“A Paris Year” by Janice MacLeod: Author Interview (+ GIVEAWAY!)

Janice MacLeod is the New York Times bestselling author of Paris Letters, a charming memoir of a Canadian copywriter’s leap from corporate day job to a creative life in the City of Light.

A page from A Paris Year.

MacLeod is back with her second book now. A Paris Year is less memoir and more sophisticated visual journal. Janice is not only an ace writer, you see. She’s also a talented artist; the book is full of her photographs and watercolor paintings. If she weren’t so delightful, one might almost be jealous of her overabundance of gifts.

But she is delightful! It’s our good fortune to get to go along for the ride she takes us on. A Paris Year: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World (St. Martin’s Griffin) follows a curious, creative soul’s discovery of Paris. With a whimsical, humorous style, the days fly beautifully by.

In honor of the book’s launch next week, I’m thrilled to offer not just one, but TWO free copies of A Paris Year. Simply comment by June 23, 10 am EST to enter. I’m thrilled, as well, to welcome Janice to the blog. We just missed each other in Paris. I would love to have met her in person. But she sparkles on the page as you’ll soon see.

Paris Letters was your inspirational tale of following a dream. A Paris Year is more curated journal, a combination of personal and historical anecdotes matched with your photographs, watercolors, and other artistic touches. I know a little something about how a book only featuring words (!) is produced. But how do you assemble a highly sophisticated mixed media diary? Like literally, how? Each page is its own art object! I’d love to hear the process of how this book came to be, both in the creative sense and the actual mechanics.

Author Janice MacLeod with one of her painted letters.

How A Paris Year was created is twofold: First, the organizing of information. Second, the actual creating of the pages (the “Like literally, how?”).

First, the organizing. I had a slew of journals from my time in Paris. Plus, I had a slew of photos on my computer. I also had the watercolor paintings of my Paris Letters, the painted letters I create and sell on Etsy.

At first, the plan was to make a book of all the letters. That proved a little dry when you line them all up, simply because sometimes I had a better photo than a painting of something, and sometimes I had a better sketch than photo or painting. Or I knew I could describe something better than I could take a photo or paint it. So my plan evolved to gather the best of all the visual elements.

Then I was walking through Bon Marché on the left bank in Paris and I came across a beautiful journal. I loved the creamy color of the pages, the font of the date at the top of the page, and the feel of it. As soon as I saw it I knew I had an idea for the canvas for my art, and a way to organize my collection… from January to December. I returned to my big pile of art and arranged it according to month. All January photos and paintings with a January theme and so on until December. I researched the notorious people of Paris: kings, queens, artists, authors, and inserted their stories in the appropriate months when they either lived, died, or did something of note. I added more photos and paintings as I went along.

Then a wonderful thing happened. I began to see links. For example, I wrote about the beheading of the king, who was carried to the beheading in a green carriage. Now all the park benches, bookstalls and fountains are painted a certain shade called Carriage Green, which led me to talk about my favorite Carriage Green fountain in front of Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which led to talking about Hemingway, as this was his favorite bookstore, and I happened to write about this on the day before Zelda Fitzgerald’s birthday, who was the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway’s friend, so I wrote about her. All these links seemed to run into each other until I had a year in Paris.

Second, the actual putting together of the book. I confess, I’m not an Adobe wiz. I scanned all my art and used picmonkey, an online photo editor, to create the pages. It was fast and user friendly. Then, I plopped all these art pages in Adobe InDesign (that’s what the printer needs to print the book), and typed in the text because my handwriting is too messy. It was a lot of learning. I’m more of a paint and paper kind of girl, not so much of a digital artist…but I learned so much in the process that I suppose now I am a digital artist. Though Adobe still scares me.

The book blends your personal notes with brief facts about famous Parisian figures. How did you decide upon the right balance? I would imagine an intuitive unfolding…

The more I tend to look at a page, the more I notice how there is only really one route to take. Sure there are other options that float around, but after a year of fiddling with the pages, there is usually one winning way to go.

