Archive for the 'Author Interviews' Category

The Geometry of Love (+ Giveaway!)

GeometryFrontCover2015Last month the American Library of Paris hosted novelist Jessica Levine and her agent April Eberhardt. They had a spirited and honest discussion about the realities of today’s publishing climate and the relationship between writer and agent. I love hearing stories about how books make their way into the world; I appreciated both women’s candor immensely.

My interest was piqued about the book itself, too. The Geometry of Love centers on a love triangle: a poet with writer’s block is torn between a reliable boyfriend and a more passionate, but difficult old flame. How could I resist? I found Jessica after the event and asked if she’d be interested in visiting the blog.

Happily, she said yes! She also agreed to offer a free copy of her novel to one lucky winner. Giveaway details at the end of the post!

Jessica Levine earned a Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of California at Berkeley and has translated several books about architecture and design from French and Italian into English. She also writes a wonderful blog called Paris Regained. In it, she weaves stories from the two years she spent in Paris as a young woman with her thoughts on returning now, decades later, with her husband and two daughters for a sabbatical year. I’m excited Jessica is now part of Paris’ literary community and that she’s here today to answer a few questions about her writing.

The Geometry of Love explores lots of rich territory: love, intimacy, the struggle between heart and mind, and the nature and origin of creative inspiration and production. What compels you to write about these subjects?

My mother once said to me, “Life is hard for women. The trick is to make the right marriage.” I think there’s much truth in that, but one could add, “or not marry at all.” Love has been a fascinating subject for centuries, but for women, since the 1960s, the pull toward love has been set against an increased drive for autonomy. I have seen countless women—my family, friends, therapy clients—unable to figure out just how committed they want to be in relationship. They want intimacy and security, but freedom, too.

As for the creative quest, I started writing at the age of 12 and published my first novel in my fifties so, as you can imagine, I’ve had some obstacles, internal as well as external, along the way. My mother was a graphic designer and painter who saw herself as a failed and frustrated artist. Her self-disparagement left its mark on me, especially as her creative block eventually contributed to her alcoholism.

Author Jessica Levine

Author Jessica Levine

Creativity requires qualities—self-confidence, courage, spontaneity—as well as conditions—time, financial ease, mentorship or positive role models—that are not always available. It took me many years to overcome the destructive inner critic modeled for me by my mother. I should add that I have forgiven her for that negative inheritance, as I came not only to understand it but also to use it as a subject for my writing.

Your first book, Delicate Pursuit, was a nonfiction study of how Henry James and Edith Wharton used discretion to grapple with controversial topics and the influence the French literary tradition had on their treatment of risqué material. I wonder how this background informed your own novel, which deals with issues including infidelity, eroticism and presents some pretty frank sex scenes.

Continue reading ‘The Geometry of Love (+ Giveaway!)’

**BOOK GIVEAWAY!** Deer Hunting in Paris

Deer Hunting in ParisIf the title doesn’t tip you off, I can confirm that Deer Hunting in Paris packs a ton of surprises.

Recently awarded the 2014 Travel Book of the Year by the Society of American Travel Writers, the tale follows a Korean-American preacher’s daughter from Paris, France to Paris, Maine where our liberal, long-standing vegetarian author falls in love with a conservative carnivore and learns to cook everything from moose liver to deer heart. “Julia Child prepping roadkill,” one reviewer quips.

As someone who leans toward the secular end of the spectrum, steers clear of firearms, and has always been confounded by hunting’s appeal, the book’s subtitle – A Memoir of God, Guns, and Game Meat – announced I would be entering very foreign territory. The fact that I laughed out loud on the first page (and that the funny one-liners kept coming) reassured me that I’d be in good hands for the journey. Deer Hunting in Paris is surely the most unique book I’ve ever found filed in the French travel section!

Paula Young Lee holds a doctorate from the University of Chicago and writes frequently on subjects related to human-animal relations. The author of five books and over 25 scholarly articles, she also contributes to Salon.com and similar venues. She splits her time between Wellesley, Massachusetts, and West Paris, Maine.

I’m delighted she’s on the blog today – and that she’s offered to give away *2* signed copies of the book! Details on how to win at the end of the post!

Continue reading ‘**BOOK GIVEAWAY!** Deer Hunting in Paris’

Mastering the Art of French Eating (+ Giveaway!)

Last week I celebrated Thanksgiving in the US with my family for the first time in years. Since moving to Paris, I’ve enjoyed mixing cultural traditions. Franco-international-expat-American Thanksgivings have become my new norm – what fun!

Still, in a year of many blessings, it was a gift to spend this holiday with my family. And oh the food! I’m not sure gourmandise would be the right word for what went down as it was outright gluttony. I literally cannot remember the last time I saw (and ate) so much food. The dessert table alone was outrageous(ly good). There was pumpkin pie and pecan pie and apple pie and cheesecake and cookies and and and….

