Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Friday, 6 July 2012

French Lessons by Ellen Sussman - Author Q&A - Blog Tour

I am delighted to welcome author Ellen Sussman to my blog today, as her novel French Lessons is published by Canvas.

Thank you very much for taking part in a Q&A for my blog, Ellen!

Q. How did you continue to write when you were working in other jobs – was this a big challenge, and does writing feel like something you have to do, so that you do it no matter what?

Yes -- I can't imagine NOT writing! I get cranky and ornery when I don't write. I always knew how important writing was to me, so I set up my "day jobs" in such a way that I could make room for writing. When I worked as a manager in a restaurant I wrote by day and worked at night. When I taught on the university level, I taught by day and wrote at night. Now, finally, I have more freedom to write and I write every morning from 9 until noon. I feel very lucky to have shaped my life in this way.

 Q. Is the setting for your novel French Lessons, Paris, a place very close to your own heart, and if so, why? What is it about Paris that makes it such a romantic location for so many people?

I lived in Paris for five years and that experience transformed me.
Paris captured my heart. I return often -- I need to walk the streets and absorb the city in order to feed my soul. And yes, it's a remarkably romantic city. I'm always amazed by the astounding beauty of the place, the gorgeous people, and all those lovers kissing on street corners!

 Q. Do you speak French? Do you think it is the most romantic spoken language?

I do speak French, though I learned rather poorly -- from the playgrounds with my children, from the markets, from daily life. My grammar is terrible and my vocabulary is rudimentary but I get by.
Yes, it's the most romantic spoken language -- but not when I speak it! I love to listen in on conversations at a cafe. Then I can really appreciate the beauty of the language.

 Q. It felt to me that Josie, Riley and Jeremy, the three people taking French lessons, all gain a new clarity on their individual situations after the time spent with their respective tutors. Do you think that sometimes spending time with a relative stranger can allow us a new and helpful perspective on our own complicated lives?

Yes! I also think that travel to a foreign country often shakes us up and helps us see ourselves in a brand new way.

 Q. My favourite character in French Lessons is Josie, whose love life is complicated due to an affair. Was it a challenge to make readers sympathetic to her situation?

Yes, that was my greatest challenge. I wanted the reader to love Josie despite the fact that she's having an affair with a married man. So I tried to make her a well-rounded complicated person -- and a good girl who normally wouldn't do such a thing. Love often surprises us -- and I wanted to reader to understand that Josie, too, was surprised by her behaviour.

 Q. I’ve read that you’ve had many short stories published. Is this a format that you particularly enjoy writing?

I used to love the short story format and I still love reading stories-- but I've lost my heart to the novel. Now I want big, sloppy stories. I want to dive into a novel and live there for a long time.

 Q. What is your ideal or perfect environment for writing? Is there such a place for you?

Yes, my studio in my own house! I have a small room with a view of my garden -- it's cosy and peaceful and my dogs sleep at my feet.

 Q. Are you able to discuss what you are working on now in terms of your writing?

I just finished a new novel, The Paradise Guest House. It's about a young woman who is caught in the terrorist bombings in Bali in 2002 and returns to the island a year later to find the man who saved her.

French Lessons is published by Canvas, an imprint of Constable & Robinson, on 5th July 2012.

Visit the other blogs on the French Lessons blog tour.

You can read my review of French Lessons here.


  1. I'd love to visit Paris sounds so fantastic!

    1. I really hope you get the chance one day Melissa, it's such a beautiful, special city.

  2. What a wonderful interview Lindsay! I've seen this book around and am so tempted to read it. I went to Paris for my honeymoon so it holds a special spot in my heart too, everything the author said about it is so true. The character Josie intrigues me, the situation of an affair is always so alluring in books, I wonder why that is? I must pick this one up! Lovely to be catching up on all your posts after my blog break :)

    Megan @ Storybook Love Affair

    1. A perfect place for a honeymoon! Thanks for your kind comment Megan, and glad to see you back! x

  3. I have a copy of French Lessons which I will bump up the tbr pile after reading your interview with Ellen Sussman x

    1. I hope you like this one Josie! x


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