Today, I’d like to welcome Lauren Smith to Paris Month! Lauren is the author of the romance series Surrender, with the latest 3rd installment The Gilded Chain now available. Sharing with us her love of France, Lauren talks about her inspiration for setting her latest book in Paris.
Wes inhaled the Parisian air, loving the smells of the city as he stepped onto the Rue Cler. With all of the produce stands and patisseries as well as delis, the street itself seemed to have a taste. Sugar and butter coated the air, mixing with the subtle tang of meats. It made him feel alive to be here.
This was how I felt when I first stepped out on the streets of Paris when I was fifteen. The city imprinted itself so much upon me that I would return two more times – once in high school and once during college. My love affair with France actually began in kindergarten when my school opened an early morning/before school French language class. It was really open to fifth graders but my mother talked the teacher into letting me sit in and just listen and participate as much as any six year old could.
For the next twelve years, learning French became my addiction. I studied it, spoke it, and even dreamed in French. By the time I was actually traveling in France and spending time in Paris, the city had become an obsession. From the small little antique shops to the rows of artists near the Sacred Heart Basilica, I loved every bit of it.
Having visited four times, I naturally got into some fun trouble that would later find homes in my stories. Here’s one: My first trip to the Louvre was in the summer of 2001, a pre-911 world. My friend and I didn’t want to wait in the long lines at the glass pyramid and we actually found a way to get into the museum through a small side entrance. A bored security guard with one little metal detector waved us through after we smiled and tried our French on him. As luck would have it, when we turned the first corner, we stumbled right upon the Mona Lisa. We had basically jumped a 100-person deep line to see it.
The Louvre was a key piece of history and culture for me and, years since that visit, it felt only natural to set part of The Gilded Chain there. Callie Taylor, my heroine, is a small town girl who’s never seen the world, shared a lot of my own awestruck reactions when she experiences Paris and the Louvre for the first time. (Unlike me, Callie is given a special tour from mysterious art enthusiast Wes Thorne.) Like me, she is also an artist, and I drew upon a lot of my own feelings – the joy, the wonder, the freedom – of my travels through Paris.
The sky, a blue like Wes’s eyes, made a vibrant rich backdrop behind the rising gold pyramid of glass and steel. A pool of water, black from the night, reflected the pyramid upside down. Beyond the pyramid, the Louvre’s pale stones turned gold from lamps lit along the walkway facing the structure. The sight was breathtaking. Centuries of history were here. Inside the walls were some of the most famous works done by true geniuses. Her throat tightened as a wave of longing and awe swept through her. She was about to enter the hallowed halls of true masters. She, who knew so little of technique and had no formal training, rather than be daunted by facing these masters, felt invigorated. Tears of joy stung her eyes.
For me, the important thing about setting a book in Paris wasn’t just writing about the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre or other basic tourist attractions. I wanted my story to really capture the essence and flavor of the city on a personal level so the readers would feel the details of it themselves as though they were traveling along with Callie and Wes – from the taste of sugar in the air, to the way the artists gathered like upon the hill by the Sacred Heart displaying their bright colored canvases and the gypsies with their wild love birds in cages. Writing about a place you love isn’t easy. You want to transfer that love to the page and reader so fiercely; you want them to feel everything like you do. Paris is worth the challenge, and I was so excited to revisit my experiences with the writing of Callie’s story.
In fact, I can’t wait to go back and to get inspired all over again…