“It’s not like I was raised to the manner born,” said the socialite and author Tatiana Boncompagni on a recent afternoon as she lunched at Bottega del Vino in midtown.
On Sept. 9, Ms. Boncompagni will publish her first novel, Gilding Lily, about a simple girl from Nashville named Lily who is embraced by New York society when she marries a millionaire, then dumped by her fancy friends. Ms. Boncompagni’s publisher, HarperCollins, has marketed her as a descendant of Italian nobility and 16th-century Pope Gregory XIII, but she insists that her background is closer to that of her character’s, as she grew up in South Dakota and Nashville with a mother who left her noble roots behind when she married Ms. Boncompagni’s father, a Jewish man from the Midwest. (Ms. Boncompagni says her mother decided to give her children her last name because she thought it would be easier for them to then get Italian passports.)
“It’s always allowed me to see things from an outsider’s perspective,” said Ms. Boncompagni of her upbringing. “And the big thing with me has always been to figure out my desire to belong.”
Ms. Boncompagni, 31, has dark brown hair, olive skin and big brown eyes, and wore slimming white jeans, a white tank top and a red cardigan. After Georgetown, she was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal; she has also freelanced for The New York Times’ Styles section. At 25, she married Maximilian Hoover, an heir to the vacuum cleaner fortune whom she met through friends, thereby initiating her into New York society.
Nevertheless, Ms. Boncompagni claims that her protagonist is more of a society girl than she ever was. “I would never attempt to say that I had It Girl status,” she said. “[Lily’s] fall from grace was different because she came from a much higher place than I did.
“My first introduction to it was all good,” she continued. “I had my picture in Women’s Wear Daily, we won a trip to Venice at the annual Venice Ball, and I had this gorgeous fiancé.”
But then the combination of having her son, Enrico; tensions with her mother-in-law, actress Camilla Sparv; and having a few society gals spread unpleasant rumors about her made Ms. Boncompagni feel excluded: “There I was in my husband’s boxers and an old Hanes T-shirt, with my son nursing off of one of my gargantuan breasts.”
A party on Tuesday celebrating her book will be hosted by socialites Tinsley Mortimer, Lydia Fenet and Jennifer Creel; Gilt Groupe vice president Christian Leone; and the actress Emmy Rossum.
“New York is a totally different animal than, say, Nashville society—it never becomes as vicious as it does here,” she said, though she hastened to add that she did not include the friends throwing her the party in this characterization. “These girls are very ambitious. They want to be famous and they want all the power that goes along with being famous.” Ms. Boncompagni added that she has been accused of being a social climber; there were also rumors that she was planting items in gossip columns.
Ms. Boncompagni’s novel may seem like another socialite book about the inner workings of privilege and class—think Plum Sykes’ Bergdorf Blondes or Holly Peterson’s The Manny—but she hopes her story will seem more “thoughtful.”
“As a writer I’m motivated by exploring the human condition,” said Ms. Boncompagni, who cites F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton as influences. “I wanted to investigate why anyone would want to belong to this group of catty women. I was definitely sucked in by the desire for fame and status, and wanted to explore why a character would.”
Ms. Boncompagni’s husband tends to stay out of the limelight. “He’s such a private person, and it’s just not done to put yourself out there in articles or books like I have,” she said. (She is working on another novel, titled Hedge Fund Wives.)
“But this is how society is changing. You used to just see the picture of the beautiful girl in the beautiful dress,” she said. “But now you see these tremendously intimate profiles and girls courting that. Ivanka Trump on the cover of the New York Post—10 years ago that would be a scandal! But of course now it’s like, ‘She’s a smart girl, she’s very real.’”