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Reprinted from a blog on Casablanca Authors
I’m sure, like me, you were shocked and saddened by the events that took place in Paris a last week. For me, it was almost surreal because for the past few weeks I’ve been heavily steeped in the events leading up to and during the French Revolution. I feel like I spend a good part of each day in Paris, even if it is the Paris of the past.
As writers, we often have to limit how much research we can include in our books. I find out so many cool things, but I can only use about a tenth of them and only those that fit in the story. So I thought I’d share here 5 of the fabulous facts about France I’ve discovered through my research.
Chocolate and Coffee=Yum!
If you love your mocha latte at Starbucks, you are not alone. Parisians have been adding chocolate to coffee since at least the 1700s. Know what the prisoners drank in the Bastille? Coffee with chocolate.
At one time it probably did house political prisoners who did nothing more than anger the king or look at a nobleman the wrong way. But by the time of its fall in 1789, the Bastille held only 7 prisoners, who all deserved to be there. One was the marquis de Sade, who was moved to an insane asylum before the prisoner was stormed. Many aspiring writers made an effort to be imprisoned in the Bastille because being able to say you were a prisoner there gave you a certain cachet and could make your career. If you had money, your stay didn’t have to be unpleasant. A few livre bought furniture, books, paper and pen, a fire, and don’t forget that coffee with chocolate.
The Eiffel Tower
Here’s something I love about the French. They are masters of resistance. When Hitler visited Paris during World War II, the French cut the lift cables on the Eiffel Tower so Hitler would have to climb the steps to go to the top.
The French are Polite
The French very much have a café culture, especially in Paris. During the French Revolution, the café you frequented mattered. Jacobins drank coffee in one café while royalists in another and those in favor of a constitutional monarchy in another. The stereotype of the French is that they’re rude, but there’s a coffee house in Nice where it pays to be polite.
The French Fry Almost Wasn’t
It was illegal for humans to eat potatoes from 1748 to 1772. The bad harvests that led to famine (and ultimately to the French Revolution) made the potato, which had been considered a food for livestock only, more appealing. In 1794 Madame Merigot published The Female Republican Cook, which was the first potato cookbook.
What are some interesting facts about your favorite city? One person who comments will be randomly chosen to win the digital bundle of my series about 3 French brothers, the Sons of the Revolution. The bundle includes The Making of a Duchess, The Making of a Gentleman, and The Rogue Pirate’s Bride. Winner announced and contacted on Sunday.
I’m what writers like to call a pantser. It means that I tend to write by the seat of my pants rather than following an outline or a synopsis. I didn’t choose to write this way. It’s my process, and it works for me.
Most of the time.
The problem is that when it doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work. This spring I was working on a novella for the anthology Dancing in the Duke’s Arms. I had an idea of how I wanted the story to start. I usually do. It’s almost like a movie plays in my mind, and I sit down and write the opening scene. The movie doesn’t continue, of course. Like every other writer, I get stuck and have to think about what should happen next, character motivation, plot structure, and all that. But I had an idea for this novella, and I couldn’t shake it. In the opening scene, a princess lies in a pig pen, hiding from assassins.
That’s where I started, and I kept on writing until at the end of the second chapter I realized I hadn’t started in the right place. The book didn’t begin with the princess in a pig pen. It began when she made a run for it. So I started over. The good news is I could use those scenes as bonus material on my website. You can read them here.
I didn’t have to start over when writing my newest novella in A Gentleman for All Seasons. In that novella, the movie started with a dandy whose carriage is stuck in the mud. He can’t get the horse to move, and he risks dirtying his clothing if he tries to free the wheel. Along comes a young lady, and she frees the wheel for him. What’s a gentleman to do? Flirt? Perhaps. Turn up his nose? That too. Invite her to dinner? Absolutely!
It’s never fun to start over, but as I always tell my daughter, it’s more important to get it right than to get it done quickly. Have you ever had to start over after beginning a major project? One person who comments wins a digital copy of my Christmas novella All I Want for Christmas is Blue.
(Winner chosen randomly and announced Sunday.)
I was privileged again this year to attend the annual Buns & Roses Romance Tea for Literacy. The event benefits the Richardson Adult Literacy Center. Part of the fun is driving up with my friends Sophie Jordan and Lily Dalton. Here we are right before Sophie slammed her thumb in the car door.
We always have an adventure. Last year Sophie got a speeding ticket. It’s no wonder then that after we arrived, we needed naps and sustenance.
Saturday many of the authors signed new releases at Barnes & Noble. Diane Kelly gave me one of her Brigits, the dog that features in some of her books.
We partook of more sustenance, which may have included yummy cake balls, and the next day it was work, work, work and lunch with some of my favorite readers.
Finally, it was time for tea. We all dressed up.
And listened to Tessa Dare’s wonderful speech.
And waited with bated breath to see the bear. Each year a new bear is sold. This one is a Scottish lass.
There’s an auction, including a quilt with all of our names on it, and another booksigning.
All in all, it’s a wonderful event, and I feel so fortunate to be asked to be part of it.
is Gretchen! I’ll email you today, Gretchen.