Monday, June 13, 2016

A Magical Dîner en Blanc...

After weeks of rain, flooding and roof leaks in the City of Light, it was hard to imagine that warm temperatures, sunlight and clear skies would return. And then, as if by magic, just in time for the most magical night in Paris, the clouds passed.

So what evening am I speaking of? The Dîner en Blanc, when sparkling threads of white glide through the streets, all moving toward a magnificent unknown destination. And then they converge, and like a blanket of white settle down for the most elegant picnic on Earth. Picnic baskets, champagne, the finest silver, candles and flowers. All this under a Parisian sky that turns from periwinkle to indigo, illuminated by stars and lanterns and the spark of sparklers.

Can you tell this is my favorite night in Paris? No. It’s my favorite night anywhere! Why? Well, this is as close to time travel as I’m going to get. This evening feels like stepping back in time, into a world where we all dress stylishly for dinner, some wearing hats and gloves, all smiling, laughing, sharing drinks and culinary creations. (These revelers don’t pack sandwiches, but instead roasted chicken, quiche, barbecue, and layer cake. They don’t drink soda, but instead, champagne and rosé. So in addition to being beautiful, this picnic is also delicious!) 

With this thought of time travel, I feel as if I might meet Jay Gatsby at the next table... So far, I haven’t met Jay, but I have met many interesting people, some of whom have become friends I look forward to seeing on that same evening a year later.

This year, we settled down to dinner in the opulent Place Vendome, which makes an appearance in my novel Paris, Rue des Martyrs! The Dîner en Blanc was like the latest jewel in this crown-shaped circle of shops and offices. It was an evening set to the rhythm of music, laughter and friendship. (And books: I couldn't resist taking this shot with my latest novel, A Perfumer's Secret.)

And then, as always, the clock strikes midnight, and like thousands of Cinderellas, party-goers gather all traces of their presence and disappear into the night…

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Interview: Juliette Sobanet, Author of MEET ME IN PARIS

My last in a series of interviews with the talented authors who took the time to read my latest novel, A PERFUMER'S SECRET. Today, I'm chatting with Juliette Sobanet, the author of romance novels set in France, and most recently, a memoir: MEET ME IN PARIS

Like me, you’re a real Francophile. How and when did you first fall in love with the country?
I took my first trip to France when I was fifteen years old and it was love at first pain au chocolat. I had never seen a place more beautiful than Paris, and I decided then that I would spend the next several years studying French so that I could become a French professor and one day live in France. It’s been almost twenty years since that first trip, and in that time I’ve lived and studied in France, I’ve taught French to hundreds of students, and I’ve eaten more chocolate croissants than I can count. My love for France has only grown stronger over the years…and I suspect it will grow even more when I move back to Paris one day soon!

Tell us about your favorite spots in France… 
During my junior year of college, I spent a semester studying in Lyon, which is a charming city just two hours south of Paris by train. Lyon is the most vibrant, happy city I’ve ever lived in, and I am constantly telling people, “You must go to Lyon!” It is known as the gastronomical capital of France, and the food really is outstanding. Along those lines, I would recommend eating at Le Nord, a Paul Bocuse brasserie located in the center of the city. And at Le Nord, you must eat le fondant au chocolat for dessert. It will change your life. Really, it will.
Another spot I adore is Annecy, a fairytale town in the French Alps. With a sparkling lake, snow-capped mountains, castles, and decadent fondue restaurants sprinkled among the winding cobblestone streets, it really is a glorious little paradise.
And of course the south…St. Tropez and Cassis are two of my favorite towns along the French Riviera. That coastline is absolutely stunning, and really, you must go!

What inspired you to become a writer in the first place? 
I’ve had the writing bug since I was a little girl, and it only grew stronger as I got older. When I was in Paris completing my master’s degree, I spent a few weeks writing my thesis at the end of the program and realized that I loved the process of writing something longer than the usual short stories, poems, or journal entries I was accustomed to writing. I had my first book idea while I was living there, and as soon as I finished my degree and returned to the states to begin teaching French, I started writing my first novel, SLEEPING WITH PARIS. Much like my love for France, writing is such a part of me now that I am only my best version of myself when I am writing every day.