Mastering the Art of French EatingA long holiday weekend wouldn’t be complete without tucking into a good book, as well. I read a great one and I’m so excited I get to offer a free giveaway copy to one of you, too.

When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband receives a three-year assignment in Paris it is a dream come true. He’s suddenly called to a new post in Iraq, however, changing drastically Mah’s reality of a new life in the City of Light.

Mastering the Art of French Eating blends food, travel, and gastronomic history. It’s a lovely memoir that explores the stories behind many of France’s signature regional dishes, from crepes to cassoulet, choucroute to boeuf bourguignon. It’s also a personal story of navigating a new country, battling loneliness, and learning lessons in both food and love.

The book has already gained much buzz, including being named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon and a best fall travel book by National Geographic Traveler. I’m delighted to offer a free copy to one lucky reader and to have Ann Mah on the blog for the occasion.

Continue reading ‘Mastering the Art of French Eating (+ Giveaway!)’

Quiet Paris (Giveaway!)

Quiet ParisAs if in answer to my pleas, the sun finally appeared in Paris this week. Starting Sunday, spring burst forth fully formed. The city sighed collective relief.

The long walks I alluded to last post obviously bring even more joy now.

In a bout of perfect timing, I also received a new guidebook that champions the wandering approach. The introduction to Siobhan Wall’s Quiet Paris has her musing: “walking around, I wondered whether we are now less familiar with losing our way and coming across places by benign accident rather than preordained design.”

Wall seeks the calmer side to cities, you see, places off the beaten track. Previously she has produced Quiet London and Quiet Amsterdam. But is it really possible to escape the hustle and bustle in Paris, the world’s most popular tourist destination?

I always approach anything promising a “secret” City of Light with a slice of skepticism. Luckily, this sweet little pocket guide soon swiped away any hesitation. It delivers.

While some old standbys certainly appear (the elevated leafy walkway known as the Promenade Plantee was packed this weekend, for instance; ditto, I imagine, Parc Buttes Chaumont), plenty of entries were new to me (the Musee Bourdelle in the fifteenth? The Bibliotheque Marguerite Durand devoted to French women and feminism?)

Author Siobhan Wall

Author Siobhan Wall

After the elegant intro, the guide is divided into 12 sections: museums, libraries, parks & gardens, places to relax, places to worship, shops, restaurants, cafes, bookshops, galleries, cultural centers, and places to stay. At the end is a handy index of places by arrondissement. There are more than 120 listings in all.

Continue reading ‘Quiet Paris (Giveaway!)’

*GIVEAWAY!* The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

The Black Count by Tom ReissInvoke the name Alexandre Dumas, and one might inquire, père or fils? (Father or son?) Alexandre Dumas père was the novelist behind The Three Muskateers and The Count of Monte Cristo and his son, Alexandre Dumas fils, was also a writer and playwright.

There is another Alexandre Dumas, however. One who history has largely forgotten, though his story is truly the stuff of legend.

Forgotten until now.

Tom Reiss has recently published a soaring account of Dumas (the father of Alexandre Dumas père) in what is sure to become a definitive volume.

The Black Count is a tour-de-force, an ambitious and awe-inspiring tale of a man born into slavery who eventually rose to become a four-star general and a hero of the French Revolution.

Dumas’ audacious exploits in battle – including almost single-handedly pushing back the Austrians in the Battle of the Alps as well as commanding more than 50,000 men – would later inspire his son to write his famous books. So would Dumas’ years slowly being poisoned in an Italian prison after being captured; Napoleon ultimately betrayed the bravest of military men by letting him languish there and worse.

Author Tom Reiss (photo by Aventurina King 2008)

Epic biographies aren’t my usual reading fare, but this book may change all that. The Black Count was absolutely riveting, combining the thrills of a great adventure story with the concrete fact and context of the best historical work. I myself was in a battle between reading so quickly because I couldn’t wait to turn the next page and trying to slow down to absorb the enormous amount of information contained within. I literally felt I was learning something new on each page.

From France’s brutal slavery regime in Saint Domingue (now present day Haiti) where Dumas was born up through the French Revolution and Napoleon’s dreams of empire after, Reiss expertly takes us through a complicated, layered history to create a vivid portrait of the late 18th century. From the large scale issues of how Dumas, a mixed-race man, negotiated his life in a society whose rules regarding race were rapidly evolving, down to the smallest of details including why wearing black became fashionable in Paris, Reiss seems to have left no stone unturned.

If this weren’t all meticulously researched fact, it would be hard to believe such tales were true. I found myself gasping at much of what I read!

I am DELIGHTED to be able to offer a giveaway copy of The Black Count (courtesy of Crown Publishers) to one lucky reader so that you, too, may gasp.

Leave a comment below by 1 PM EST Friday, October 5 for your chance to win. I will randomly select a winner by drawing names out of a hat.

If you don’t win the copy, please do yourself a favor and pick up this book anyway. It was engrossing, illuminating, and a tiny bit heartbreaking. It’s always so wonderful when a book can crack open more of the world.

