Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Towards the title


A few things have brought a smile to my face recently.... I reached 100 K views on my Google plus page, there was a slowing down in the number of Instagram followers who were deserting me each day (my daughter keeps telling me to stop taking social media so personally), the banner and publicity material that I had ordered for my market stall arrived and looked, to me anyway, beautiful and exactly as I had hoped, the flyer for my book talk at the library was finalised, and the attendees for the talk itself ran to a waiting list with a full-house on the day. But, nothing compared to having 'But you are in France, Madame' placed on the shelves of a proper bookstore.

I'll be lucky to pocket a couple of dollars per book sold, so the thrill came not from the expectation of financial gain. It came from a sense of validation. The book industry is a tough industry to enter, understand and stand out in and the last three years (two for the writing and one since pushing the button on 'publish') have been hard, filled with self-doubt and disillusionment. I needed this small something to help keep me going.



For those who do not know my family's story, I began writing 'But you are in France, Madame' several months after arriving back in Australia after 3 1/2 years of living in the French Alps. The first few months for the family (years for me) were difficult. I talked a lot, in those early days, about what we had experienced in France. Eventually, talking was not enough and I started to write. Admittedly, I had no certainty of ever finishing something as enormous and unknown as a book and even less of publishing it. I wish I had known how things would turn out as I would have enjoyed the process so much more. Throughout the two years that I was writing, a long list of magnificent book titles presented themselves to me, revealed their unsuitability in the days that followed and were swiftly relegated.

You don't eat sushi outside Paris came, went, came back and stuck and was the title that I eventually used to submit my book to a selection of Australian publishing houses. It was a throw-away line from one of our French friends. We had met in Australia but caught up with him and his family in Italy, in the beautiful city of Florence at the end of our first year abroad. It was a joy to see them and to re-live the time that had passed since both families had undertaken their latest adventures. Affected by the difficulties that were stymying our transition to successful French living, we nonetheless tried to conversationally minimise our deceptions. Our host was not to be fooled. "You don't eat sushi outside Paris", he answered. This was his way of reassuring us and acknowledging that there were indeed rules to be followed but that it was particularly difficult to follow them if you didn't know that they even existed.

I see now that this first title was too obscure plus I didn't hear back from the publishers, so went back to work re-drafting the entire manuscript, including the title.

I loved my next attempt and even had a cover made up for Five go to France (see above). I don't have short hair and my husband is not blond, but the illustrator somehow captured a little of the personalities of the three children in her drawing, despite me giving her only the title and not much else to go on. Potential copyright issues from the publishers of Enid Blyton, whose books I loved as a child, made me pull the rug on that title too.

The story behind the next and final title But you are in France, Madame is one that I have recounted before. It was the conclusion to an actual conversation that I had and a subtle reminder of the existence of a special French something that we were learning to live and appreciate. It felt right, especially when coupled with the photo taken by my husband of our son, running through the streets of Noyers-sur-Serein on one of our family holidays.

My French friends, on the other hand, they smile and nod their heads when they first see the book in print. They require no further explanation of the title.



22 comments:

  1. No one who has lived in France for any length of time will need the title explained :-) It's pretty well perfect.

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  2. Thanks Susan. Very true! Hope that you are not being too badly hit by rain and storms.

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    1. We've had a bit of rain, but not exceptional for November, and quite gusty winds, but nothing really dangerous. We are too far north and east to be in the thick of it. I find we often miss the extremes of weather no matter what direction they come from.

      BTW, until recently I would have agreed with 'you don't eat sushi outside of Paris', but Auchan is changing that. They have smart new sushi departments at the end of their fish cabinets, staffed with Asian sales people. This started about 12 months ago, and both Auchans I use regularly (Chambray les Tours and Chatellerault) have them. Chatellerault may be remarkably multicultural for a medium sized town in the provinces, but it's not exactly bobo land!