Your latest book, MEET ME IN PARIS, is a memoir – unlike your previous work, which was fiction. What were the challenges of writing about yourself? 
My memoir covers a very tumultuous time in my life—my divorce and my love affair with a most unavailable man. Writing the story of these two loves and how I survived the loss of both was an incredibly cathartic and powerful experience. But it was not easy. There were many days where the scenes had me crying and reliving the experience as if it was happening all over again. But I wanted my writing to be raw and authentic, and I knew I had to let myself feel all of those emotions again in order to reach my readers. The saving grace was, of course, Paris! Thankfully this wild time in my life included two long, beautiful trips to France, and writing about my travels and all of my lovely friendships there made me realize, once and for all, that I do belong in France.

What’s next for you now? Can we expect more romantic fiction set in France? Tell us about your upcoming projects.
Yes, I’m back to writing romance set in France! I’m so happy to say that because for a long time romance just wouldn’t pour out of me the way it used to. But we are back in business, and I’m currently working on a magical romance about two star-crossed lovers in Paris. The book will release later this year, and it will be the first in a series of Paris romances with magical elements. In addition to my fiction, I’m also blogging for The Huffington Post, and I am planning my move to France!

About Juliette Sobanet 
Juliette Sobanet is the award-winning author of five Paris-based romance and mystery novels, four short stories, a book of poetry, and a new memoir, Meet Me in Paris. Her books have hit the Top 100 Bestseller Lists on Amazon US, UK, France, and Germany, and her novels have been translated into Italian, Romanian, and Turkish, with more on the way. Juliette is now a blogger for The Huffington Post, and she is the host of an exciting new travel show called Secret Paris which takes her characters to hidden spots in the City of Light. A former French professor, Juliette holds a B.A. from Georgetown University and an M.A. from New York University in Paris. Today she lives in San Diego, where she devotes her time to writing, dancing, teaching yoga, and eating loads of chocolate. 

Keep up with Juliette:

Friday, May 27, 2016

Happiness, Love, and the Naming of Characters...

I've had a great time over the past two weeks, hopping from blog to blog as part of the launch of A PERFUMER'S SECRET... In case you missed any of the guest posts or features, check out the links below. Happy reading!

USA Today -- Happy Ever After (Interview with yours truly)

Tall Poppy Writers blog (Behind-the-Scenes: Novel Research in the South of France)

Shelf Pleasure (What Does Happy Smell Like? When the Sense of Smell Guides the Author…)
My Novel Opinion (Excerpt, A Perfumer's Secret)

Women's Fiction Writers (4 Tips to Make Sociological Issues Shine in Fiction)

Always With a Book (What is Love? My Favorite Love Story Ingredients)

The Debutante Ball (Do Characters Have to be Likable? No. Here’s Why…)

Writer Unboxed (Meeting the Reader’s French Expectations (Or Not)!)

Writers in the Storm (What’s in a Name? How to Avoid the “Claire” Confusion)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Interview: Diane Haeger -- Anne Girard, Author of MADAME PICASSO

Today, I welcome author Diane Haeger, who also writes as Anne Girard, to the blog! I'd like to thank Diane for graciously reading my novel A Perfumer's Secret and sharing her thoughts about the book. Diane has written many beautiful books, often set in France... 

Diane, France has been a setting for some of your books, due to the subject matter—for example Madame Picasso and Courtesan. What do you like most about creating the French setting, especially in the historical context?
I have found France completely intriguing since I was very young. I remain fascinated by the country, the history and the lyrical beauty of the French language. When I factor in some of the fabulous true stories from history that have taken place there, it all ignites my imagination like no other.

What are the challenges of recreating a France of the past? Does your research include trips to France, and what do you do while in France to prepare yourself to write?
Because I primarily tell true stories from history, I feel the enormous pressure, out of respect, to get the details right. The greatest compliment I can get from readers is hearing that they not only learned something from history they didn’t know, but that they felt transported in time and felt they were really there. To do that to the best of my abilities I always travel to the country I am writing about. Many years ago when I first began writing, the iconic author Irving Stone, who also  told true stories from history, gave me a wonderful piece of advice: Go where you characters lived, walk the same streets, see the things they saw, as much as you can. Only then can you truly hope to make them live again for your readers. I have been following that advice for the 25 years of my career.

