About the Escala building in Seattle, and especially Daniel Saint-Clair’s penthouse!

I start this long article with a coincidence…

Yes, my dear bloggers, readers, fans of a certain S&M saga (and worldwide bestseller) who happened to stumble upon my blog: I’ve chosen one of the penthouses in the Escala building in Seattle as the home of one of the main characters in my first novel “The Hawthorn’s Souls”. Yes, the same building and the same type of apartment as that of a certain Christian Grey.

Read on. Don’t be biased. Please be curious.

I’d like to make a (long) point today, so that on “D” day I don’t get asked the same question “X” times, and all the possible and imaginable derivatives.

On the choice of the L’Escala building, and in particular one of its penthouses (yes, there are several), as the home of Daniel Saint-Clair, in my book “The Hawthorn’s Souls”: This is in no way a reference, a wink, or even a tribute to a certain S&M book whose name I won’t mention.

Let me explain.

I had the idea for “The Hawthorn’s Souls” at the end of December 2008. The first draft was finished in July 2009 and registered at the SACD (a French collecting society, undertaking collective rights management for authors) on 11/10/2010 ; at that time E.L. James’ novel hadn’t been published in the U.S. yet – it won’t be until April 3, 2012 – and it had been originally self-published as an ebook and print-on-demand in June 2011. And from the very beginning I decided to set my actions in reality, to let people discover existing places. So almost all the locations of the actions in my book are real.

So, between 2008 and 2009, during my preliminary research, I needed to find a home for Daniel Saint-Clair. I scoured Seattle real estate websites, and one penthouse stood out from the rest. It was in a building under construction, and under the listing there was a beautiful drawing of a glass and steel tower seen at night, plans, artist’s views, and some photo montages, and most importantly, the brochure promised that the building would be the most lavish in Seattle.

Of course, I fell in love with it, and it met all my requirements. So I “bought” for Daniel Saint-Clair one of the Escala’s penthouses, at 1920 4th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101.

Of course, having the plans was a godsend. It’s also worth noting that this building is a bit of a rarity in Seattle, being (I think) the only one to achieve such a high level of luxury (both in terms of decoration, furnishings and equipment for the private areas, as well as the common areas and services offered to the residents), and it was the ideal place to house a billionaire.

Of course, I had no idea at the time that someone else had chosen the same building as the setting for an S&M novel.

In 2009, it’s important to remember that the building was under construction. So, throughout the writing of my book and for the next 4 years, I regularly searched for real photos, and I got some. Then, since the penthouses were hard to sell (with a price between 4 and 6 million dollars, it’s understandable), other photos appeared regularly. Finally, on September 6, 20121 , during yet another search, I was unpleasantly surprised to come across an article in the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS stating that one of the famous penthouses (which had just sold for a record price) was the main setting for an S&M book published in the U.S.A..

I have to admit it was a huge shock and a very, very, very bad moment. I think I went through 4 or 5 packs of tissues that night.

And I almost threw it all away, stopped everything. Because the idea that I might be criticized for plagiarism or for making a reference to the other book (I had heard about it, like almost everyone else, it was coming out in France, in a few days, on October 17, 20122 to be exact) drove me CRAZY.

But that’s a coincidence!

A hundred tons of bad luck!

So you’re going to say to me, “Then why didn’t you change the building?”

I thought about it for a quarter of a second and…

No !

I did not plagiarize! Legally speaking, the legal registration of my manuscript with the S.A.C.D. is prior to the American publication date of the novel by E. L. James. In short, I don’t have to change because someone else made the same choice of setting as I did, at the same time. And it’s an existing building, not an idea. There’s no intellectual property on real buildings. And most of all, I have nothing to blame myself for (which is exactly what I told myself).

But I went back to my first draft of “The Hawthorn’s Souls”3 to see if everything was there. And everything was there: the exact address of the building, the descriptions, everything, everything, everything… was there!


As you can imagine, I was pretty shaken up by this story. I was at a difficult time. After feedback from the reading committee of a major French publisher, I had decided to rework my book in “form”. That is, to go from 1 to 3 narrators, to restructure everything, to rewrite everything, once again. Because I believed and still believe in my story, and having a good story is all very well, but you still have to find the right way to tell it (I talk about that in this article).

So at that point, this twist of fate could have ended my perseverance. It was just too hard to change a setting that I love. You have to understand that I’ve been writing this book for almost 5 years, and I imagine my characters in places that are so familiar that they feel like home. I have very clear images of all these places in my head, and they’re all associated with action. When I have to write a scene, I project myself into it, and it’s immediately like a movie in front of my eyes. So changing the background (of my favorite scene) is totally impossible.

Today I accept this coincidence, I can answer it and I just did. Please, just don’t talk to me about it, it’s always a sensitive subject. And above all, please don’t make comparisons (we are not on the same subject, nor in the same register), you will be loved.

1- I don’t remember the date, I just saved the article that broke the bad news. 

2- E.L. James’ novel had been originally self-published as an ebook and print-on-demand in June 2011 and the publishing rights to the novel were acquired by Vintage Books in March 2012 and published in April 2012, in the U.S.A.

3- Completed in July 2009 and registered at the SACD on 11/10/2010.

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Solenne Le Goff

Author and scriptwriter, I have written a novel for young adults, “The Hawthorn’s Souls®© – Genesis”, and this is also my first novel in search of a publisher.

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