MERCI BEAUCOUP to everyone who entered the ‘favourite French things’ competition over the last couple of days, to the many who didn’t but shared it anyway, and hello and welcome to lots of lovely new followers. This was a great way of getting to know people, and whilst I was planning to just list the winners at the bottom of the original blog post, there were so many brilliant, funny and sometimes surprising answers that I decided they warranted a piece of their own!
But first – I wasn’t wrong about yesterday being a big day. My stash of paperbacks (200) arrived at 9am and the rest of the scarily huge print run is now sitting in a warehouse waiting to go to the distributor and into bookshops as early as 18 May (official release date 22 May). As I went to open the first box I was shaking and felt like I was going to be sick, but if I continued to feel strange all day, it was because I was high on joy and relief; there have been many wonderful moments in my writing life but nothing has ever come close to actually holding my novel, which is even more beautiful than I’d hoped. In publishing this paperback myself it was always the aim to match the industry standard of production and the crowning moment yesterday was a major retailer telling me I’d done it and then some.
Last autumn, when all my hopes of a paperback had come to nothing, I went through an agonising period thinking I was going to have to let it go: that it was too complicated, too risky and I lacked the skills or experience required. But it felt like unfinished business and fortunately there was a much louder voice in my head saying ‘You’ve got to!’ It’s been an absolutely frantic four months but I’m so glad I did and incredibly grateful to have received only support and encouragement from all quarters. Whatever happens, I won’t spend the rest of my life thinking what if?
And now to the brilliant favourite French things you nominated, in no particular order:
Soundtrack to the film Betty Blue
Gallic shrugs, champagne and Chanel
La Demi-Sœur (film)
Micmacs and Little White Lies (films)
The fish counter at Carrefour
‘Givenchy III – which you can’t buy any more’
‘Breakfast – coffee and croissants in Paris while reading a novel in French (slowly!)’
‘The willingness to debate philosophy until the wee hours’
Parc Buttes-Chaumont, Paris (pictured, I was there last week and it’s one of my favourites too and appears in Paris Mon Amour)
‘Cheese of all varieties, the smellier the better’
‘Rustic French cidre and a game of boules in a peaceful town square, serenaded by starlings, where language is no barrier and all are welcome.’
‘Eric Cantona – I love him even more than baguettes with President butter’
Le Grand Meaulnes, novel by Alain-Fournier (nominated twice, also one of my favourite French novels – I was upset that nobody mentioned my all time favourite, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, or indeed any other French book!)
‘The most succulent nectarines, oozing juice; fragrant peaches; Canteloupe melons; a crisp Sancerre, sourdough baguette, ham, unsalted butter.’
The French sense of style
France (When pressed, this was expanded to ‘rural, city, museum, music (MFM radio station), strolling, eating, drinking’)
Favourite place: St Bonnet le Château, favourite book Paris Mon Amour (good answer!)
The city of Strasbourg
‘The smell of the Paris Metro, a unique blend of cigarettes, street food, bodies, and the old tunnels themselves. Instantly evocative.’
Inspector Clouseau’s accent
Poirot (just as well this was a forbidden duplicate entry, since he was Belgian)
The French language
The cèpes (mushrooms) in Sarlat (Dordogne)
Actress Isabelle Huppert (so Madame Bovary did get an indirect mention)
Brie, brioche, Paris in general, the Alps, holiday memories
Pain au chocolat
Hot chocolate in a bowl for breakfast
Wine (narrowed down to southern syrah and grenache)
Ma Vie en Rose (film)
‘The entire contents of a patisserie counter display. Every Friday would be good.’
‘French onion soup, followed by steak et frites, dessert being a creme brulee in a Bistro – yum!!’
Moulin Rouge (film)
‘When you try speaking French to a French person & they look at you like you’re something they just scraped off the bottom of their shoe.’ (It turns out the respondent finds this endearing, which in turn, I found endearing. Fortunately I haven’t had to put up with it.)
Artists in the Place du Tertre, Montmartre
ALSO, late in the game an intriguing, slightly porny, stream of consciousness style string of tweets appeared and was rapidly deleted, leaving me to wonder if I’d imagined it.
All of this led to some great conversations – it was a lot of fun and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.
THE WINNERS – required to squeal J’ai gagné!
4 selected by random number generator:
Sarah Jasmon (pain au chocolat)
Raven Avery (Micmacs and Little White Lies)
Cari Rosen (Eric Cantona – as I say, completely random, but so glad this won)
Clair B (Moulin Rouge film)
And the final, ‘chosen’ winner, who gave my personal favourite answer:
Hemmie Martin, who left a comment on the original blog post. Not just because I too love garlic and put it in almost everything I cook, but because hearing that she used to live in the Aix/Marseille area for six years instantly transported me to my favourite area of France, which (whisper) is not Paris, but the Luberon. We hope to move down there some day.
The winners are all on Twitter, so please DM me your postal address and I’ll get your copies in the post on Monday.