Today I am happy to welcome author Cerella Sechrist to The Overweight Bookshelf. Cerella lives in York, Pennsylvania with two precocious pugs, Darcy and Charlotte, named after Jane Austen literary characters. She has won various competitions and a scholarship for her writing, which include devotionals, full-length plays, and novels. She divides her time between working in the office of her family’s construction business and as a barista to support her reading habit and coffee addiction. Her novels exhibit her love for both the written word and food in fiction. You can find her online at her website Literary Fare where she pens Literary Fare, a food-themed blog for readers.
Sparks are flying in the city of light…
Emma Brooks, single mom and managing director at the leading recruiting firm in Paris, was against their merger with an American company from the start. Not only was her firm losing its autonomy, she was losing her well-deserved promotion to Cole Dorset – a handsome, arrogant interloper from New York!
How did Cole’s ex-girlfriend’s dream of moving to Paris become his nightmare? Now he’s got to find his way in a new country, and the woman showing him the ropes wants to string him up by one. But as he gets to know Emma and her daughter, he realizes Paris may have more to offer than he thought…
Releases March 1, 2014 from Harlequin Heartwarming
As a fellow foodie, I absolutely LOVE the concept of your blog. If you could raid the fridge of any author, who would it be?
This is such a great question! But I have no idea how to narrow this down! I feel like children’s book authors often have the most creative concepts for food – Roald Dahl with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dr. Seuss, C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles, and even Laura Ingalls Wilder all have delicious food references in their stories.
And then there are chefs and critics who are amazing writers, like Nigella Lawson and Ruth Reichl, and the way they describe meals makes me wonder if their talent is as much with words as actual food. And let’s not forget Julia Child!
I’ve even read that Emily Dickinson was quite the baker and made a killer coconut cake. (I love coconut, and I love cake so this is pretty much perfection for me.
The food I’d most love to try from fiction would have to be the Eat Me/Drink Me items from Alice in Wonderland.
In The Paris Connection, Emma says the best macarons are from Ladurée and I completely agree. My favourite are the pistachio! Have you ever sampled their delicacies, and if so, what is your favourite flavour?
I’ve never gotten to try Ladurée’s macarons, which is something I plan to remedy in the future! But I have tried macarons, and I think they’re scrumptious – in part because there are always so many unique flavors. My sister brought me a box to celebrate when I finished writing The Paris Connection, and I think my favorite flavors in it were the Black Currant and Basil White Chocolate, but like you, I love the pistachio flavors, too! There was also a ginger one I enjoyed. And anything with lemon… You just can’t go wrong with a macaron.
Can you describe your journey to publication?
After having decided at the age of 10 that I wanted to be a writer, I wrote my first novel at 16 and began submitting it at 17. It took another thirteen years before I wrote my debut novel, Just Desserts (published as Love Finds You in Hershey, Pennsylvania) and managed to secure an agent and a contract. The journey to publication is often a slow one, but I think that time can be used to really develop your skills. I spent my teens and twenties immersed in books, as well as reading everything I could on the publishing industry. I look back on that time now and know that it wasn’t wasted.
What is your favourite genre to write?
While I really enjoy writing contemporary romance, I started out writing historicals, and they’re still my favorite kind of story. I’ve also been experimenting with a bit of speculative fiction, such as steampunk, and that’s been fun, too! In my heart, though, historicals will always be my favorite genre to read and write.
What was your inspiration for The Paris Connection?
It helped that my sister is a die-hard Francophile, and while I’ve never been to Paris, she’s gone there multiple times. After hearing her gush about this city for years, I was able to see the story through Emma’s eyes.
Did you always intend on giving Cole his own story after writing Gentle Persuasion?
Not at all! But I adored Cole – he became a much more charming character in Gentle Persuasion than I originally envisioned, and when my editors asked if I’d like to write a follow-up story, all about Cole, I immediately agreed. It was the best of unexpected opportunities – to be able to continue to spend time with this character and get to know him better.
What is the message that you hope resonates with readers after reading The Paris Connection?
I hope they’ll feel that they got to experience Paris in their own way, without ever having to leave home. And I certainly hope they realize that love can find you wherever you are, and, as Cole learned, you should learn to embrace the opportunities life sends your way.
Emma loves Paris and Cole New York, so the questions begs to be asked: Which city would you rather live in, Paris or New York?
I’d choose Paris for the history factor. Emma remarks at one point in the book that France had centuries of history behind it before America had become a nation. While American history is actually my favorite subject, I’d live in Paris just for the opportunity to soak up all those historical sites. I think I’d also like being immersed in a culture that’s different from the one I grew up with. And of course, there are the macarons to consider – I’d have easy access to Ladurée all the time! 🙂
Having never been to Paris yourself, was it difficult to capture the essence of the city and its people in your writing? What research did you do to prepare for this novel?
It was definitely a challenge, and I have to admit that I was nervous the whole way through. But when I finally let my sister read it, she said she liked it better than anything I’d ever written before. My sister is my biggest champion, but she’s also brutally honest with me, so I knew if she liked it, I’d succeeded. I received a further stamp of approval from my editor, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I captured Emma’s love for this city as I should.
To research, I began reading dozens of blogs by ex-pats living in France. I studied things like the au pair system, and little details like divorce and custody since the laws are different in other countries. I grilled my sister about tiny things like the layout of Charles de Gaulle airport. I borrowed every book on France my sister owns. And eventually, I let myself experience it emotionally to get inside Emma’s head and her reasons for staying in this country for so many years. Somewhere, along the way, I fell in love with Paris, too.
What are you reading right now?
I recently read Wish Me Tomorrow by fellow Heartwarming author, Karen Rock – it was such a sweet, lovely story! And I’ve been listening to The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd on audiobook. After that, I’d like to pick up Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck in the Royal Weddings series.
Thank you for stopping by Cerella!