French Friday: Behind a Novel

Years ago, I met a widely published author who told me that writing fiction was writing about what we do not know.

In 2018, particularly in children’s literature, more authors focus on what they know and what they have experienced.

But we cannot possibly live enough lives to have experienced every possible situation. Fiction is not writing about ourselves either or about people we know, changing names and twisting facts.

What if fiction allowed writers and readers to meet somewhere in between?

Today I am taking you behind the scene. Why did I write ALL THE MOUNTAINS WE CAN CLIMB?

 

For years I drove my kids to their high school, following a gorgeous road that cuts through Central California’s foothills and takes visitors to the three most visited National Parks in California: Kings Canyon and Sequoia southbound and Yosemite northbound.

In the winter, fog rolled over the fields, making traffic hazardous but the eerie drive peaceful. In the spring, cows grazed only feet away from the highway banks where wild flowers grew. Once we even saw a cow giving birth. As early as mid June heat browned the grass and turned the Sierras blue and blurry. My family was lucky to escape the brutal dry heat of the summer and fortunate to be there in the fall, which brought tarantulas right in time for Halloween and well-deserved cooler temperatures.

Often, driving home after long school days we watched the sun put the western sky in fire. We were then the guests of a show for which we got first row seats.

Every day we spotted wild animals that sometimes leaped or flew right in front of the car.

We also spotted too many crosses, flowers and wreaths, makeshift memorials in honor of a loved one.

This road was as spectacular as it was deathly.

It saddened me that so many people could die in such beautiful surroundings. Even sadder was the fact that many were young men and women, too often teenagers.

This heartbreaking reality planted the early seeds for All the Mountains We Can Climb.

The plot grew when some young people, barely older than mine or sometimes the same age, kids that my family knew through common friends and acquaintances lost their lives either behind the wheel or as passengers.

I could not stop thinking of their friends and families affected by the tragedy. Would they ever be able to move on? How would they deal with the weight of guilt and the grip of sorrow?

This is how I decided to write a story about tragic loss, guilt, grief, and ultimately forgiveness.

All the Mountains We Can Climb, however, remains a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, including the town in the vicinity of Yosemite, and incidents are strictly the product of my imagination.

Only a few elements are based on my personal experience.

I’ve climbed to the top of Half Dome several times.

Noelle, the protagonist of the novel, hikes the legendary summit under the moonlight, which I’ve also done.

Two of my children are musicians. Like my daughter, Noelle plays the alto saxophone and like my son she intends to study music in college.

My native France is never far from my mind, so I created French characters and wove French cultural elements through the story. Including some baking and cooking.

All the Mountains We Can Climb is above all a story about healing after a tragedy, understanding that loss is a universal human experience, accepting the importance of professional help, and ultimately saying yes to a second chance.

A heartfelt thank you to anyone who gave me chance and ordered my novel.

Let’s Climb These Mountains.

See You at the Top!

 

My New Young Adult Novel Is Released!

 

My New Young Adult Novel All the Mountains We Can Climb Is Released!

ABOUT THE STORY

Since her father and sister died in a car crash, Noelle survives with the last words she told them seconds before the accident – words so unspeakable, she’s never shared them with anyone. A year later, still ashamed and guilty, she adheres to her mother’s rules, established after the tragedy.

Until she secretly applies to an East Coast college that she toured with her father and breaks her promise to study in California.

Now graduating from high school Noelle must tell her mother. As if she needed more challenges her French uncle’s sons arrive unexpectedly from Paris.

Charismatic Quentin witnessed one of the Paris’s terror attacks. Not without consequences. Quiet Manu cooks like a chef and reads Noelle so well, perhaps because he knows something about grief and guilt too.

Is Noelle’s last summer before college her chance to move on?

Set in the California’s Sierra Foothills and Yosemite National Park, populated with a cast of American and French characters, this is a story about the universality of loss, the weight of guilt versus the power of forgiveness, and the possibility of another chance.

GET YOUR OWN COPY

  • A KINDLE VERSION WILL BE RELEASED IN 2019 AND SENT FOR FREE TO ANYONE WHO BUYS A SIGNED COPY

As always, I thank you for your support. It means everything to me.

SEE YOU AT THE TOP OF THESE MOUNTAINS!

 

French Friday: There Is No Universal Female Story

A year ago, the early days of October gave birth to the #MeToo movement, here in the U.S., then followed by other nations, France being one of them.

