On Blame It On Paris
dee: In one sentence, describe your book for us.
Laura: A perfectly friendly and NORMAL person from a small town in Georgia ends up in Paris where people jump back in fear when she smiles at them; she falls for a Parisian despite this and must deal with his COMPLETELY INSANE culture AND FAMILY, only to discover, when she drags him back to her world, that some aspects of it and of her own enormous family are just a little nutty when seen from his perspective, too; how will true love survive?
I cheated by using semicolons. But it’s still one sentence from a grammatical perspective.
dee: How much of it is real?
Laura: It’s all real. I keep TELLING people this, and nevertheless immediate family members who KNOW it’s real because they witnessed half of it will call me about parts in the other half and say: "You made that up about the snails, right? Tell me that didn’t happen."
It did. And I’m still alive. I am tougher than I look.
dee: How on earth did you decide to write YOUR story?
Laura: I told my story because I just had to. That’s what we love to do in my family, tell funny stories on ourselves and everybody else in the family. I just couldn’t pass this one up.
dee: Why is it marketed as fiction instead of something else?
Laura: I don’t know why it’s marketed as fiction. I strongly suspect it’s because no one who reads it believes me. They’re convinced I must be exaggerating. But I’m not.
dee: Is Sébastien really as sexy in person as you say in your book?
Laura: He is pretty sexy. I’m sure I’m biased, and he’s probably not everyone’s type. But this kind of thing regularly happens to me:
I am at a [fill in blank here like Mad Libs, but let’s say it’s a checkout counter] and Sébastien is [browsing nearby] and the [cute young cashier] calls out to her colleagues, "Cute guy alert! Cute guy alert! Check him out." And then she looks back and catches this expression on my face, somewhere between laughing-warning her off-resigned, and looks as red and red-handed as it is possible to get, and says, "Ummm…that’s not your cute guy is it?"
Which you would think she could have guessed before embarrassing herself, but apparently no one EVER guesses he is with me.
Maybe it’s my frizzy hair. In Paris, even when he is TICKLING me and playing with my hair, women still completely fail to guess he is with me and try to flirt with him. Like rub against him flirt with him. But, you know, Parisians….
And this is why, when reviewers like to point out that the narrator of this story has an awful lot of insecurities, I would like to just say: YOU would, TOO.
dee: Why do you tease your loyal fans by not posting his picture on your blog?
Laura: I haven’t yet posted pictures of him on my blog because I am just mean that way. I wanted to be a wicked witch when I was little, but the teacher picked me to play one of the dwarfs instead. Which is just typical of my life, by the way.
Plus, if you had written a little memoir you expected to be published by a small press and read by maybe 200 people and INSTEAD your husband had PAPARAZZI who flooded around him and PINCHED him at formal social occasions, would YOU publish pictures of him? I think if I do post a picture, it will be the one I took of him seven days after Mia was born, when he hadn’t slept or shaved for those seven days and the baby and he had finally fallen asleep together. And then people can believe I exaggerated.
dee: What made you decide to become a writer?
Laura: I got into this contest with a very mean and nasty girl in my third grade class who was actually my best friend but she wrote a longer story than I did. It was the first fiction story we had ever been assigned, and that evening I wrote a beautiful four pages, with a wonderful dénouement, and then she calls up and says hers is FIVE pages, and I had to start tacking things on. It went that way the whole evening, and my story had an awful lot of "Or rather she THOUGHT she was safe until the pumpkins’ eyes started to glow" type things tacked onto it before the end. But she still won. Twelve pages to my nine. Maybe, because I’m trying to convince people I am normal and sane, I should clarify that it was a Halloween story; that’s why the pumpkins.
I started writing every day after that. And by age eleven I was submitting my endeavors to major magazines, like the New Yorker. They failed to recognize my greatness but I’m SURE they are regretting it now.
dee: Where else have you been published (besides BIOP)? Are any of your other published works available online?
Laura: The very first person to recognize my greatness was Marion Zimmer Bradley, whom I would just like to mention because she devoted so much time and money and energy to putting out a fantasy magazine for several years (up until her death), to encourage new writers. That is really something to do. I was so excited when she published a story of mine and paid me for it, you wouldn’t believe it. That was 12 years after I started writing and submitting every day, when I was 21.
And Travelers’ Tales gave a major boost to my self-confidence while I was writing BLAME IT ON PARIS by publishing several of my travel essays. So I just want to give them a plug here—they are such a great little publishing company, and their anthologies are really the perfect books to put in your carry-on when visiting a country.
dee: Is writing a novel different than writing articles or essays? How? Which do you like more?
