having problems in her marriage,” says Norton, “and bipolar ultimately became the reason why.” Like Althea, the author has been diagnosed as bipolar, and while she understands that people will assume the book is semi-autobiographical, she’s happily married with three children. But Norton has no plans to return to the beach. “I’m going to be holed up this summer, working on my next novel.”