You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
If you’re interested in reading the first three chapters of A Paris Apartment click here!
Grateful to St. Martin’s Press for providing the link. And thanks especially to my digital marketing guru Laura for making this happen! 🙂
Happy reading (I hope!) Book comes out officially in hardback and e-reader on April 22!
Sorry I’ve been a little quiet around here. Things have been busy with work (earnings season and all!) as well as a bunch of book marketing stuff, plus my website redesign, which looks amazing. My designer has done a phenomenal job and I can’t wait to show it to you guys! Add in girls’ softball starting back up and a quick mini-vacation with my family, and I haven’t had much time for blogging. Ahhh, but sometimes busy is good.
Anyway, I wanted to share my my Pinterest page. I’ve had it for several years and mostly it’s about clothes–with some book stuff thrown in–but I linked it up here because I’ve been told in the next week or so my publisher is going to post the first few chapters of A Paris Apartment on the site!
Also, if you didn’t see it on Facebook, a German publisher acquired rights to the book! They only publish 10 hardcovers per list, so I’m very excited, especially since they also publish Truman Capote, Mark Twain, and Norman Mailer. Totally the same thing. 😉
That’s about it from my world. I’ve read several fantastic books lately, including The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan, The Last Enchantments by Charles Finch, and The Chocolate Money by Ashley Prentice Norton. All very different, all great.
Well, have a great week everyone! A Paris Apartment comes out eight weeks from tomorrow! Yikes!
One of the most gratifying things is introducing friends or family to a book (or author!) I love. It makes me so happy when I’ve rated something highly on Good Reads and then see a bunch of “to reads” of it on my feed. Then when the 4 and 5 stars begin showing up… well, then I’m downright giddy when something I’ve recommended resonates with others.
I just finished Belle Cora by Phillip Margulies and it is 600 pages of pure awesomeness. I am fairly well-read (2-3 books per week) and can be a little picky. But, wow, I can’t say a bad thing about this one other than I wish it went on for another 600 pages.
If you’re into big, delicious, thick historicals with complicated and likeable characters, pick this up. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever re-read a novel’s first chapter after finishing the whole thing.
Because I’ll be pushing Belle Cora on everyone I know, I wanted to mention a few other books that have struck a chord with me recently. Some 2014 favorites:
The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
Heft by Liz Moore (I’ve already mentioned this one – deserves another shout out!)
Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless
Please feel free to comment if any of these also resonated with you, or if you have one you are currently yapping about on a nonstop basis!
And if you’re a reader and not on Good Reads, WHY NOT!??! It is one of the best things that’s happened to me online. I am forever grateful to my friend Erin for telling me about it soon after the site was launched. It’s broadened my reading scope and I’ve connected with people there I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Happy reading, everyone!
I received a fun surprise Friday. A box of advance reader copies for A Paris Apartment landed on my doorstep! I’m sure the UPS guy was like, “what is she ordering now?!?!”
Advance copies (aka ARCs) are printed by the publisher in advance of the actual release date. These still have a few errors in them and, in the case of A Paris Apartment, are in paperback versus hardcover. It’s meant for reviewers and the like. Sometimes the author is lucky and snags a few. 😉
In my last post I said that when I tell someone I have a book coming out, they immediately assume it’s finance-related and think I must’ve written “the most boring book of all time.” So my husband, who also works in finance, walked in the house Friday evening, picked up a copy, turned to a random page, and promptly found the ONE sentence in the entire book that contains a finance term.
“EBITDA?!?! Why is there ‘EBITDA’ in this book?”
I was crying with laughter. Of course that’s the page he’d turn to! (he’s never read the book – ever, not one page). The answer to his question is the protagonist’s husband works in finance. He does not understand art as it produces no EBITDA.
Anyway, it was very exciting to touch (and smell!) the book for the first time. In an odd and trippy way, this process has not only taken forever (prior to the sale) but also flown (sale to pub date) so it’s never really seemed “real.” All the while I’ve been so busy with my day job, kids, husband, edits to A Paris Apartment, writing my new book, that I’ve just powered through, done what I had to, and not thought too long about the book itself. But, wow. Now it feels real!
