What inspired you to write "I'll See You in Paris?"
In researching my first book A Paris Apartment, I studied every luminary Giovanni Boldini rendered. When I dug up Gladys Deacon, I knew she’d get top billing in a future novel. She’s too delicious to leave to history!
I used many of the Duchess’s expressions, mannerisms, and real-life stories throughout the novel. Yes, she disappeared from her palace. Yes, she turned up in a dilapidated Grey Gardens-style manse forty years later. Yes, she chased people with guns. This is a small sampling of the bedlam the Dazzling Miss Deacon wrought.
I wanted to incorporate a more modern-day storyline too but couldn’t use the 2010s as the timing didn’t mesh with the historical aspects of the novel. The post-9/11 angle struck me as ideal as much of the storyline takes places in the final years of the Vietnam War. Two wars: one very much supported (at least at first) and one vastly out of favor. The juxtaposition of the two intrigued me.
The Duchess of Marlborough appears in this book. What was the most interesting/ strange thing that you learned about her in your research?
There are too many options! I can’t pick one “most interesting” thing but her hatred for Winston Churchill amused and even shocked me. Gladys complimented Hitler just to get under Churchill’s skin!
Nearly everything she said about him in I’ll See You in Paris is a direct quote. Here are a few:
“When you think how hard it is to create a rising in a small village, well, [Hitler] had the whole world up in arms. He was larger than Churchill. Churchill couldn’t have done that!”
“[Winston] was not a great man. Of course he wasn’t. The English just like to create heroes and worship them.”
“[Winston] used to come to that place where we were…He liked to lay down the law! No compassion. The man was incapable of love. He was in love with his own image - his reflection in the mirror.”
Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
The Duchess is my favorite because it was such fun uncovering her real life shenanigans. Aside from her, I adored (and had a small crush on!) writer Win Seton. He’s rakish and self-deprecating and sly, but self-aware. He makes mistakes but I’m able to forgive him. That’s not always the case with my characters!
Why do you think people are so drawn to Paris both in real life and through books?
The city itself is magically beautiful and has “raised” so many writers and artists. There’s this rich history, yet we think of Paris as being forward-thinking. Paris’s lore is filled with grittiness, glitz, fame, and infamy. And, whether it’s your first time or your twelfth, there’s always something new to discover.
If you could bring three fictional characters or historical figures with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?
I would bring Gladys Deacon for her humor, intentional and otherwise. I’d never get bored with her nearby. I’d also have to bring a writer—perhaps John Irving—to write new books for me to read. And the titular Ove from a recent favorite book A Man Called Ove would also make great company. Like Gladys, he’s funny, but, despite outward appearances, he’s a good person and friend. I’m quite partial to curmudgeons.
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