Interview with Elisabeth Amaral, author of Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup

Elizabeth AmaralA 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.

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About the Book:

Czar Nicholas 2The mid-1960s through the mid-1970s was a heady, turbulent time. There was a lot going on back then, and author Elisabeth Amaral was in the middle of it all: the fights for women’s rights, racial equality, a music revolution, be-ins, love-ins, riots in the streets, the rage against the Vietnam War, and sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It was an amazing time to be young.

In Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup, Amaral shares her recollections of those times. She and her husband gave up their jobs in New York City, relocated to Boston with their infant son because of mime, unexpectedly started a children’s boutique, and opened a popular restaurant in Harvard Square. Most of all it is a coming-of-age story about herself and her husband as they embarked on an improbable and moving journey of self-discovery.

With sincerity and humor, Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup offers a personal and revealing account that reaches out to those who find themselves striving to make a relationship work that, by its very nature, may be doomed. But this story is also one of friendship—and of finding the courage to move on.

“A truly wonderful memoir that reads like great fiction. The characters come alive on the page.” – Elizabeth Brundage, author of The Doctor’s Wife and A Stranger Like You.

“The story of how Liz Amaral and her husband became successful at the epicenter of counterculture businesses near Harvard Square / Cambridge from 1967-1975 with their boutique and restaurant is told with humor and insight. Swirling around them are all of the entrapments of the era, the drugs and free love and betrayal, as well as the politics that defined the times.

With a fierce dedication to her son and husband, Liz Amaral triumphs in this stunning memoir where she discovers that, while love isn’t always what we think it is, it remains, in all its multi-faceted transformations, the driving force of who we are and how we live our lives.” – P.B. O’Sullivan, writer and mathematician

“In her intimate and humorous memoir, Liz Amaral reveals the challenges of a young family establishing a home in Cambridge amid the tumult of the late 1960s. You will discover the disconcerting truth about her marriage and the painful path she takes to find herself again. A true adventure of the heart.” – Kathrin Seitz, writer, producer, and coach

For More Information

  • Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Hi, Elisabeth. What made you decide to become a published author?

I love stories. I love reading them and writing them. The first book I wrote, a collection of short stories called When Any Kind of Love Will Do, began with the simple need to write them down. As my involvement and dedication to the compilation progressed, so did my desire to see it completed, published, and read by others.

Would you consider your latest book, Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup, to be a one of a kind? How so?

I do consider my memoir one of a kind. All memoirs are specific to the writer’s life and I led an interesting life back in the day. It takes place in the mid 60s to mid 70s, a turbulent and thrilling time to be young. I was in a mixed-orientation marriage at a time when homosexuality was barely discussed or understood. Together, we had a child and shared our working life. Our handmade beaded earrings that we sold on the streets of Cambridge unexpectedly led to our starting an upscale children’s boutique and a restaurant in Harvard Square. Recipes from Duck Soup are included, as are photographs and memories shared by people who were part of our adventure. Above all, Czar Nicholas, The Toad and Duck Soup is a heartfelt and honest story of enduring friendship and love.

Where is your writing sanctuary?

I wish I had a writing sanctuary, but I live in a one-bedroom apartment on a crowded, noisy corner in Manhattan. I write in the living room, either at the dining table or in a red leather chair. I do have a writing ritual. I never write without wearing earrings or my favorite ring, and I begin my writing day with a cup of Hu-Kwa tea stirred with a teaspoon of Tasmanian Leatherwood honey.

What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?

A writer should not compromise his or her genuine vision.

What inspires you?

The first time I began to really believe in myself as a writer was in a Method Writing group. It was one of those serendipitous groupings of talent that urged me on, and that experience continues to be a source of inspiration. I’m also inspired by the writers that I read, my writing group, and the unexpected news story or conversation that reveals something special.

What is one thing you learned about your book after it was published?

I am surprised and gratified at how much it is appreciated by the people who have read it.

Why do you love to write memoir?

You’re concocting a recipe for a best selling book. What’s the first ingredient?

What’s one fun fact about your book people should know?

In writing my memoir I contacted people from my restaurant, Duck Soup. It was a popular restaurant in Harvard Square from 1970 to 1975. The enthusiasm of the staff and the importance of the restaurant in their lives, looking back, was a surprise and a pleasure to share. So were their stories, some of which I’ve included in the book, along with recipes and photographs.

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?

Reading, music, movies, The New York Times crossword puzzle, travel.

What’s next for you?

A mystery/love story set in downtown Manhattan.


1 Comment

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One response to “Interview with Elisabeth Amaral, author of Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup

  1. Janice Silver

    I read this wonderful book a few weeks ago and I am ready to start it again! That’s how much I enjoyed reading every word. It was special and delightful. It would appeal to anyone. I can’t recommend it enough.

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