Wednesday, July 09, 2014

FranceBookTours -- The Chocolate Kiss Review, Interview and Giveaway

When I found out that Laura Florand's book The Chocolate Kiss was going to be on France Book Tours, I immediately asked to be included. I've read her other Chocolate books set in Paris and enjoyed them. The books are a little chick lit, a little romance, and a lot of Paris and yummy French chocolate and pastries. This one did not disappoint. I almost wished I was reading it in winter because the descriptions of the hot chocolate were so scrumptious, but summer or winter, this novel will whet your sensual appetites. It was a little racier than I remember the other one's being, but that can be enjoyable too. You don't need to read the other books in the Chocolate series to read this one. They're all independent but some of the characters reappear.
Here's the synopsis from the author:
The Heart of ParisWelcome to La Maison des Sorcieres. Where the window display is an enchanted forest of sweets, a collection of conical hats delights the eye and the habitues nibble chocolate witches from fanciful mismatched china. While in their tiny blue kitchen, Magalie Chaudron and her two aunts stir wishes into bubbling pots of heavenly chocolat chaud.
But no amount of wishing will rid them of interloper Philippe Lyonnais, who has the gall to open one of his world famous pastry shops right down the street. Philippe’s creations seem to hold a magic of their own, drawing crowds of beautiful women to their little isle amidst the Seine, and tempting even Magalie to venture out of her ivory tower and take a chance, a taste…a kiss.
Parisian princesses, chocolate witches, patissier princes and sweet wishes—an enchanting tale of amour et chocolat. 
The magical aspect of the chocolate making kind of reminded me of Chocolat by Joanne Harris. This was a quick read and a delightful escape to Paris and romance.
I was fortunate to get to interview author Laura Florand. Make sure to enter the paperback copy of the book giveaway in the link at the bottom of this post for U.S. readers only.

Interview with Author Laura Florand: 
Thanks for taking the time to answer my interview questions.
Q.    Your books feature fabulous scenes in Paris. When did you fall in love with Paris? Do you live there or travel there often? I always say that France (most notably Paris) is a culture that appropriated me. Although I majored in French in college, I had considerable resistance to France itself. My Fulbright year was to Tahiti, my graduate studies were going to be in Francophone culture. Then I spent my first year in Paris as a graduate assistant, and France just sucked me in. I fell in love with my husband there, and he helped me fall in love with Paris, too, and pretty soon I was meeting all his enormous and fascinating family, giving up my studies to stay there with him, we were getting married, and eighty percent of my life was, and still to this day is, lived in French. (I’m also a professor of French at Duke now.) I had fallen down the rabbit hole into this marvelous, powerful city and culture that had just taken my life over. So I often say that writing about it—first a memoir, and now these novels—is my way of possessing my own experience, of engaging with everything that is amazing or fascinating or even frustrating and challenging about my own love affair with Paris and France.
Q. Your books also have mouth-watering descriptions of chocolate and pastries in France. What kind of research do you do to make these accurate? I am probably the most fortunate researcher in the entire world. To research these scenes, I’ve been blessed by the greatest gods of chocolate and pastry in the field, who have welcomed me into their laboratoires and kitchens so that I can observe: Jacques Genin and Michel Chaudun, as chocolatiers, and Laurent Jeannin as the head pastry chef at the Michelin three-star Épicure in the Bristol. I’ve also been privileged to have two excellent local-to-Duke chocolatiers, Paris-trained Bonnie Lau of Miel Bon Bons in Durham, and one of the earliest microbatch bean-to-bar chocolate makers in the US, Hallott Parsons at L’Escazu in Raleigh, who have allowed me to badger them with questions and curiosity when I’m not in Paris.
      It has been absolutely amazing and, of course, incredibly delicious, to be able to research with these incredible, passionate, perfectionist, generous, impossibly hard-working men and women. I am myself only an amateur cook, so I know I may still make some mistakes, despite all the research. But if I can at least capture the energy and sheer glory of what they do and what kind of people they are, that will be something.

