Isabelle Andover: I always had the idea that I would write a book someday, but I wasn’t really sure what it would be about. All I knew was that it would be chicklit, as it’s a genre I adore, and that setting would be important. It was when I moved to Paris that I realized I’d found the perfect place. I personally love books set in the city as each one shows a different side to it– the bourgeois 16th arrondissement in Sarah Long’s And What Do You Do? for example, or the working class 19th arrondissement in Catherine Sanderson’s Petite Anglaise.
The idea that you should “write what you know” and “write the book you’d want to read” really resonates with me, as I think both of these things are important in helping you find your voice and in creating an authentic story. This is why Chloe, the main character in Cocktails at Le Carmen, is a twenty-something British expat like I am (although not for much longer as the big 3-0 is fast approaching, much to my dismay).
CTW: What was your inspiration for the story?
IA: Some of the story was inspired by my own experiences of being an expat in Paris – the flat hunting, for example – and by the experiences of other expats I know. That said, the character of Jean-Luc, is, disappointingly, entirely fictional. Last year, I read a newspaper article about the best-selling novelist who reportedly left her husband after ‘falling in love’ with one of her main characters, and I found myself thinking, ‘actually, that isn’t nearly as weird as it sounds…’
CTW: What kind of planning and preparation do you do before starting a writing project?
IA: I’m always quite impatient to just start writing, so I’ll usually come up with an idea and a very vague outline, and then start writing and see what happens. I’m definitely not one of those people who plans everything out beforehand, although I kind of wish I could be that organized!
CTW: What is the most important lesson you have learned since publishing your debut novel?
IA: That other authors and writers can offer great support and advice when being a published author is completely new to you. I joined a writers’ Facebook group after interacting with an author on Twitter who is one of the admins (although I had no idea at the time), and it’s been great to be part of a community of fellow chick lit writers. I’ve discovered many great authors this way too, which has been fantastic, as I love to read.
IA: “Read widely in the genre you want to write in”. I’ve been a huge fan of chick lit for years and years, so I’d unwittingly been following this advice for a long time before I started to write a book myself. But it really is the best advice – you develop a deep understanding of the genre and you discover what you personally like and don’t like so much in books, which will influence your own writing – you might naturally gravitate towards writing that is dialogue heavy, for example, or you might place a lot of importance on describing setting.
CTW: What are three things you need for a productive writing session?
IA: It’s more about the things I DON’T need, rather than the things I do need. I don’t need Internet or my phone, for example, as I get easily distracted and so have to switch both of these off. It also helps if my cat, Oscar, is sleeping or visiting the neighbours. If he is insistently demanding yet more luxury cat food, that I play with him, or that I open the wardrobe so he can make a nest in my cashmere jumpers (and claw holes in them in the process), it’s rather difficult to get much work done.
CTW: Where do you do most of your writing?
IA: Either in my bed on my laptop or during the morning commute on my phone. At the weekend I often take my laptop off to a café, as I know that if I stay at home while my cat is taking a nap I’ll be tempted to have a little sleep too.
CTW: Jane and Bingley are always curious about other kittens in the world. Can you tell us a little bit about your furry associate, Oscar?
IA: Of course, I could talk about him for hours on end! Oscar’s three now, and I’ve had him since he was a tiny kitten. I’d excitedly named him Delilah and bought him a pink Hello Kitty collar, before a visit to the vet revealed that he was in fact, a boy. He’s a bilingual tabby with a leopard-print tummy, and he gets along famously with the neighbours (except for the owner of the tomato plant in which he sometimes does his business). He also blogs occasionally, writing about his life in Paris and his jealously of Choupette Lagerfeld. “Choupette has two maids,” Karl has been quoted as saying. Oscar is not happy about this, at all.
CTW: What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
IA: I like my weekends to be a mix of productiveness and relaxation, because if I say I’m going to write all day Saturday, I know that I won’t actually do this, and then I’ll feel guilty. So instead I’ll write in the morning and maybe late in the evening, and meet up with my friends during the day. Sometimes we’ll be cultural and go to a museum; sometimes we’ll go running (there are some extremely vague plans to do a half marathon at Disneyland next year), and other times we’ll just sit and chat and stuff our faces with pizza.
CTW: What is up next for you and your writing career?
IA: I’m working on book two right now. I’ve got the gist of the story and the main characters, but I’m still undecided on a few pretty major elements – setting is one of them - so I can’t really say much at this stage unfortunately!
About the Author
Isabelle Andover is a Paris-based writer of chicklit. Her debut novel, Cocktails at Le Carmen, was published by Simon & Fig in June 2015.
Originally from England, Isabelle lives with her tabby cat Oscar, who occasionally blogs about apartment-style living in the City of Light.
In addition to fully embracing the culture of her adopted country by way of consuming plenty of French wine and cheese, Isabelle can also be found indulging in the typically British pursuits of shopping at Marks and Spencer on the Champs Elysées and drinking copious cups of Earl Grey.
Connect with Isabelle
About the Book
When job cuts at Chloe Saddler’s London communications firm result in an unexpected transfer to Paris, she finds herself leaving behind her friends, family, and boyfriend Scott to start a new life in the City of Light. Getting to grips with La Vie Parisienne and keeping a long-distance relationship afloat is not made any easier by the culture shock. Committing the odd French faux pas and inadvertently indulging in a few too many flirtations with her very sexy (and very taken) boss, Jean-Luc, is just the start of it. Factor in her bridezilla of a sister’s wedding (the hottest event of the year in the Saddler family’s social calendar), an unexpected session of hot, naked yoga, a slightly psychotic stalker, and one incredible kiss at an infamous Montmartre nightspot, and Chloe can say au revoir to her old, safe London life and bonjour to the romance, splendour, and glamour of Paris.
A delightful debut that harks back to the early days of Chick Lit when heroines were flawed, funny, and forever battling for love and happiness. With quirky characters and classic comedic charm, Cocktails at Le Carmen is pure fun from page one.
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