A year later, it is clear that the movement is not a fade.

The recent confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has proved how deeply divided the American people are on issues related to women, including women themselves.

Truth is: there is no universal female story.

Which is why I have for the last year purposely read novels written by women about girls and women.

My three favorites walk the line between YA and adult readerships. Following their date of publication:

 

The Girls by Emma Cline (2016)

2016 saw many novels with “girl” being part of the title. Remember Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train?

The Girls by Emma Cline remains for me the most memorable. From its publication in June, I saw its cover in every bookstore across the country. Set in Northern California at the end of the 1960s, it is an extraordinary well-written story that won’t leave female readers indifferent. Although the plot can only remind of the Manson Family the book is a work of fiction. Through Evie Boyd, a lonely, sometimes naïve but also very thoughtful teenager the author explores girls’ vulnerability and strength. First drawn to a group of girls who live on a sprawling ranch deserted hills Evie becomes quickly obsessed with an older girl. Without realizing that she’s stepped in a cult led by a charismatic man Evie who wants so badly to belong falls headfirst. The novel takes off, leading to unstoppable violence that illustrates with poignant accuracy how a moment in a girl’s life can go horribly wrong. Even though a lot has happened for girls and women between 1969 and 2016, this novel remains a timeless moving realistic portrait of girlhood and womanhood.

 

 

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud (2017)

Probably the best recent novel about these unique years when girls tiptoe into adolescence and leave their childhood behind. Claire Messud explores the strong bonds between two girls who meet at the age of four and remain friends until their road split and they stop being friends toward the end of high school. Messud is a very skilled author who has penned several other memorable novels. Her writing style is sparse, but she tells so much in so few words. I was in constant awe. Although Julie, the main character, is a girl (mostly shown from the age of 12 to college application time) The Burning Girl is not a typical YA novel. I would, however, recommend it to high school girls who love the English language and want to understand themselves a little bit better. I found bits of younger me in this story, although I lived my adolescence in France and not in New England and was a teen during the late 70s and not in the 21st century. With wisdom and heart Messud captures the turbulent and yet sometimes so quiet moments when we girls become so aware of the unstoppable changes that affect us as we grow up. A slim book I read very quickly for the psychological thrill but read twice after to relish the many details and layers. A masterpiece.

 

Marlena by Julie Buntin (2017)

My daughter gave me this novel for my birthday last year and I still thank her. Skillfully told between past and present this is another friendship story between two girls. Cat, the main character, moves to a small rural Michigan town with her mother and brother and feels quite lonely. This is probably why she is immediately so attracted to her enigmatic, gorgeous next-door neighbor Marlena. Soon drawn to Marlena’s circle Cat witnesses her new friend’s unstoppable fall into drugs. Within a year Marlena is found dead in icy waters. Cat bears the responsibility since she didn’t act, even though she knew more was going on inside Marlena’s house and life. Decades later, a ghost from this troubled period suddenly reappears. Cat is forced to reopen the past and to reexamine her memories of Marlena. Gorgeously written, Julie Buntin offers yet another haunting tale about female adolescence, those crucial emotional years that shape us for better and worse.

 

Although there is no universal female story, fiction has the power to bring different stories to the front stage and I hope generate in turn less judgment and more empathy.

Now your turn:

Have you read memorable, challenging and yet life-affirming adult novels written by female authors that depict young girls just before womanhood?

Lisant davantage de romans contemporains écrits en anglais américain, dites moi si la France a aussi vu une explosion de romans pour adultes écrits par des femmes avec des adolescentes pour personnages principaux.

 

 

In Homage to Charles Aznavour. En Hommage à Charles Aznavour.

Today one of the most well-known French singers passed away. He was 94 and sang for 72 years. His long, prestigious career is also unusual since he was born poor and the sons of two Armenian immigrants wo left Turkey in the wake of more violence against their people, eight years after the Genocide.

My mother told me that I liked one of his songs when I was only a few years old. I don’t remember. What I remember tonight, though, is one of his concerts.

A first for me. A last for him in North America.

Here is what I wrote when my husband and I saw Aznavour in concert in Montreal, almost exactly two years ago. Unforgettable moment and weekend.

Pour vous mes amis français qui venaient de perdre l’un des plus grands noms de la chanson française voici ce que j’ai écrit en voyant Aznavour en concert à Montréal avec mon mari, il y a deux ans. Moment et weekend inoubliables.

 

 

 

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