How did you start writing historical fiction? How much fiction do you allow yourself to add to the true story?
It was a true story from history that drew me forward and began my career for me. On my honeymoon in France decades ago I came upon the epic love story between Diane de Poitiers and Henri II. I visited their homes at Chenonceau and Fontainebleau and I was mesmerized. When I began the research and realized that, at the time, it was a relatively unknown story here, It hooked me and I became driven to bring it to an American readership. A fun detail that helped inspire me as I wrote was that my name is also Diane and my initials, DH, form the emblem Henri had fashioned to represent his commitment to his lady love, Diane. 
I try to deviate from truth as little as possible with my stories. Naturally, that is the framework and my mindset when I begin, and I do a great deal of initial research to that end before I write. That said, inevitably there are also historical incidents that occur without explanation so that sometimes motivation and details must be supposed and creatively drawn. When those occur I work very hard to make them as believable as possible.

You’ve written so many books. Do you have a favorite, one that you feel closest to? And if so, why? 
I usually say that my favorite book is the one I am currently writing, and there is an element of truth to that because I am so deeply involved with my characters during the process. That said, of my 16 novels, Courtesan the book of Diane de Poitiers and Henri II, which was my first, will always be most dear to my heart. The process of research and writing was a four year complete labor of love, one that took me to France for the first time, and many times since. 

Can you tell us about your next book or give us a general idea of what you’ve got going on next?
I can’t wait to talk about it but for now it is still “top secret”. What I can say is that it is about another fabulous character from history and I’m thrilled that it will be bringing me back to France in the next few weeks!

Find Diane Haeger -- Anne Girard on:



Barnes and Noble

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Interview: Cathy Lamb, author of MY VERY BEST FRIEND

As part of the launch of my latest novel, A Perfumer's Secret, I'm interviewing the wonderful authors who took the time to read and endorse my book. Today, I'm chatting with Cathy Lamb, author of 10 (yes, you read that right -- 10!) amazing novels. And her 11th is set for release later this year! 

So let's talk about her latest release, My Very Best Friend, a story of friendship, but also love in general, loyalty, forgiveness...

Cathy, there are so many themes from life in this novel! What inspired you to write this story, and to set it in Scotland?

I was inspired to write My Very Best Friend in Scotland because I wanted to fly across an ocean and see men in kilts.

Ha! No, the REAL reason I set the book in Scotland is because Rebel Dancing Daughter, our oldest, goes to college there and it gave me a splendid excuse to visit her. Plus, I love Scotland, the Highlands, the perfect, gentle peace of that country, the music and the food. Did I mention the food? I love the food.

Plus, readers love to travel in books and I thought my readers might like to travel with me.

Throughout the book, Charlotte remembers legends told by her father. They create such rich imagery and remain in the reader’s mind long after closing the book; Were these a product of your imagination, or are they legends/stories you had heard or found in your research?

All of the legends I told in the book came right out of my  imagination. I did read Scottish stories, lore, etc. but those stories were mine. I love legends, magic, miracles.

How did you research the book? Did you travel to Scotland? Do you have a Scottish heritage?

We do have Scottish heritage! I even have a letter from an ancestor talking about how our people were from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and England.  All desperate, destitute, needing a new life in America. The Great Britain ancestral part was recently confirmed with DNA from

I have been to Scotland twice, once when I was much younger and totally broke, and then last year when I visited my Rebel Dancing Daughter. I love it. I could live there.

You are such a prolific author, with 10 published books and another on the way. How do you develop your ideas? Do you already have ideas for the next few books in your mind, or do you sit down to think about the next one once you’ve completed your most recent manuscript?

My ideas come from all over. 

I started Julia’s Chocolates with a vision of a crying woman on a deserted, dusty street who was throwing her wedding dress into a dead tree.

With The Last Time I Was Me I was in Welches, Oregon, walking along the river, and wondered what it would be like to run naked at night down that pathway. The whole vision made me laugh, for numerous reasons, but I made Jeanne Stewart do it.

I am so intrigued by artists who make creative, wild art and I gave that skill to Stevie in Such A Pretty Face. She made fantastical, huge chairs, then hid them in her shed. I built part of the story around those chairs. 

For Grenadine in What I Remember Most, I knew I had my story when I thought of her name: Grenadine Scotch Wild. It took off from there.

The trick is to be open to new ideas flowing through. The beach helps. So does chocolate and coffee. My garden is a total distraction because I would often rather be digging in the dirt than working.

