Why Paris Is Always A Good Idea

Rewind to exactly two weeks ago and find me arriving in Paris, getting to live out a dream: to spend a week at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, or the Irish Cultural Centre.

This is a facility for Irish writers, students, etc. smack bang in the heart of literary Paris. Three minutes’ walk away: Place Contrascarpe, where Hemingway had his first apartment in Paris. Five minutes’ walk away: the Luxembourg Gardens, where he frequently retreated to. Ten minutes’ walk away: Shakespeare & Co, the famous bookshop that first published Ulysses. (There’s so much more, but you get the idea.) The centre itself is down a quiet street, where a heavy green door reveals a tranquil inner courtyard. My room was filled with light and offered a beautiful view of a lush, ivy-covered neighbouring building and a rolling sea of Parisian rooftops (just like— Okay, okay. I’ll stop with the Hemingway now.) Ahead of me stretched a week of writing, Paris and streetside cafe cremes. I was giddy with bliss.

I didn’t even know this place existed until last year when, stood at the end of Rue Soufflot waiting for the lights to change, I looked up and saw a sign for Rue de Irlandais. Google told me what was there and why there was an ‘Irish Street’.  Later, I dashed through April rains to meet my writing friend Elizabeth R. Murray at Notre Dame. She was, by coincidence, in the city with her husband, and we talked about our CCI daydreams. Now, she left a comment on one of the photos I posted saying she was headed to a retreat in Iceland soon, for a month. I laughed and said that we might be in danger of propagating the myth that writers live an enviable, champagne lifestyle…

The next day I was up with the dawn. I eyed my laptop but then decided play first, work later. Everyone goes on about Paris sunsets, but I love the mornings the most. I walked from the CCI to the Eiffel Tower via the Musée d’Orsay (with the help of a few cafe cremes), but by mid-afternoon, I was feeling guilty: the copyeditor had sent The Liar’s Girl back to me a couple of days before, and I had to go through the manuscript to check the changes, answer queries, etc. I took a pre-packed sandwich and a Coke back to my room, opened my laptop and got to work, trying to ignore the fact that outside, Paris was waiting impatiently.

I was also trying to studiously ignore something else: that at seven o’clock Paris time, the Dagger shortlists would be announced at an event in London.

The Daggers are awarded by the Crime Writers’ Association and judged by a panel of crime-writing aficionados, and it seems like every crime writer I loved growing up had the word ‘Dagger’ somewhere in their author bio. They’re a big deal to me. As a reader, I was looking forward to them pointing me in the direction of new books to read. As a writer, they weren’t even on my radar.

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Back in May, I spent twenty-four hours at Crimefest. I was home barely thirty minutes when I got a text message from Andy, a writer friend: she was at the Dagger longlist announcement, and she’d just heard my name read out. This was so out of left-field for me I was scared to tweet anything in case it was a mistake, so I waited (and waited and waited…) until official confirmation had been posted online. Yes, Distress Signals had been longlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger award.

(What?!)

Tonight, I would again find out by text message. My friend (and Betty’s of Harrogate buddy) Erin was going to the announcement and had offered to let me know if I’d made the shortlist. Sitting in my room in Paris, I was thinking how awful it was going to be for Erin to have to text me to say ‘Sorry, but…’ but also about the fact that I was a published writer and I was sitting in bloody Paris, for God’s sake, so there was absolutely no need to be disappointed, whatever happened.

The clock ticked closer to seven. I tried to concentrate on my copyedits and pretend not to care. Then I decided that I was so not going to care, I was going to go out. I’d get a drink somewhere, gaze adoringly at Notre Dame  or the Eiffel Tower off in the distance for a while. I stood up, grabbed my bag. I was looking for my key when I heard a little beep: a text message. (Please excuse my, ahem, French response.)

Amazingly, Distress Signals has now been shortlisted for a Dagger. Paris is always a good idea!

You can read more about the Daggers and view all the books on all the Dagger shortlists here.

