I’d like to welcome Eleanor Brown and her blog tour for her new book, The Light of Paris which was released yesterday (14th July) by The Borough Press. Hi Eleanor. Thank you so much for joining me. How do you approach the writing process? Do you do much planning and do you edit as you go etc?
I’m a non-planner by nature but I’ve trained myself to do at least some. With The Weird Sisters I just clanged around discovering the story as I went, but with The Light of Paris I worked quite hard to plan things out ahead of time. Consequently, it took me years to write The Weird Sisters, but once I had The Light of Paris figured out, I wrote the first draft in under two months.
I always say to my writing students that you’re going to do the organizational work sometime – whether it’s at the beginning, in the middle when you get stuck, or at the end is up to you, but you can’t avoid it altogether. I recommend a bare minimum of planning at the beginning, even if you consider yourself a free spirit – it saves a lot of pain and dead ends.
There is zero editing as I write! I just hurl it all on the page and tell myself I can make it pretty later. I hate drafting so much I just want it over with. Besides, what’s the point of making something pretty if I am just going to have to cut it later?
Can you tell me a little about your typical writing day and do you have any writing rituals (coffee before you begin, writing in silence etc.)
For a long time I thought if I could just figure out the perfect habit, I’d have this writing thing conquered. Now I understand that there is no perfect schedule – only what you can get done.
You have to write when you can, and that may change from year to year or week to week or day to day. I used to write in the mornings and took care of business in the afternoon. But lately it’s made more sense to do business in the morning and write in the afternoon. If I kept desperately trying to fit the way things are into my old schedule, I’d be frantic. Occasionally I just have to step back and say, “This isn’t working right now. What can I do differently?”
I believe writing rituals are dangerous. What if there’s a day you can only write while you wait for your kid to get out of soccer practice? If you’ve trained yourself to need your favourite pen and the perfect blend of tea, you’re out of luck. I just write when I can, where I can, as much as I can.
Your book is called The Light of Paris. Can you tell me about it and how the idea originated?
I was chatting with my parents about Jazz Age Paris and my father mentioned, off-handedly, that my grandmother had lived in Paris in the 1920s. And then my mother added, equally casually, that we had the letters she’d written to her family while she was there.
After I’d picked myself up off the floor, I asked for the letters and read them. My grandmother had a really, really good time in Paris. She was 23 and she found a job and she went out dancing until all hours and hung out in all the cafés and just threw herself into it. But the grandmother I knew was much more staid and conservative.
So I asked myself, what might have happened to her to change her so much? And why might she have left Paris if she was so happy there? And what would her daughter and her granddaughter be like, living under the shadow of the life she wanted versus the life she had? And then it just grew from there.
If you were only allowed to own three novels, which three would you pick and why?
This question is terribly unfair! Can I still go to the library? I can’t live on three!
I will tell you three I read again and again and never get tired of:
Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, because it’s so rich with detail and every character in it is so complicated, and every time I read it, I get something new out of it.
The Stand, by Stephen King. I have a surprising love for post-apocalyptic stories, and this one in particular has terrific characters I never tire of. King has the most tremendous ear for the way real people talk.
Evening Class by Maeve Binchy. There are actually three of her novels I go to again and again (Scarlet Feather and Tara Road are the other two), but this one is my favorite. It’s so hopeful and her voice is so warm – it’s like getting a hug from an old friend.
Honorable mention: Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline. That book just kicks my heart up and down the street every time I read it.
If you could pick one place to go to spend a whole summer, where would you pick and what would you do once you got there?
I would go to a beach and read and swim for months. With my three books, because you took all the others away. *sniff*
Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?
Is it terrible that I don’t have an answer to this question? There are lots of authors I’d like to meet or talk to, but to me characters end when I close the book, so I don’t think of their existence outside the pages.
What are the best things/challenges of being a writer?
The best thing is getting to spend my time with stories – mine and other people’s. Stories are the root of so many things- empathy and discovery and curiosity, and I feel like I learn so much from them.
The hardest thing is balance – allowing space for creativity while taking care of real life, and having experiences so that I have something to write about!
What’s next for you?
The Light of Paris comes out in July, so I’ll be talking to people about that. I’m also editing an anthology right now – it’s essays about Paris by bestselling authors who have written books about the city. It’s so fun hearing everyone’s different experiences and thoughts on a single place. And I’m working on another novel, but I have discovered that if I talk about it too much, the magic goes away, so I’ll say no more!
Any advice for new writers?
Teach yourself to read like a writer – not just for pleasure, but asking all the time, “How is the author doing this? What can I take from it to my own writing?”
Eleanor Brown is the New York Times and #1 international bestselling author of The Weird Sisters. Her new novel, The Light of Paris
Her second novel, The Light of Paris, will be published by Putnam Books in the summer of 2016.
Eleanor teaches writing workshops at The Writers’ Table in Highlands Ranch, CO, and at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, CO, as well as writing conferences and centers nationwide.
An avid CrossFit participant, Eleanor is the author of WOD Motivation and a contributor to CrossFit Journal.
Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Eleanor lives in Colorado with her partner, writer J.C. Hutchins.
For more about Eleanor, visit http://www.eleanor-brown.com
The tour continues on Monday over at PoppyPeacockPens.com.
My verdict on The Light of Paris….
Madeline’s story picks up in 1999. She’s unhappily married but she’s very much settled for the life that she believes is expected of her.
An argument has her return to her childhood home where she soon discovers old journals belonging to her Grandmother.
Margie’s story is based mostly in 1924. She is very much expected to get married and become a mother. She is charged with chaperoning her younger cousin to Paris. When she arrives there she discovers a whole new world.
Madeline and Margie, despite the fact that they are years apart and are on their individual journeys are so similar in many ways. There are parallels in their lives. They are both trying to escape expectations, unhappiness and judgment. They are both trying to find out more about themselves but what they do know is that they are both incredibly unhappy.
These women are not sure about the place they’ve been given in society and they are trying to decide whether they want something more.
Margie’s story is quite sad in so many ways. Both her and Madeline are so used to being told how plain they are and how they are not good enough that they have no self-esteem.
This book is beautifully written. The imagery that Eleanor creates is wonderful. I really felt like I was sat in a cafe in Paris in the 1920s amongst the writers and artists.
The plot is compelling and I was very quickly sucked in to the point where I couldn’t put it down. With this book it was always five more minutes, one more chapter and before I know it, it’s 3am. Good job I was reading it when I didn’t have to be at work the next day.
Despite the fact that the chapters alternate between both characters, the story flows well.
This is the first of Eleanor’s books I have read and I have to say it’s a lovely introduction to her work. There was never a dull moment. I couldn’t put this book down. I have fast become a fan of Eleanor’s books and I thoroughly recommend this one.