If it’s Friday, it must be France …
Today we’re talking with author Karen Burns about writing, a new release, and the magnificent City of Light, Paris, in which her books are set.
Before we go further, here’s an FYI ~ Paris was nicknamed the “City of Light” (not City of Lights) originally because it was a vast center of education and ideas during the Age of Enlightenment.
Today, our enlightenment is all about Karen’s new release, Paris Ever After! Her exciting publishing day was May 1st and I’m delighted she had the time to stop by for a quick Q & A.
PS ~ What was your first novel and when did you write it?
KB ~ My first novel was The Paris Effect. It’s the prequel to Paris Ever After and tells the story of how Amy, a young woman from Arizona who’d never traveled anywhere, ended up having an amazing adventure in France. This book took me five years to write—I finally finished in 2015. I think that first novel always takes an author a long time, because when you start you really have no idea if you’ll finish. It’s very much the experience of setting out into the vast unknown. I should say that while my two books go together, each can be read on its own. You don’t need to have read The Paris Effect to follow, and enjoy, Paris Ever After.
PS ~ Was it always your plan to be an author?
KB ~ Well, it was always my ardent desire! Ever since I first picked up a Dick & Jane book at age two I knew that reading and writing would be my thing for life. Nearly all of my “real” jobs involved words in some way (public relations, journalism, editing) and I’ve written everything from pamphlets to speeches to instructional manuals. Novels are the most difficult things to write, in case you’re wondering. But also the most fun!
PS ~ Your covers are beautiful! How did the story line come to you for The Paris Effect and Paris Ever After?
KB ~ With the first book, I just started out with a situation and then followed along, seeing where it took me. (E. L. Doctorow once famously said, “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”) However, this method—while exciting—results in tremendous amounts of rewriting, so with the second I tried to plan things out a bit better. My husband is incredibly helpful in this regard. He’s an engineer and claims not to have a creative bone in his body, but he’s a wonderful person to discuss plot ideas with. We love to go for long walks and talk about “what if she does this” or “what if that happens.” When I get home I scribble it all down.
PS ~ Your knowledge of life in Paris shines through in those two books. How much time have you spent there?
KB ~ I lived in Paris for three years in the nineties. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to return more or less regularly, sometimes for a couple months at a time. This city seeps into your bones and I think that’s why my novels are set there. Also, writing stories set in Paris is the next best thing to being in Paris!
PS~ How did you select your characters’ names?
KB ~ I called my main character “Amy” because it reminds me of “aimer,” the French verb for love. I chose “William” for her husband because I wanted the contrast of a short word with a longer one. I picked “Kat” for Amy’s friend because it has a sharp sound, and this character has a sharpness about her. Margaret is named after a lovely English lady I met while hiking the Cotswold Way in southwestern England. She was charming and gracious and welcoming (and just slightly loony), like Amy’s Margaret.
PS ~ Imagine your books as movies. Whom would you cast for the main characters?
KB ~ It’s funny you should mention this because my first novel (The Paris Effect) has just been optioned for film and TV. So you’d assume I’d have already thought a LOT about which actors would play my characters. But I don’t want to jinx it! However, I will say that while writing about Amy I often imagine women like Jennifer Lawrence and Ellen Page. It helps to have a picture in your head and I admire the strength, intelligence, and humor these actresses can convey.
PS ~ Would you give us a hint as to what we might expect next from you?
KB ~ Well, I’m noodling around some ideas. No actual writing yet. These days, the launch of Paris Ever Afteris taking up most of my time and energy!
PS ~ Based on your experience, what advice would you give to an author about to be published for the first time?
KB ~ Be prepared for a wild, emotional ride. Publishing a book is nerve-wracking, exciting, gratifying, and a bit terrifying all at the same time. You’re putting your baby out there for people to love or to hate, to relate to or to completely misconstrue. It’s really exposing. But people reading your work is the natural end result of writing. It completes the circle.
For more information, you can connect with Karen on her website.
Here’s where to find Karen on Facebook and on Twitter.
I had the pleasure of advance reading Paris Ever After and after just a few pages I messaged Karen to tell her I could not stop laughing. Her lovely sense of humour shines through the pages and the quirkiness of the original personalities she has created offers readers an entertaining distraction from everyday life. And to have it all set in Paris? Fantastique!
Here’s my review: “Magnifique! Fall in love with Amy as she stumbles through her new life in Paris, gradually learning what means the most in her unscripted world. Burns’ dry sense of humor and intimate knowledge of Parisian life are woven through the story as perfectly as the Hermès scarf in one of the book’s most unforgettable scenes. Heartwarming and full of colorful characters, the surprise-filled narrative is smart, wry and poignant. You won’t want to put it down. Five stars!”
And Karen’s cat, Tache, agrees!
If you receive my monthly newsletter, you know that Karen is generously offering two print sets of these books in a giveaway. Be sure to enter and bonne chance … good luck!
If you don’t already, you can join over 5,000 book lovers (and dedicated Francophiles … oui?) with a simple click ~ subscribe to my newsletter by clicking right here. Once a month I get to chat with all of you and offer great book giveaways from author friends who write in many different genres. On y va!