When ideas for the next book come to mind but I am still writing the current book, I write them down in a document called – wait for it – Ideas For Books. And then I put them aside. My brain is small and tired. I cannot have multiple ideas floating around in my head or I’ll get confused and flip the characters and plot lines around and a story that is set in Oregon will suddenly move to Montana and the characters from different novels will become friends or enemies.

Total literary and mental chaos.  

When I finish one book, I take a break, then start journaling ideas for the next book. I have a small addiction to journals.

What can you tell us about your next book? And do you have a release date set?

My next book is titled The Language of Sisters, and it’s out September 1. A few clues about the story…

1.      Toni Kozlovsky lives on a yellow tugboat in the Willamette River. She needed space to breathe.

2.      Toni has two sisters. They can sometimes hear each other in their heads, a message coming through. It’s odd, it’s inexplicable. It’s a gift handed down the Sabonis family line through their widow’s peaks. Their mother had it, too.

3.      The Kozlovsky family immigrated from Russia when Toni was a little girl. They left a lot of secrets there… and the secrets have been running after them ever since.

4.      The family has many crazy members and the dynamics can be mind blowing. You might relate to some of them.

5.      Toni has something hidden in a little shed next to her tugboat. She doesn’t want to look at it. She doesn’t want to think about it. But she does.

6.       Love. Laughter. Funny stuff. A blue heron, a woman named Daisy, a DEA agent who lives down the dock, a restaurant, a scary man. Pillow making, skinny dipping, too much wine. More laughter.

7.      I hope you like it, I truly do.

This is a snippet from Charlotte Mackintosh in “My Very Best Friend.” Charlotte is a time travel romance writer who has no romance. She lives like a hermit on an island and goes skinny dipping. She puts her four cats in a specially made cat stroller. She’s different. She’s a lot of fun.

“I detest flying. You could correctly call it ‘pathologically afraid.’ I cannot breathe on planes. I know that I am going to die a fiery death as we plunge into the ocean.

I have studied planes, their engines, and why they stay in the air in depth. My studies took two years. I understand mathematical aerodynamics description, thrust, lift, Newton, and Bernoulli’s principle.

I even had three tours at Boeing.

I have talked to pilots and engineers and examined blueprints for planes. Yet the sensible part of me knows that the plane will crash at any moment because nothing this large, heavy, and rigid was ever meant to be in the sky.

This knowledge is in direct contrast to my physics studies. I acknowledge this dichotomy.

I sat down in my first-class seat. I need room if I fly. I don’t want to be sandwiched next to strangers who will be intruding upon my space by body part or by air. I prefer to die within my own confines.

Inside my carry-on bag I had these things: Travel-sized bottles of Scotch. My list folder. A handkerchief. Travel-sized bottles of whiskey. My own tea bags—chamomile, peppermint, and for my adventurous side, Bengal Tiger. Three journals to write in if my writer’s block dissolves. Pictures of my cats. Travel-sized bottles of tequila.

Two books on gravitational physics and evolutionary biology.

I adjusted my glasses. If we’re going to crash, I want them to be sturdily placed on my nose so I can see our doomed descent. My glasses have brown rims. I affixed clear tape on the left arm, as it’s cracked. I’ve been meaning to go to the eye doctor to get it fixed, but the tape seems to be functioning well. It does make my glasses tilt to the left, though. Not much of a problem, except if one is worried about appearance, which I am not.
I rechecked the top button on my beige blouse to make sure it was still fastened. I had been able to get most of the blueberry and ketchup stains out of it. If I end up in the ocean, I want to be covered. No need to show my ragged, but sturdy, bra.

My underwear is beige or white, and cotton. When there are more than two holes, I throw them out. High risers, you could call them. I like to be properly covered, no tiny, lacy, itchy tidbits for me, even though I put McKenzie Rae, the heroine in all of my time travel romance novels, in tiny lacy tidbits that do not itch her.

If we crash, I can assure you that my underwear will stand up far better to the fire and flying debris than a tidbit would.

I situated my brown corduroy skirt and took off my brown, five-year-old sturdy shoes and put on my blue slippers with pink rabbit ears that Bridget sent me. I took out a tiny bottle of Scotch, as my hands were already shaking.

My seatmate, a man who appeared to be about my age, was white faced. “I hate flying,” he muttered. I heard the Texan drawl.