As for the balance between the memoir aspect of the book and the facts about famous Parisian figures feature of the book, I just wrote all the interesting bits and left out the boring bits.

An example of one of Janice’s painted letters.

I often say to people who I tour around Paris that I know a thing or two about a thing or two. I basically retain the interesting bits and abandon the rest. A Paris Year is filled with all the bits I find interesting. If you’re looking for a full tour of Paris, call Rick Steves. If you’re looking for a lovely way to see Paris without being inundated with details, check out A Paris Year.

As for the memoir aspect of the book, I wanted my readers of Paris Letters (the book this time, not the subscription service) to notice parts of the year that run parallel to moments in the previous book. Little Easter eggs for loyal readers to notice and think, AHHH I remember that moment! Because the books were lived around the same time.

I noticed quite a strain of Ernest Hemingway and A Moveable Feast as inspiration throughout the book. Paris is a city of ghosts and you note that Hemingway seemed to be aiding you along. What do you feel Paris offers you as an artist – or how are you influenced by it? – this city which so many creative souls have inhabited?

When I’m in Paris, I find it easy to answer all the burning questions of my life. I can’t exactly explain it. I feel it’s more than just intuition. I think everyone has ghosts following them around in Paris. Mine happens to be Hemingway. When I first arrived in Paris, I read A Moveable Feast, which has many great lines about life in Paris. These great lines seemed to float around with me on my walks. Plus, the book is also a guidebook for writers on writing, so his advice and experiences in Paris were helpful to me while writing my books about Paris.

Your Paris is lovely and romantic. Yet you did decide to move back to your native Canada and seem to be something of a traveling nomad now. I’m curious to hear why you left – and any insights you’ve learned about this journey (a selfish question, maybe. I’m in the midst of this huge transition now!)

A painted letter.

I definitely had my dreams fulfilled by living in Paris: A book, a thriving online business, and meeting the lovely Christophe. He was feeling tired of Paris. He’d been here for 15 years by that point. I thought perhaps we could fulfill his dream of moving to the mountains of Canada. Plus, as a seasoned visa applicant (like every other expat in France), I thought we should move to a place where I wouldn’t have to spend half my time getting visas approved. I’m Canadian, so moving to Canada was a relatively easy move. The French administration can tire a person out.

As for insights about the journey, I know that wherever you are, there you are at. I can be completely miserable in a dreary parking lot of a box store in Calgary, but then a seasoned traveler friend shows up at the same parking lot and seems to be having a marvelous time. Conversely, I have a friend who doesn’t like Paris at all. She is exasperated by my enthusiasm for Paris. She sees smog while I see sunsets. It really is how we spin it.

I imagine both of us have heard many times how lucky we are to have our Paris connection. And it’s true! We’re lucky ladies, indeed! But it’s not pure luck, either. It takes agency, preparation, and faith to leap into a new adventure (as you documented so well in Paris Letters). Your books and art focus mainly on the dreamy side of Paris – not hard to do with a city so beautiful and culturally and historically rich. But you do hint every once in a while to its less glamorous side. You might guess with a blog named “Paris (im)perfect” that I’m interested in these realities beyond the fantasy, too. The day-to-day which is not always so romantic. I’m wondering if anything comes to mind – funny or galling or anything else! – that might fall into the category of Paris imperfect?

Oh yes. Paris has its dark side. Even in the first draft of Paris Letters, I had an entire chapter devoted to mice, but whenever I was editing, I didn’t want to relive the experience so I cut the chapter. Any rock star will tell you, you’ve got to live with your hits, and I already lived with the mice. It was unpleasant. I basically wrote the book I wanted to read… and that version of Paris didn’t include mice. A Paris Year is also a glowing view of the city. What can I say? Once again, I didn’t want to draw mice.

As for the (Im)perfect Paris…the city is filthy. Not because of the sanitary service, which is an army of efficient green trucks, but the city is old and full, so it’s filthy all the time.