Also after signing one copy (for my Mom!) I’m thinking I’ll need to change my signature. Prior to my current gig, I was the CFO for a software company. As such, I had to sign approximately one gazillion checks per week (give or take). I’m all for efficiency and Michelle is a long name. So I went from a full name signature to first initial last name to what basically amounts to a squiggle. I had crap to do! I wasn’t going to tussle with pretty handwriting.
The kids ceaselessly mock my signature. (“I have better handwriting than you and I’m only 7!”) It could perhaps resemble the letter “M” but only if you have a vague notion about what an “M” is supposed to look like.
Is this acceptable for signing a book? It seems silly to ponder. Who the heck would want my signature unless they were trying to procure copier paper or get sign-off on a job requisition? But my publicist has already scheduled two signings (April 22 at Warwick’s in La Jolla; April 24 at Book Passage in Corte Madera) so at least one person will want a copy signed. I guess I’ll have to figure out how to write my name again? Admittedly, it’s a nice problem to have.
Have a fantastic week everyone!
When someone asks what I do, I almost never mention writing.
Usually I say something along the lines of “I work in finance.” If pressed, or if the person seems genuinely curious, I sometimes provide more color: “I’m head of FP&A for a publicly-traded software company, with a healthy serving of Investor Relations on the side.”
If the conversation lasts long enough, I might mention that I have a book coming out in April, at which point the inquirer assumes I’ve written about FP&A and that they’ve just met the person responsible for creating the most boring book of all time.
I don’t know why I’m so evasive about it. Maybe because I’ve always been “in finance” and that’s easier to explain. Or believe. Or maybe because for so many years I didn’t want to face the inevitable “have I read anything you’ve written?” Uh, no. “When’s your book coming out?” Uh, one day, hopefully?
I’ve always felt more like a hobbyist than a writer, which is funny because although A Paris Apartment will be my first published novel, I’ve probably written well over a dozen books. The vast majority of these have no business seeing the light of day, but that’s not the point. I wrote them. And as any writer (Writer?) knows, completing an entire manuscript is a massive undertaking no matter the end result. It is really freaking hard to finish a book. Even harder to edit that finished book, if you ask me.
I wake up at 5 a.m. I write late into the night. I sneak minutes between my girls’ softball double headers. I will write a few sentences waiting for water to boil. And I’ve been doing this for years and years, decades even. Sounds like a pretty grueling “hobby”, right? A real “dabbling” kind of endeavor? I mean, I don’t even put this kind of effort into obsessing about sports.
A few months ago my former childhood au pair, who is from Denmark (and lives there now), tracked down my mom on Facebook. Because of course my siblings and I were the most delightful and memorable children she’d ever encountered. 😉 Anyway, upon hearing about the book, she wrote:
“Ages ago it was expected that you would become a writer, remember you writing all the time.”
Huh. I guess, despite being a newbie in the publishing world, I have been doing this writing thing a long time. Her words were a good reminder for this novice, this rookie, this “I’m in finance” kind of person. Maybe at the next cocktail party I’ll try leading with “Writer.”
A while back I read a magazine article about crafting strong characters in fiction. I tried to find it online but unfortunately had no luck. My best guess is I saw it in Writer’s Digest but forgive me if I’m wrong!
In any case, the author wrote something that really stuck with me. In fiction, and indeed in real life, relationships are often defined by the secrets characters keep from one another. Brilliant.
This advice remains something I actively think about when trying to create believable characters in my own fiction. That is, when I’m not simply using people from my real life in thinly-veiled character studies. (I kid, I kid).
There are a whole heap of things the characters in A Paris Apartment are hiding, but I made a more conscious effort in my latest novel after having read that article. And, oh man, these people have some seriously shady things going on!
[Side note: can I just say how much lighter I feel after having lobbed my latest–and another manuscript–over to my agent? I’ve been working on it for over a year!]