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    2. I'm glad that you are a bit sheltered from the storms. We head back to France in a couple of weeks and I'm always a bit cautious about the changes that I am going to find..tension between wanting things to be nostalgically as I remember them and yet easy and practical. I'll be sure to check out what's happening at our nearest Auchan fish cabinet!

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    1. Yes, I agree! We have each had different first-hand experiences but no doubt similar 'But you are in France' moments.

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  4. Absolutely thrilling to see your book in the bookstore, I can quite imagine! Very happy for you about that and your "sellout" crowd for the library reading. There are so many Francophiles who will really enjoy your book, so I hope you can get the word out.
    That charming Five Go to France cover has me thinking that you might want to write a children's book about your family's experiences too - from the children's point of view. That would be a new angle for the publishers, and perhaps you could use the title after all. As I understand it, you can't really copyright a title. But as there are new parodies of the Enid Blyton books out (like Five Go Gluten Free), perhaps you'd be best off with a new title for the children's book after all.
    Another thing I see authors doing is writing short travel pieces with a view to being published in their local newspapers (or the New York Times if they are lucky). Then of course the piece will identify you at the end as the "author of 'But You Are In France, Madame,' available on Amazon and at select bookstores."
    Hope you don't mind the unsolicited advice. Wish you well!
    Ellen A. aka Kiwi

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    1. Ellen, your advice is always welcome and I'm touched that you would take the time to give it. Funnily enough, my daughter and I spoke about writing from her experience even before we left France. So many good ideas to consider. I wrote my first travel piece recently. If it doesn't get picked up, I'll share it here! Hope that you are loving being back in France. Look forward to some more pictures and reports.

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  5. You could not have picked a more perfect or enticing title. Just love the cover.

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    1. Thank-you Cheryl. Your encouragement means a lot to me.

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  6. Hi Catherine! Oh, you must be so thrilled to see your book in a proper bookstore. I can't imagine how exciting it must be. And, on top of that, to reach 100K views. Wow! That's my goal and I must find your book. You are my role model! Pat @ Bringing French Country Home

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  7. Hi Pat and thank-you! It's a funny thing page stats and social media as the real validation has to come from within. I' m happy to have taken the writing and publishing path that I have, as the learning has been intense and I like that, but the self-belief is still lagging behind. Comments like yours help to jiggle it along a bit. Hope that you had a Happy Thanksgiving!

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  8. This is so brave ! I'm French, and can't wait to read your book, is it available over here already ? It's always interesting to read others' point of view on our country. I read a couple of Stephen Clarke books and hated them, but I'm sure there's room for something funny and genuine about us ! The situation in France is very complex at the moment, but I hope you will settle in allright !

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  9. Hi Cathy, one of my dear French friends found out that I had finished and published 'But you are in France, Madame' and sweet as she is went and ordered a copy. At the same time, she commented that she had not enjoyed another book in the same genre and so much so that she had thrown it in the bin. Needless to say, I was nervous about where my book would end up too!
    I hope that you enjoy reading our story (it is available as a Kindle book on Amazon France) or as a print version through Createspace or Blurb (both have been ordered successfully from France). I'd love to hear your thought afterwards. Where are you in France? I agree that the situation in France is complex at the moment. I am wary of this but try and remain optimistic. A très bientôt!

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  10. Congratulations! I am very proud of you and excited for you :)

    I wish you a most wonderful Christmas :)

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    1. Thank-you so much. That is lovely of you to be proud and happy for me! And to you, too, a very Happy Christmas.

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  11. How exciting! Happy New Year to you and yours!

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  12. Thanks Andrea and to you, too, a very Happy New Year. Hope all going well.

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  13. Congratulations on the bookstore. I know the thrill that you are talking about. And I enjoyed the back story about how this book came to be. Thanks for joining in with Dreaming of France. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

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  14. I'm doing a very belated blog catch-up, Catherine. Congratulations on having your book on the shelf! It's quite a thrill AND an worthy accomplishment!

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    1. Thank you so much Patricia. Your support as always is just lovely.

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