And there is sadness everywhere, like the little boy who lives on my street. He was once a chubby cheek little boy begging for spare change. Now he’s an aggressive pre-teen pickpocket. He has no friends, no education, no hope. I want to scoop him up and save him, even if it means taking him away from his parents who also live on the street. He haunts my dreams. Then there is the crazy old lady who stands naked in the Laundromat asking for clothes. Once I walked by her and she said in clear English with no accent, “Nice dress.” There is the rampant racism, the honking horns, and yes, the mice. All this against a backdrop of accordion music.

Let’s end on the dreamier note. As you say, A Paris Year is a glowing view. The book truly is a love letter to the great city. Why do you think Paris calls to people (and you) so deeply and leaves such a mark? As Hemingway said, “Though you may leave Paris, Paris never really leaves you.”

Excellent question. Paris is a great walking city. You can walk for a few hours and see bits of history from each century, plus experience the craftsmanship of today’s artists. I just bought an incredible paintbrush on my way to a wedding the other day in the fifth arrondissement. Afterward we went for lunch in a restaurant that is so laden with history that we were given a tour of the place. Where else does this happen? Paris offers up many magical days linked one after another. It truly is a moveable feast. There is no other city in the world like it. You can’t ever truly go home after living in Paris because every place, including where you came from, gets compared to Paris, which has no equal.

A page from A Paris Year featuring Janice’s “lovely Christophe.”

What’s next?

Another great question. Christophe and I had a baby (named Amélie) a few months ago, so are enjoying the new addition. Plus, I’m still creating a new Paris Letter each month for subscribers who love fun mail about Paris. As for the next book? France and Italy are my beat, so likely something in that direction.

Thank you, Janice!

Here’s all the info to pre-order a copy of A Paris Year.

And to enter to win one of two free copies, comment below by June 23, 10 am EST. It makes a perfect present for the Paris-lover in your life…which may very well be you!

UPDATE! Congratulations to Kelley and Carrie for winning a free copy of A Paris Year. Thanks to everyone for entering the giveaway. Bon weekend from Paris!


42 Responses to ““A Paris Year” by Janice MacLeod: Author Interview (+ GIVEAWAY!)”

  1. 1 Carrie @ Season It Already! June 13, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    What a beautiful book! Not just one to read, but one to own! On my wish list…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 3 Susanne June 13, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    I moved away from Paris six months ago and I miss it dearly. Would love to win the book to indulge in memories…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. 5 Nina June 13, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    The book looks stunning! What a compendium of treasures she has assembled. Glad you are promoting it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 7 Linda D. June 13, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    Fascinating interview – thanks for the insights! The book looks like it belongs in my library,and I promise to give it a good home.:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 9 Kim Gillis June 13, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    Absolutely love Janice’s writings & artictic abilities, so talented. Was glued to Paris Letters when I read it. Would love to get a copy of her new book. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 11 K L June 13, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    It will be fun to see how your “Paris Year” changes with Amelie!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. 12 RedheadedBooklover June 13, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    Hi there! I don’t normally do this but I had to comment and tell you how much I adore your blog! I just came across it now and I am so happy I have, it is so wonderful and you truly have a great blog. I am going to follow you so I can keep up to date with all of your latest posts. Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. 17 korbi jo June 13, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    What a stunning book! Once devoured and shared, it will make a lovely addition to the little Paris bistro I have created (AKA my dining room).

    Liked by 2 people

  9. 19 Chris Fitzgibbons June 13, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    Would love to win a copy of this enchanting book!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. 20 Heide June 13, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    I may have to summon every superlative I know to praise your wonderful (thoughtful, insightful) interview, and Janice’s gorgeous (inspiring, sigh-inducing) book. So many of my own experiences in Paris echo the “imperfections” the two of you discussed — from rodent encounters to melancholy moments, and even heartbreak. But there’s something about Paris that makes you feel as if you are a *part* of these stories, rather than merely an observer. And from the previews I’ve glimpsed of the book, Janice captures it all beautifully! Thank you so much for bringing this tome to our attention, and for doing it through such a lovely and skillful interview.