“Me too. Here. Have a drink.” I pulled out another bottle.

“Thank you, ma’am, I am much obliged.”

We clinked our tiny bottles together. His hands were shaking, too.

We both breathed shallowly. “Close your eyes, inhale,” I said. “Find your damn serenity. Think of your sunflowers…bells of Ireland…catnip…sweet Annies…wild tea roses…”

“Think of your ranch…” he said, barely above a whisper. “Think of your cows. Your tractors. The bulls. Castration day.”

The vision of castration day was unpleasant. I closed my eyes again.

We inhaled.

We drank.

We shook.

We took off. I started to sweat. So did he.

“My turn,” he said when we were done with the first bottle. He handed me a tiny bottle of Scotch out of his briefcase.

“Cheers to aerodynamics, thrust, lift, and Bernoulli’s principle.”

“Cheers to your green eyes, darlin’. Those are bright twinklers. Brighter than the stars in Texas, may she reign forever.”

“Thank you. May Newton’s laws reign forever.”

Third round on me.

Fourth on him, ordered from the flight attendant, who said cheerily, annoyingly, “Nervous flyers?”

The fourth round did the trick. We decided to sing the National Anthem together, then “Frosty the Snowman” and two songs by Neil Diamond. One was “Cracklin’ Rosie,” which made him cry, so I cried, too, in solidarity. The annoying flight attendant asked us to be quiet.

We sang “The Ants Go Marching Down” in whispery voices, then I taught him a Scottish drinking song about a milkmaid. We woke up in Amsterdam, his head on my shoulder.

I wriggled him awake. “It was a pleasure getting drunk with you.”

“The pleasure was all mine, green eyes,” he drawled in his Texan drawl. “It seems we have arrived alive.”

“We did our part. Praise to Newton.”

We stumbled off the plane, shook hands, and I caught the next flight to Edinburgh. I forgot to change out of my blue slippers with pink rabbit ears before I walked through the airport. No matter. The top button on my beige blouse was still buttoned and I was in one piece.

I put my hand to my head. Lord. I hate flying and I hate airplane hangovers.”

Thanks, very much, Cathy, for stopping by!

Check out these links to keep up with Cathy's news...





Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Research in Provence, A USA TODAY interview, and the Scent of Happy...

The quote in the image above is a little clue about who I'll be interviewing right here tomorrow... I'm very excited about that!

In the meantime, I thought I would share links to guest posts I've written, an interview and even an excerpt of A PERFUMER'S SECRET... Happy reading! 

USA Today -- Happy Ever After (Interview with yours truly) 

Tall Poppy Writers blog (Behind-the-Scenes: Novel Research in the South of France) 

Shelf Pleasure (What Does Happy Smell Like? When the Sense of Smell Guides the Author…)  

My Novel Opinion (Excerpt, A Perfumer's Secret) 

Women's Fiction Writers (4 Tips to Make Sociological Issues Shine in Fiction) 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Launch: A Perfumer's Secret...

Escape to the South of France and the world of perfume in this novel of a lost perfume formula, family secrets and love... I'm delighted to announce the release of my novel A Perfumer's Secret.

As part of the launch, I've got a lot of exciting things going on today. And I hope you'll follow along! Here's the agenda...

Tall Poppy Writers blog (Behind-the-Scenes: Novel Research in the South of France) 
USA Today -- Happy Ever After (Interview with yours truly) 
Shelf Pleasure (What Does Happy Smell Like? When the Sense of Smell Guides the Author…)  

About the book:

Perfumer Zoe Flore travels to Grasse, perfume capital of the world, to collect a formula: her inheritance from the family she never knew existed. The scent matches the one worn by her mother, who passed away when Zoe was a teenager. Zoe, competing to create a new fragrance for a prestigious designer, believes this scent could win the contract—and lead her to the reason her mother fled Grasse for New York City.

Before Zoe can discover the truth, the formula is stolen. And she's not the only one looking for it. So is Loulou, her rebellious teenage cousin; Philippe, her alluring competitor for the fragrance contract; and a third person who never wanted the formula to slip into the public in the first place.

The pursuit transforms into a journey of self-discovery as each struggles to understand the complexities of love, the force of pride and the meaning of family.

Find A Perfumer's Secret on Amazon!

Happy reading!