Romance author Stefanie Sloane sat down with Eloisa James, author of Paris in Love, her new memoir, to discuss her year in France, her writing style, and a few of the life lessons she learned during her time away.
Stefanie: Everyone dreams of packing up and moving to a romantic locale. But so few of us actually manage to turn such fanciful imaginings into reality. For you, a health scare sent you overseas. Many in your position would have hunkered down and sought comfort in the familiar, but you went looking for an adventure. Why? And are you glad you chose the unfamiliar over the comfortable?
Eloisa: For one thing, my cancer was not life threatening: it was caught at an early stage. So, for me, it was more of a wake-up call than a nesting call. I realized that time—my time—could be cut short at any moment. Sometimes nesting is the best possible action (when caring for a new baby, for instance), but not always. I strongly believe that it is still OK to seek out adventures as an adult, a mom, a wife.
Throughout the book, you experience epiphanies, if you will; moments where life reveals itself to you in an effort to educate, inspire, and encourage. Was there one lesson that was particularly hard for you to learn? And which was the most satisfying?
It was very hard for me to say goodbye to my friend Rose. The fact that I had moved to Paris for a glorious year, post-cancer treatment, and that she—during that same year—succumbed to incurable cancer, gave me a great deal to think about. Rose lived with incredible joie de vivre: her call to me from the top of a mountain—“It’s beautiful here…you must come before you die”—became one of the most heart-wrenching and heart-felt lessons of my year.
Clothing, including lingerie, plays a reoccurring role in your memoir. For French women it appears that fashion—and the bits underneath that keep one’s assets in place—are to be celebrated rather than feared. Why do you think it is that we American women possess such a drastically different view of clothing? How did your own opinion of your body and wardrobe change after experiencing Paris?
I could sum it up as this: French women do get fat. They have bodies of all different shapes. But they dress to suit their figure, no matter its shape. I understand my figure differently, after a year of observing Parisians. My closet is less crowded, for one thing—but the clothes I have are tailored to fit my body, and I have figured out how to make them go together. I’m so much happier now that I know that I can quickly put together a chic and flattering outfit.
Your memoir is written in a rather unique way with stories told in short bursts of vivid description and unforgettable prose. Why did you decide to tell your Paris story in such a way? What is gained and/or lost in this abbreviated style?
I wanted to write about Paris in the way I was experiencing it: in very short bursts. My father (Robert Bly), is a poet, and when I was in elementary school, he was working on prose poems. Mastering a very short form of prose, even if my snippets have no comparison to his poetry, was an exercise in affection. What’s more, I wanted this book to give readers the sense of small but vivid pleasures, and so I resisted turning it into a traditional travel narrative.
What do you hope readers take with them from reading Paris in Love?
Whatever you do, whether it involves travel, or a new language, or a painting class, don’t allow fear to stop you. If you do visit a foreign country, don’t spend all your time (or even much of your time) being a tourist. Sit in a café and watch the world passing by. Be joyful rather than learned.
Watch Eloisa and her husband discuss their time in Paris:
|Eloisa James is a professor of English literature who lives with her family in New Jersey. She is the also the author of Midnight Pleasures and Enchanting Pleasures.
PreorderParis in Love, on sale April 3rd.