Book One/Two Episode 6: Distress TV Signals (See What I Did There?)

Does anyone have a time machine? I’m after one with a pause button, because Distress Signals comes out in 7 days and I am in no way prepared for it.

Nor am I prepared for my university exams, which start in 6 days and are ruining all my fun.

(Well, not all of it. But still. Boo.)

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Quick recap paragraph: This all started back in October 2014 when I signed with my agent, Jane Gregory. (It actually goes back even further than that but, hey, we only have a paragraph.) Then in March 2015 I got a book deal, although I couldn’t tell people about it until last May. Then we had various milestones along the way: Proper Author headshot, cover reveal, proof copies arriving and a preview in The Bookseller. Before all that fun stuff I wrote several drafts and suffered through being on submission. In the last episode, I gazed adoringly at the finished book and revealed that later this year, Distress Signals will be published in the U.S. You can catch up with all Book One/Two posts here.

So what do I have today, besides fear, anxiety and at times, abject terror? Well, I have some news…

DISTRESS SIGNALS HAS BEEN OPTIONED FOR TV!

The big news is that… Distress Signals has been optioned for TV by Jet Stone Media! They’re hoping to make it into a mini-series. One of the 50 TV and film projects they’ve already backed just happens to be my favourite TV show so far this year whose finale airs tonight (so excited for that), Line of Duty Series 3. You can read more about this on The Bookseller.

This is an area of the business that’s completely new to me, and it turns out it’s a lot more complicated than a straightforward book contract. What does ‘optioned’ even mean? Technically Jet Stone now have the exclusive rights to develop the book for TV and a set amount of time in which they can do that. The author gets paid one sum for the option and then another sum if and when the project gets made.

I’ll keep you posted.

(Also, this actually happened last November. Aren’t you proud of me for sitting on this news until now?!)

J’AIME PARIS

University exams start and the book comes out next week, I’m having two launch parties (greedy, I know), I’m booked for a few festivals over the summer and there’s my second book to work on, so these last two or three weeks have kind of been the calm before the storm. After flying to London to attend the Atlantic author party the night before London Book Fair began, I decided to sneak away for a few days to my favourite place, Paris.

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I thought Paris was the ideal place to go to take a breath and try to take this all in, because it’s a city essentially designed to please coffee-drinkers and book-lovers, and you can follow Hemingway around. (He knew all the best places). It’s also a place of personal importance to me – I feel like it recharges my soul.

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Back in my early twenties I was feeling a bit lost, knowing I wasn’t where I wanted to be but also having no clue how to get where I hoped to go. In a particularly raw moment, I convinced my family to let me tag along on their week’s holiday to Paris and I subsequently spent a spectacularly sunny August day strolling around the city by myself. Early in the morning I started at the Arc de Triomphe end of the Champs-Élysées and walked towards the Louvre. When I emerged onto Place du la Concorde – which I don’t think I’d seen before – I had a little ‘moment’. It was so beautiful, and I felt so happy, and for some reason, I also suddenly knew that everything was going to be okay. That, somehow, I was going to end up where I wanted to go. That same holiday is where I got the idea to apply to be a campsite courier, which I did soon after I got home. They offered me a better job in the Netherlands, and that led me to working in Walt Disney World, which led to Mousetrapped, which – insert numerous other links in this chain of events – led to Distress Signals being out next week. Basically, I have Paris to thank for all this.

I also found the steps where Owen Wilson waits in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, but tragically no one came to drive me back to the 1920s to talk books with Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Zelda.

I also found the steps where Owen Wilson waits in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, but tragically no one came to drive me back to the 1920s to talk books with Ernest, Scott and Zelda.

AUTHOR COPIES

When I got home, my author copies were waiting for me. I emptied a bookshelf of boring college books and started playing with them.

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OBVIOUSLY.