Anyway I’m always thinking about what makes great fictional characters and am in awe whenever I “meet” one that affects me. My all time favorite character? The protagonist in A Prayer for Owen Meany.
Right now I am about 75% through Heft by Liz Moore and I cannot remember a time when I’ve encountered such a group of complex, rich, flawed, wonderful characters. You know how it is in fiction. Best case, you might love one or two characters, and be pretty okay with the rest. Every single person in Heft is brilliantly portrayed. I’ve been thinking about Kel and Arthur and Charlene and Yolanda all day.
A funny and apropos side note. Last night, just as I was thinking, “why is every character in this book so amazing? I am not worthy!” I flipped the page and there was a line that made me laugh out loud. A little background if you haven’t hung out here too much: I sort of like the San Diego Chargers. Rather, I like them in the same way The Cookie Monster likes cookies, but in a less subtle fashion. I have Chargers crumbs all over me at all times.
So, in Heft, one of the characters is a teenage boy named Kel. He listens to sports radio incessantly (feel ya Kel). At one point he calls into a sports radio show (not a spoiler) and says: “I have to disagree with him…About Eli. I think if his last name wasn’t Manning he’d be a backup in San Diego right now.”
OMG, yes Kel! I have said those very words! Should I feel weird that I relate to an eighteen year old boy? 😉 Chargers aside, I cannot recommend this book enough. Blown away.
Speaking of football, if you watched the Super Bowl, I hope you had enough beer/nachos to compensate for the boredom/drubbing. I’m happy for the Seahawks. I love a good underdog story (not a single person on their 53-man roster had ever even been to the Super Bowl) and my oldest daughter is a huge fan, mostly due to her penchant for the color lime green.
I guess it’s time to move onto NCAA hoops! Let’s go #5 SDSU Aztecs! We’re headed to a game this weekend. Can’t wait.
Have a great week everyone!
As far as I’m concerned, the “New Year” starts not on January 1, but the day after the Super Bowl. Or maybe I should just claim I celebrate the Chinese New Year instead and therefore look like less of a sports-obsessed superfan. 😉 It’s the Year of the Horse, which is of course making Broncos fans go nuts. Sadly there’s no such thing as Year of the Lightning Bolt.
Exactly one year ago this (Super Bowl) weekend I was in New York for a company board meeting as well to ring the bell on the New York Stock Exchange (#1 performing stock – holla!) My husband tagged along because it was his 40th birthday. Before I go further, I want to wish him another Happy Birthday coming up this week. No one beats this guy. He is there when I need him, constantly picks up my slack, is funny, wise, and oh my gosh the best dad in the world. As I type this, he is right now teaching a bunch of little girls to play fast pitch softball. All the good things in my life, they start with him.
Anyway, enough sappiness. A year ago, in addition to work and football-watching duties, we spent a day at the Met, where I got to pay a visit to my favorite painting, Madame X by John Singer Sargent. (Related note: I highly recommend the book “Strapless: John Singer Sargent And The Fall Of Madame X” by Deborah Davis).
At the time, my agent was shopping the manuscript for A Paris Apartment and I remember standing in front of Madame X (snapping the picture at right) and knowing-just knowing!-the book would sell. I say this not as a bright-eyed newbie (though I am that as well) but someone who’d experienced the ups and downs (and the way way way downs) of the publishing industry for several years.
Sure enough, the next month when I was in Paris for work, my agent called with the news that a very awesome editor at a very stellar imprint was interested in my book. (Okay technically she left the message when I was in Zürich but I didn’t listen to it until Paris – that still counts as Kismet, right?)
At times it feels like this has all gone very “fast” which is amusing because, as I’m sure my agent would attest, at times it’s been agonizingly slow. Heck, I started writing this particular book in 2010 and here we sit in 2014. Nonetheless, one year ago this weekend I had no guarantee this book would ever hit the shelves. Now Advanced Reader Copies are being distributed. For the publishing world, that is actually quite expeditious!
