Ever since the day I stumbled upon Stephanie Perkin's adorable blog, I knew I wanted to get to know her. I knew I'd read whatever she wrote, and I knew she was destined for great things.
And then it happened. She sold her debut novel at auction.
I'm sure she was surprised, but I wasn't. I knew this girl had something. Something like that "X-factor" thingy Simon Cowell is always talking about on American Idol.
Here is the PM announcement about Stephanie's book:
ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins, in which American Anna Oliphant spends a year in a Parisian boarding school and falls for her multi-national classmate, plus a companion novel, LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR, to Julie Strauss-Gabel at Dutton Children’s Books, in a very nice deal at auction, for publication in Fall 2010, by Kate Schafer Testerman at kt literary (World English).
In short, it's about a girl. It's about a boy. It's about Parisian boarding school, almond-scented macarons, famous cemeteries, and cinemaphiles. It's about heartache. And it's about true love.
So, this whole "set in Paris" thing intrigued me especially since I was under the impression from her blog that she had never been there. Heck, I'm having a hard enough time writing about Mississippi, I can't even imagine trying to write about Paris! And then, a few months ago I read that she was finally going to go to her romantic destination - for a MONTH!
I remember tearing up about this random writer, who I don't know from Adam, getting to visit the setting of her book FOR THE FIRST TIME! I just couldn't imagine what it would feel like to walk in her MC's shoes.
Could. Not. Imagine.
So, I asked her if I could interview her and she did not disappoint! Her interview is so good that it reads like a novel itself.
Bloggers, I am thrilled to give you Stephanie Perkins and our Parisian interview :)
"Why did you choose to write about Paris if you had never been there?"
Ha! Technically, I HAD been to Paris. But I was twelve years old and a Pizzatarian at the time (someone who only eats pizza, of course), so my memories weren’t the most reliable.
I wrote about Paris for the reason I do just about everything. Boys. I had a dream in which I saw a beautiful boy sitting on the steps of the Panthéon. He was reading a book. And I knew I was in love with him. Throughout the course of the dream, I learned his name, that there was something unusual about his accent, and that we attended an American boarding school together. When I woke up, I knew it was special. The boy arrived fully formed, and the story grew organically from what I knew about him.
I am very motivated by cute guys.
"What was the hardest thing about doing this?”
I was terrified of the French! I’d never studied their language, and there are so many stereotypes that immediately spring to mind — they’re beautiful, they’re better dressed, they have better food, they’re rude, they hate Americans. Intimidating, right? I hadn’t nursed Parisian fantasies since I was a little girl. I was scared that I’d get everything wrong. That I would misrepresent the French, that I would offend them, and that I’d reinforce the idea of the Stupid American all at once.
Naturally, I was wrong. While it’s true they are better groomed and their food is most certainly tastier, they don’t hate Americans. At all! And the rudeness thing is a misinterpretation of cultural manners. Everyone in Paris was very, very friendly and patient with me.
"Tell me a bit about the research you did."
Well, nearly all of the research occurred outside of France. I wrote about my research process here but it was, in short, exhaustive.
(let me interrupt this killer interview to say that you might wanna check out the above link even if you don't plan to write about a far away locale. Stephanie's blog posts are always adorable, and usually contain one or more HBMs - hot British males. Just sayin'.)
It wasn’t until a month before my trip — which was actually for the purpose of researching Book Three — that I learned I still had time to fix Anna and the French Kiss. My edits were originally scheduled to be completed before I left, but my editor pushed them back a few months. Which was awesome news for me! It meant I got to fact-check Anna in person. Amazing.
While I was there, the research for Book Three involved visiting as many new, peculiar locations I could think of. If someone asked if I wanted to see or do something, I had a rule. I HAD to say: “Oui.” Because you never know when something might come in handy! I took notes on everything from the color of garbage bags to the smell inside a Métro train, and I took thousands of pictures. I also attended a special Mystery Festival south of Paris, which I cannot possibly tell you more about. Ha!
“What was it like when you first stepped out of the airport?"
I was nauseous about spending a month there — What if I’d gotten everything wrong? What if they hate me? What if I don’t understand anything? — but as soon as I stepped off the plane, it hit me. Paris is just a place. The airport looked like any other, and it was easy to navigate through customs, baggage claim, to get a taxi. It was an incredible sense of relief. And when the taxi pulled out of the airport and headed into the city . . . profound happiness. I WAS THERE.
"What was amazingly similar to what you wrote? And what was glaringly different?"
This is a tough question, because I enjoy keeping the contents of my novel a secret! But I will say I was happy to discover that I’d gotten most things right. The intense research paid off. The most glaringly different thing was the positioning of two buildings — I knew where they were on the map, of course, but I hadn’t realized which direction they pointed in! Not a big deal, it makes for some tricky editing.
I also realized that the French were even more wonderful than my research had shown. So in my last major edit, I’m working on making sure that’s clear. I’m grateful to everyone I met there — how helpful and kind they were — and I want to do them justice.
“Was there anything you really wanted to do but didn't get to?"
A month is a long time. I was thrilled to see nearly everything on my list, most items more than once. But I’m bummed I never saw the medical museum (I like weird stuff), and I’d love to go back in the springtime so I could see the gardens in full bloom.
"What do you miss the most about Paris?"
Banana Nutella crêpes, from this one street vendor in the Latin Quarter. Or maybe the yogurt. Or raclette! Raclette is a cheese AND it’s a machine that heats the cheese. You pour it over potatoes and meat, and it’s really simple. But heavenly.
Yeah. Sigh. The food.
But I miss everything else, too. I’d expected to be homesick, but it never happened. The last three days in Paris were heartbreaking. I spent an entire month eating sinful food, staring at beautiful things, and hanging out with friends. It’s hard to imagine a better life.
Whew, Stephanie, Thanks so much for such a fun interview. We can not WAIT to read your books!