Read an excerpt from The Black Count here.

UPDATE! The name has been picked from the hat! Congratulations, William Sandles! Thank you to everyone who entered.

Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down

Paris I love you but you're bringing me downWhen I first heard the title Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down, I felt an instant connection. Heck, that could be an alternate name for this blog. (If I weren’t so fond of my cute parentheses, that is).

After being offered the opportunity to work for an advertising agency in the City of Light, author Rosecrans Baldwin leapt at the chance – despite the fact that he had no previous experience in advertising and could barely speak French.

As you might imagine, hilarity ensued.

I was eager to get my hands on Baldwin’s memoir about the 18 months he and his wife spent here and am excited to welcome him to the blog today.

Rosecrans Baldwin is also the author of the novel You Lost Me There, named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2010, and is the cofounder of the online magazine The Morning News.

So many books have been written about Paris. What made you want to tackle one, too ? What do you feel you had to add?

The honest answer is I’ve never thought about my book as being one about Paris. That’s more a marketing category. I mean, it is about Paris, obviously. But it’s far more about Parisians: my co-workers, our friends. So hopefully it’s a different sort of beast. At one point, the cover had an Eiffel Tower on it, and both my editor and I realized how wrong it looked. And not that I have anything against the Eiffel Tower. I’ve read the Paris canon, admired so many of the books, especially the underdogs—Elaine Dundy’s Dud Avocado, Mavis Gallant’s Paris Stories, The Invention of Paris by Eric Hazan. But you can’t spend a couple years writing a book, doing the work each morning, if you’re thinking about what the result should or should not be, what you’re going to add, whom you’re going to please. At least I can’t imagine doing that—it sounds awful!

Your book contains many humorous incidents, the inevitable misunderstandings and frustrations that come with confronting another culture and one with a language barrier to boot. Did you experience these as funny at the time or does it take hindsight to appreciate all that happens when living as a foreigner in Paris?

Continue reading ‘Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’

Passing Love

In 1999, after years of working in the corporate world, Jacqueline Luckett took a creative writing class on a dare.

She hasn’t looked back since.

Now the author of two novels and a core member of a writers group featured in O Magazine, Luckett is an inspiration for those wondering about the possibilities of their lives. “I’ve finally begun to understand that it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get around to fulfilling your dream,” she writes in a blog post discussing her love of Paris and writing, “just as long as we have them and try our best to fulfill them.”

Both of Luckett’s novels – Searching for Tina Turner and this year’s Passing Love – center on women seeking a change. I think you’ll agree that Luckett proves it’s never too late to chase what you want – and that it’s the journey that counts.

Thanks so much to Jackie for coming on the blog today.

Your protagonist, Nicole, dreamed about Paris since the time she was a little girl, yet doesn’t make it to the city until she’s in her mid-50s. For you, what is it about Paris that inspires people to dream? And why were you drawn to set the novel here?

I’ve been in love with Paris for a long time, yet I never pushed myself to visit. I wasn’t adventurous in my twenties and I kept waiting for someone to go with me. That’s partly the basis for Nicole’s failure to fulfill her promise. But she served the old adage—“Better late than never”—quite well.

My mother told me after reading Passing Love, that she always thought I was a natural dreamer and drama queen. Though I’ve never thought of myself that way, Paris inspires me to express what my mother seems to have known all along. Why not?! I love the anonymity I have when I’m in Paris. No one cares what I do, what I wear, or what I look like, and I feel a freedom that’s different from when I’m at home in California.

For Americans, particularly those of us on the West Coast, Paris with its old buildings, its streets cobbled with stones that have been there for decades, if not centuries, is very different from where we live. Sure, there are old buildings in the United States, but in California they don’t date much before the 19th Century. So we’re in awe of what we see in Paris. Movies, books and photographs have fed our curiosity and set our expectations about Paris. So much so that I think we go there prepared to do and be different from our everyday selves.

We gawk at the towering peaks of Notre Dame and wonder about The Hunchback. If it’s raining, we conjure up Gene Kelly dancing in the rain. Or Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier playing jazz in Paris nightclubs. We let our imaginations run free as we wander about the city admiring the fashions, eating the food, listening to French and wishing we’d paid more attention to our high school French teachers.

Because Paris is so culturally different than U.S. cities, it spurs new thoughts and behaviors. It sparks our imaginations because our senses are constantly presented with new images, sounds, and smells: rose petals scattered on a florist’s floor, an afternoon of people-watching and sipping espresso at an outdoor café—especially if it’s a café as well-known as Café Aux Deux Magots. There we imagine what life must have been like for the American authors who sat in those caned chairs writing novels and poetry.

In Passing Love, I wanted to write a story about women who challenged themselves to step beyond ordinary. Sure, this could have happened in any other city. Truthfully, because of my affection for (and emotional connection to) Paris, it was the logical place for my characters to be.

Continue reading ‘Passing Love’


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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