And today, one year after I stood in front of Madame X, I sent my agent not one but two edited and polished new manuscripts. We’ll see which one she picks to lead with next. Dealer’s choice! Both are very different from each other and also from A Paris Apartment.
I wanted to thank everyone for the support they’ve given me on the journey thus far, both now and before. It’s truly overwhelming. And my “day job”? Oh my gosh, every person there has been spectacularly, above-and-beyond supportive and in ways I never imagined.
But, more importantly, I want to thank everyone for their prayers and good wishes during my aunt’s critical illness.
After 14 days on life support, she was extubated and taken off the ventilator on Thursday. This is nothing short of a miracle. She will have many challenges in her recovery but two weeks ago we were told there was no hope. Funeral arrangements would need to be made. I’m so relieved and overjoyed for everyone who loves her and especially her husband, daughters, siblings, and the second graders she teaches.
So many people reached out, offering prayers and good wishes. People who’ve never met her, who will never meet her, even those who’ve never met me. The generosity of human spirit so moved me it’s difficult to express in words. I have always believed in the power of positive energy. And now I have proof, first hand, that it works. If you’re one of the people who said a little prayer, thank you, thank you, a million thank yous.
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. (Go Seahawks!) Also, I’ll be giving away an ARC in the next week or so. Stayed tuned to my Facebook page for more details if you’re interested!
A few pieces of news to share. First of all, due to a somewhat goofy situation The Paris Apartment is now A PARIS APARTMENT! The book still comes out on April 22, 2014 in hardback or in e-reader–whichever you prefer!
Secondly, here it is, my glorious cover! I am in love!
Isn’t it gorgeous??
We actually had a prior cover in the works. The funny thing is, now that I think about it, that cover was the near opposite of this one. The room was cluttered and a young woman was featured. There were many things I liked about it overall but I had a few qualms about some of the details. I expressed my reservations, all the while knowing that a) cover design is not my forte and b) the author generally gets little say.
Then, a couple weeks ago, I got an email from my editor, the subject line referencing a new cover. I was assuming it’d be a tweak on the original but when I opened up this baby I gasped. There was nothing bad I could say about it. Not one stinking thing! And believe me, being critical is never a difficult proposition for me. I think this is just perfect and could not be happier.
So that’s all from the world of A PARIS APARTMENT. It comes out in less than three months.
Finally, as an aside…and this has nothing to do with books or publishing or work of any sort. My beloved aunt is critically ill in the hospital right now with sepsis. So whatever is your thing–prayers, good vibes, all of the above–if you don’t mind sending a few out to Janet it would be much appreciated. She is in a dire situation but the fact she is still alive is a miracle in itself. This is an amazing, vibrant, young, and huge-hearted woman and believe me when I say this world needs her in it for a lot longer. Her husband, children, friends, and family need her and there is a class of second graders desperately wanting their wonderful teacher back. Thanks for any good energy you can provide. I am not a religious person but I truly believe in the collective power of prayer.
If you’re on this blog there’s a decent chance you found it because you read about the amazing discovery of the Paris apartment that was shuttered for 70 years. Like I was, you were probably intrigued by the treasures found inside, not the least of which was the stunning Giovanni Boldini portrait of Marthe de Florian.
We know Madame de Florian was a famous courtesan during the Belle Époque but that’s about all we know, other than she was rumored to have had affairs with French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau and Boldini himself, to name a few.
My agent sent me the article about the apartment back in 2010. I spent months researching Boldini, Marthe de Florian, and anyone tangentially related to the apartment, the city, and the era. Like so many, I wondered why Madame de Florian had these things and why the granddaughter locked up the apartment for all that time (70 years! in Paris! filled with art of near incalculable value!) Though there are no answers to be found publicly, I decided to “explain” these things in my book. From a purely fictional viewpoint, of course! The article and its images served as a jumping-off point and the writing gods took over.