AUTHOR ANTICS

I was warned by friends of mine who’ve been published recently that after the months and months of doing nothing much but waiting, waiting, waiting, things would suddenly kick off in the weeks before launch and it’d be all go. So, so true. There is suddenly SO much to do: guest posts, Q&As, interviews, features for newspapers and magazines and photos for them too, launches to prepare for (I’ve to make a speech and I’ve no clue what I’m going to say), hair to get done (I’ve been blonde-ed as of this morning) and industrial-strength shapewear to test (because I don’t want to faint from compression in the middle of the aforementioned speech). And four exams to prep for. And a second book to finish.

But this is what I wanted, so I’m trying to calm down, slow down and enjoy it while I can.

MY FIRST REVIEWS

I am so, so nervous about the book coming out. This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was eight years old, and I’d love to keep doing it for as long as possible. So what will I do if people don’t buy the book, or buy it but don’t like it enough to ever want to read me again? Everyone’s like, “Oh, it’ll be fine!” but how do they know? They don’t! We’re all just hoping it will go well, because we don’t really know what the typical reader will think of Distress Signals yet.

Which is why I was stunned, delighted, thrilled and (a little bit!) reassured to read my first three reviews, from Crime Fiction Lover, A Crime Reader’s Blog and Cleopatra Loves Books. They were all so lovely, and so on point re: what I was trying to do with this book and what I hope it is for the reader. (And everyone wants to know what the last two words in Distress Signals are now… I love it!) So thank you so much, lovely reviewers.

And: phew!

Distress Signals is out a week from today. (Have I mentioned that…?) You can start reading it now.

Bloggers: if you responded to Can you help me launch Distress Signals? and replied to my follow up email, you should’ve received your content from me by now. If you haven’t, you can email info[at]catherineryanhoward.com. Thank you!

Video Friday: Shakespeare & Company, Paris

I have a confession to make. Paris is my favorite place in the world but, in all the times I’ve been there, I’ve never been to Shakespeare & Company, one of the world’s most iconic bookstores. This is a travesty, I know—and one I will rectify at the earliest opportunity—but it’s just that every time I’ve been there, I seem to have been there with someone who hadn’t visited the city before and we had limited time. (Or I’ve been there with someone who hadn’t visited Paris before, I had limited time and I was there mainly to attend a Harlan Coben signing in La Defense.) Therefore I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower more times than anyone should, but I’ve never been to Shakespeare & Co. This wonderful video is the closest I’ll get to it for the moment:

Visit the Shakespeare & Co. website here (the homepage is currently a beautiful tribute to George Whitman, the owner, who died in December aged 98) or read about what it’s like to live in the bookshop in Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co., a memoir by Jeremy Mercer. And although I’d warn against it, if you want to fuel your writing-in-Paris daydreams, invest in a copy of Eric Maisel’s A Writer’s Paris. You’ll be saving for a Parisian studio apartment rental before you reach the last page, I promise/warn you.

Parisian Daydreams

I have a dream.

A very specific dream.

It involves a Parisian apartment with French doors opening onto a little terrace with wrought iron furniture, a cafetière of fresh coffee and a view of cobbled streets along the Seine, a skinnier and more stylish version of me (I’m always skinnier in my daydreams, and in this one I’m dressed in agnés b) and three months of uninterrupted time in which to write a novel, haunt Shakespeare and Co. and have a fun-filled lust affair with a young French photographer.

(Why a photographer? There was an especially cute French guy on Sunday night’s episode of The City, and he was a photographer. So there.)

Once I came really, really close to moving to Paris. I was going there to learn to teach English as a foreign language in a school in the suburbs, and after the eight week, live-in course my fellow newly qualified TEFL teachers and I would be set up with jobs in the city and left to our own devices. But the day after I paid the course deposit, I got an email about a job in Walt Disney World, and that was the end of that.

But I never stopped wanting to move there, at least for a little while. I’m sure I’ll get there one day. In the meantime, I’ve been torturing myself with these Parisian treats… Continue reading