We’re delighted to visit with Alix Rickloff and Jennifer Robson today as they discuss their new novels, SECRETS OF NANREATH HALL and MOONLIGHT OVER PARIS. We’ll be back with part two of this interview on Thursday. Until then, enjoy!
Alix: I started life as a European history major so, to me, research is half the fun of writing the book. I don’t know how many times I fell down the rabbit hole in search of some obscure tidbit only to surface hours later wondering where my writing day had gone. Old Pathé newsreels were the worst. They sucked me in every time. Did you ever experience that thrill of the hunt when you were researching Moonlight Over Paris? Was there one resource you found more tempting—and more dangerous to your word count—than others?
Jennifer: I sympathize—that happens to me every time I’m in the middle of researching a book, and it can come as an awful shock to discover that I’ve frittered away an entire day chasing down details that don’t seem to have any relevance to the book I’m writing. The thing is—and it’s taken me a while to figure it out—sometimes it’s those very same discursions that lead me to something unexpected and useful. When I was in the very early stages of researching Moonlight Over Paris, I stumbled across a photograph of an incredibly lifelike painted eye-patch that appeared to have been made to cover a missing eye. It led me to the American Red Cross Studio for Portrait Masks, which I’d never heard of before; I had (wrongly) assumed that such work was confined to the studio of Francis Derwent Wood in England. A week later, after chasing down and devouring every bit of information I could find on the people who worked at the Paris-based studio and the masks they created for disfigured soldiers, I reluctantly had to admit that I couldn’t use it in my work in progress, mainly because the dates didn’t line up with my heroine’s timeline. So I set my notes aside—and then, months later, realized that the studio would make the perfect setting for my contribution to Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War. If only every fall down the rabbit hole were as useful!
Alix: As a reader, I love series that allow me to revisit a beloved world and find out what has become of my favorite characters. While your books aren’t what I would define as a strict series, they are connected. Are any of the characters from Moonlight Over Paris or your earlier books still clamoring for a story of their own?
Jennifer: I would say that most of them are! In my books I try very hard to create secondary characters who feel as real and complete as the central figures in the narrative, to the extent that I create and fill out “Proust Questionnaires” for everyone with a significant role. Readers may never know that Helena’s friend Mathilde considers a walk through the Luxembourg Gardens with her daughter to be her greatest joy, but my knowing such a thing helps me to shape her character and ensure she remains true to it over the course of the book. It also means that she, and most of the supporting cast in my books, feel very really to me—so much so that I can imagine entire books for most of them. If I had to choose which one among them would get a book of his or her own, I think it would be Etienne, Helena’s friend in Moonlight Over Paris. He was a great artist, so life likely took him all sorts of interesting places, but he was also a gay man, which would have placed him in terrible peril if he were still in Europe at the outbreak of the Second World War. Perhaps I will just have to write him into one of my WW2-era books, the first of which I’ve just completed, and answer my questions about him that way!
An aristocratic young woman leaves the sheltered world of London to find adventure, passion, and independence in 1920s Paris in this mesmerizing story from the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France and After the War is Over.
Recovering from a broken wartime engagement and a serious illness that left her near death, Lady Helena Montagu-Douglas-Parr vows that for once she will live life on her own terms. Breaking free from the stifling social constraints of the aristocratic society in which she was raised, she travels to France to stay with her free spirited aunt. For one year, she will simply be Miss Parr. She will explore the picturesque streets of Paris, meet people who know nothing of her past—and pursue her dream of becoming an artist.
A few years after the Great War’s end, the City of Light is a bohemian paradise teeming with actors, painters, writers, and a lively coterie of American expatriates who welcome Helena into their romantic and exciting circle. Among them is Sam Howard, an irascible and infuriatingly honest correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. Dangerously attractive and deeply scarred by the horror and carnage of the war, Sam is unlike any man she has ever encountered. He calls her Ellie, sees her as no one has before, and offers her a glimpse of a future that is both irresistible and impossible.
As Paris rises phoenix-like from the ashes of the Great War, so too does Helena. Though she’s shed her old self, she’s still uncertain of what she will become and where she belongs. But is she strong enough to completely let go of the past and follow her heart, no matter where it leads her?
Artfully capturing the Lost Generation and their enchanting city, Moonlight Over Paris is the spellbinding story of one young woman’s journey to find herself, and claim the life—and love—she truly wants.