People always say “write what you know” but I disagree. The phrase should be “write what you want to know.” The main protagonist in my story is an auction house expert and it’s safe to say, after a career in investment banking, private equity, and corporate finance, I knew nothing of that world until I started my research (interviews, reading, etc.). I did manage to slip the term EBITDA into the manuscript as a nod to my finance roots – you’re welcome! I’m sure everyone wants to read about EBITDA in historical fiction!
Research is funny. For me it is the ultimate procrastinator. I don’t get “writer’s block,” I get “researcher’s obsession.” You can always look up more, go one step deeper. Inevitably I always reach the point where I have to pull myself away to start typing. Research is one of the things I love most about writing and I’m forever wanting to tackle new (to me) territory. Incidentally, the same applies as a reader. Any book that sends me to Google is going to rate highly.
As mentioned, I did gobs of research for The Paris Apartment, only a fraction of which ended up in the story. Though the initial article sparked the idea behind the entire manuscript, another courtesan, or demimondaine as they were known, inspired me greatly – Liane de Pougy.
The Paris Apartment is told through two viewpoints: the Sotheby’s employee as well as Marthe de Florian herself. I wasn’t sure how to weave Marthe’s voice into the narrative but then I stumbled upon Liane’s published diaries.
Immediately I knew my plucky auction house expert April Vogt would find (and covertly read) Marthe’s journals. In fact I’d been wondering about the books and papers seen in the photographs, all of them piled haphazardly on a comparatively drab bookcase. I knew this would be the place April starts to find answers. She is a continental furniture expert but sees the value in the things that would not be sold.
Despite her chosen career path, Liane de Pougy has a decidedly more pious voice in her journals than the fictionalized journals of Marthe’s. In fact, Liane eventually became a self-anointed nun (not sure she was ever technically one). Thought the two took disparate paths (in my own mind!), I loved reading Liane’s journals and learning about the people in her orbit as well as what was important to her and her friends.
Of course, one must take these journals with a grain of salt as Liane’s entire raison d’être was to present herself in a certain light. Indeed, she went from courtesan to princess (she was married to Prince Georges Ghika of Romania) to “Sister Anne-Marie.” Also, her journal entries were penned between 1919 and 1941, well into her marriage and after her heyday at the Folies. She was 50 when she began writing her memoirs, so was certainly expected to maintain a prescribed level of decorum. (Not like our bawdy Marthe!)
Nonetheless, I encountered many fun gems, including one of my favorite quotes: “Never again. Never more than one writer at a time.” Said after she hosted a party for Jean Cocteau and friends.
All in, my research included reading at least a dozen books, pouring through innumerable articles, and looking at endless pictures. (Another favorite? Browsing Sotheby’s auction catalogs). Even now, even now that the book is 3 months from debut (!!!) I find myself continuing to seek new things. (Stop Michelle, just stop!) The photographs have initiated such a great spark, it seems, worldwide. I can’t wait to introduce people to my version of events. 😉
It seems there has been some news this week about the very apartment that inspired my novel. Not sure the reason behind the sudden resurgence/interest but if you’ve stumbled upon this page (and many of you have) looking for more information… welcome!
Not sure you’ll find all that much about the woman, the demimondaine from the Boldini painting, here on my blog. Very little is known and my book is, after all, fiction! Though it is based on the facts as we know them. If this is the kind of fiction that appeals to you, The Paris Apartment will be published by St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books this Spring. It comes out on April 22. I would love to hear from you if you decide to take the plunge and read it! I am on on Facebook and on Twitter if you’re at all interested in staying in touch. The entire spring SMP catalog can be found here (the book is on page 6) if you want to learn more about the novel.
Of course I completely understand the vast Marthe de Florian googling. After all, the original article about the apartment is why this book exists at all. My agent forwarded me a link with the note “you could do something great with this” and voilà! Here we are! It really was that simple (ha ha-if only!)
Thanks for stopping by! I would love to hear from you and hope you stick around. Happy reading! And I hope Marthe inspires you too. 🙂