Q     If you could only write about chocolate or Paris, not both, which would you choose? I don’t think I could do that! Choose, I mean. Paris but also the sensuality of things (chocolate, definitely!) are truly right at the core of so much of my creativity. That said, I am writing about neither chocolate nor Paris in my next series, but rather Provence and perfume and roses, so maybe that’s some kind of answer. Whatever is sensual and vivid and rich with culture appeals to me as subject and setting.

Q.    This book has some sexy love scenes. I won’t ask about research, but how do you decide how much to include? Do you ever worry about your relatives reading the sex scenes?
You know, I just go with the story. These are fundamentally books about the full sensuality of life, of Paris, of food, of everything, and to pull back on that sensuality just when we’re reaching its very heart seemed wrong. I did have some reserve at first—having started with a memoir, to find myself shifting into such deeply romantic and sexy stories was a little disorienting for me. When I was first writing The Chocolate Thief, the first in the series, I kept thinking I should close the door or do something that would make this story more “literary”. But I finally realized that to make a story less powerful to fit some pre-conceived notion of what I could or couldn’t write was inane and, honestly, intellectually weak. So I just let it go. (Kind of like a certain song my daughter has been singing at the top of her lungs in the back of the car through all our travels through Provence the past few weeks.) And I think that once I released the full story and quit trying to chain it in any way was when I really hit my stride with writing, when I could embrace everything that fascinates me most about life—falling in love with a person, a place, an experience, living and loving with energy and passion through all kinds of challenges but always to the fullest.

Q.    What inspired your series of books about women falling love in Paris? You know, while I couldn’t myself put my thumb directly on the inspiration, I think if we look at my own life (falling in love in Paris), it’s probably pretty obvious to an outside observer. J  Internally, I’m not that conscious of my sources of inspiration, I just wake up with scenes in my head, but I can say that, through my own experience, I definitely believe in the power of love and also in the challenge and depth to falling in love across cultures.

Q.    How much of yourself do you include in your characters?
I wouldn’t be able to calculcate it. These characters aren’t me, not at all. But at the same time, they are entirely me. Writing is such an act of empathy, but empathy itself depends on us being able to imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes. (What would it be like to be…world-famous, for example, constantly in the public eye and judged? How would a shy person handle that? How would a stubborn, arrogant person handle that? What would it be like to grow up between two cultures? Etc.) So I may not be as famous as a certain character, but from somewhere in me I must be able to pull out the experience of being exposed or judged, or feeling shy or awkward, or whatever, and build from there.

Q.    Please share your writing story. How did you begin and what helped you succeed?
When I was in the third grade, we had a short story to write in class. I and my best friend, rivals for teacher’s pet, kept calling each other all evening. “I’ve got four pages!” I would brag. And she would say, “I’ve got five.”
The next day, I was so smug—nine whole pages! I would definitely win.
And she had twelve.
You might say, I’ve been determined to write more ever since.
But as to what helped me succeed—just sheer, stubborn persistence. I would read those writing magazines back then, all of which would say things like “always have ten submissions out” and “submit everything you write at least ten times”, and I would keep a little notebook, full of all my submissions, that I started making to magazines like The New Yorker when I was twelve. Filled with rejection letters, obviously. My father once told me, when I was an adult, that it used to break his heart to go get the mail every day. But I kept at it.

Q.    Do you have a new project you’re working on that we can look forward to?
Yes, the Vie en Roses series! I’m having a wonderful time with this one. It’s set in the region around Grasse in the south of France, in the heart of an old perfume family with their valley full of roses and jasmine. The first full-length book about the Rosier family is ONCE UPON A ROSE, out in August, but people can get a taste of that world in THE CHOCOLATE ROSE, which is connected to both series—a top pastry chef, but he’s long since left Paris to return to his roots in Provence and set up his three-star restaurant there. I loved writing that book and evoking this world of sun and old stone and all these scents. I hope you will enjoy it, too!

And thank you so much for having me on! I so appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and your readers about these books. (And if anyone would like more glimpses into the research, check out my website at I also post lots of photos from the research on Pinterest!)
Enter the Giveaway if you are a reader in the U.S.


Just Me said...

What a fascinating interview. Both the questions and responses made for an unexpected and delightful read.

Anonymous said...

thanks so much Paulita for your enthusiastic review and awesome interview. What a delight! thanks to you both. Sounds like the network of French-minded authors is growing

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