    Liked by 2 people

    • 21 paris (im)perfect June 14, 2017 at 12:01 am

      Oh Heide, thank you so much! What a kind comment. I am so humbled and delighted by your words! Author interviews are some of my favorite things to do. As a writer myself I know just how much time and effort goes into creating a book. It’s always such a thrill to be able to share the great work of others with y’all! You also have incredibly insightful observations about Paris and I appreciate you sharing them here!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. 22 Deborah Small June 13, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    This book looks stunning, a visual feast of this magical city. I am crossing my fingers and hoping!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. 23 Katrein Ruehmland June 13, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    Loved the first book – can’t wait for the second! I also feel that Paris helps me to answer my burning questions. Trying to find that Paris inspiration in my daily Calgary life too – lol. Great interview!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. 24 N June 13, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    What an amazing book! It is definitely one to treasure, and I’d love to win it. BTW, is the giveaway also open for Germans?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. 26 Kasia June 13, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    Great interview! I’d love to read this book!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. 28 Julie Christine June 13, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    I can’t wait to sink into this beautiful book. What a treasure. Thank you for sharing A Paris Year with us, Sion, and for introducing us to Janice!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. 29 Agnes MacLeod June 14, 2017 at 1:06 am

    awesome interview you always amaze me

    Liked by 1 person

  17. 30 Jenn June 14, 2017 at 3:19 am

    I loved your first book and am eagerly anticipating this one! I have a friend who took her 16 year old to Paris for the first time. The daughter fell so in
    love with Paris that she cried all the way home to Canada. I am giving her your books for her birthday this year as well as a letter from you! Thank you for sharing your creativity with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. 31 Stacy June 14, 2017 at 7:38 am

    Great read – I loved Janice’s first book and can’t wait for this one!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. 32 Janice Newbond June 14, 2017 at 9:05 am

    I fell “In Love” with Paris when we were there in 2013 for our tenth wedding anniversary. Our Eiffel Tower visit didn’t go as planned as it was shut down right before our tour and dinner there. 😦
    I hope to be back again one day soon.
    I loved your first book and can’t wait for the second to be out.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. 33 Kelley Rose June 14, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Great interview. It’s always such a pleasure to read process interviews.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. 34 oldfield23 June 14, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    After spending a year working in Paris and another year in Marseille before returning to the US we can relate to many of the characterizations of the city you describe in the interview. It’s so true what Hemingway wrote that Paris never leaves you!
    We are so looking forward to adding “A Paris Year” to our collection of books on Paris and 🇫🇷!
    David & Marti

    Liked by 1 person

  22. 35 Karin B June 15, 2017 at 2:15 am

    Well, I can verify this: “Though you may leave Paris, Paris never really leaves you.” 😊

    What a beautiful, beautiful book about Paris! It makes me miss it a lot.

    Thank you for sharing this, Sion!


    Liked by 1 person

  23. 36 Laura June 15, 2017 at 2:56 am

    I loved Paris Letters – Looking forward to A Paris Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. 37 Liene June 15, 2017 at 3:04 am

    We moved back to the US from France over four years ago, but it seems like yesterday when I see beautiful photos or drawings such as these!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. 38 Karene June 16, 2017 at 6:10 am

    Great interview, Sion! I thought I had entered contest already, but I don’t see my comment. Loved Janice’s first book and really looking forward to this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. 39 caroandthegulls June 16, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    that looks like what I would call a strokable book!


  27. 40 Nicole June 20, 2017 at 11:33 am

    That seems like a wonderful book, and definitely not only for the coffee table! Thanks for presenting it; I’d love to win.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. 41 Jackie June 20, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    Sion, thank you for such an interesting interview. Thank you for getting to the heart of the creative process that Janice took while writing this visual journal book of Paris. I can’t wait to read it !

    Liked by 1 person

  29. 42 Jan Janzen June 21, 2017 at 8:11 am

    I will be in Paris for a few days very soon. I have been in France for three weeks, visiting my son. I would love a copy of that book, which must be a treasure!


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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