Laura: Well, writing a full-length memoir is different because you have to have a character arc and long story that holds together, and what’s fun about essays is you can just take a great anecdote and tell it, even if it doesn’t fit into a longer story. I like writing non-fiction because I think the funny and amazing things that real people really do are fascinating. But fiction is fun in a different way—there’s a lot more liberty to fiction. Like a mother, I cannot pick favorites. I love them both equally but in different ways.
dee: Do you have an agent? Do you think it's more important to find an agent or an editor/publisher first?
Laura: Definitely find an agent first. For one thing, it would be really hard to get an editor or publisher’s attention without one. For another, a good agent can be a great support to your career. And, if for no other reason, publishing is SLOW and CRAWLINGLY SLOW and INATTENTIVE and you will frustrate yourself silly dealing with it without an agent. I had a great editor for BLAME IT ON PARIS, so this is no reflection on her; all the authors I know agree on this and have had the same experience.
dee: Do you belong to a writer's group? Do you have a critique partner? Who do you let 'see' your work before it's published? (And how do *I* get on that list? ;) )
Laura: My father and younger sister are the only people who ever get to see it. My father is the reason editors and agents always raved incredulously about the fact that there were no mistakes in my manuscripts. My father just passed away, and my sister is having a baby, so I’m not sure who will read my next book. Besides my agent who always gives it a good read and makes recommendations.
I am paranoid about showing drafts. I recognize the value of it, but it is a bit like letting people see you in labor. Which I understand people DO, but me, I’m more like, let’s either keep the people in the birthing room to the bare minimum or up the meds.
On The Truffles
dee: What is up with that 'other author' thinking she has to do bodily harm to another person to get truffles from you? Do you typically cave to such demands and send truffles on threat of crimes being committed in your name?Laura: NO. Never. I am trying to STAMP DOWN on this rumor. Just in case, please see my Statement for the Police.
However, I may give truffles for other reasons, like for someone else telling their own very embarrassing wedding hysteria story so I won’t be the only one out there exposed.
dee: How did you come up with your migraine cure? Are you sure it's not just an excuse to eat really good chocolate?
Laura: EXPERIMENTATION. Cruel and unusual human subject experimentation on MY VERY OWN BODY. I was walking by a stack of chocolate while suffering a migraine and I just had an INSTINCT it would solve all my problems. Almost a COMPULSION just to eat all that chocolate and see if it would make me feel better. And it DID.
On What's Next
dee: What are your upcoming novels? When will they be released? Can you tell us anything about them?
Laura: I don’t KNOW when they’ll be released. I didn’t even know BLAME IT ON PARIS was going to be released in October until someone who knew me noticed the date on Amazon. My publisher had said it wouldn’t be until this spring. See my comments about how frustrating publishing is, above.
But, the next one is finished and is called, for the moment, HOMETOWN HEART, a title I remain unconvinced of, but all my other titles failed to pass muster. And it’s true it’s about hometowns and hearts. If you have a glamorous life on one continent and family on another, what do you do when you can’t have both? How do you choose? It’s completely fiction, although NOW people don’t believe me about that and keep looking for hidden identities. Presumably it’s coming out 2008, and here’s its hook:
J.J. Sharp from Bulittle, Georgia has made it big: she lives in Paris, makes a fortune a year, and gets to wear six-inch stilettos to work. She’s doing pretty good until her employer sends her to destroy her hometown. In July. J.J. always thought there wasn’t much left to her hometown to destroy, but as she walks its insanely hot and humid streets and faces family, old friends, and one old lover, she has to start rethinking a choice she made long ago: between family and adventure; between Podunk, Georgia and the capitals of Europe; between love and freedom; and between Hershey’s and Parisian chocolatiers. If she’s not careful, she could lose everything she’s worked the past thirteen years to gain—or gain back everything she lost on the way.
The book I’m working on now takes us back to France, specifically Provence in the rose season. My title for this one is so much my favorite title I have ever thought of that I am afraid to say it, in case someone steals it. That could happen, you know. I’ve promised to finish this one up in July, and I’m having so much fun writing it. I think it’s the most just-pure-fun I’ve ever had writing a book, so I hope that means good things.
I just want to thank Laura for being such an absolutely FAB-ulous pick! And remind you guys to get busy and enter those contests! You know you want to!