RHYS BOWEN: Every March two good things happen—I have a new Molly book out and my friend Cara Black celebrates the publication of a new Aimee Leduc novel, set in Paris. Cara and I do events together every year and can actually give each other’s presentation flawlessly by now. We’ve spoken together at some wonderful bookstores and some very strange places, including a nudist colony. But wherever it is, it’s always fun to travel and speak with her. She has no many great Paris stories and I envy the fact that she gets to go to Paris every year to do research by drinking wine, dining in bistros and shopping for vintage clothing.
So I’m thrilled to have Cara visit Jungle Reds today celebrate the publication of her hew book, Murder Below Montparnasse, and to answer a few questions about her books and Paris. And at the end of this blog I’ll share a piece of exciting news. So let’s get started.
Rhys: Bonjour my chere Cara, describe yourself in three words.
Cara Black: Curious expresso drinker.
Rhys: What is your connection to France?
Cara: I come from a Francophile family - my father loved good food, started a vineyard, made us watch Jacques Tati films and sent me to a French Catholic school with French nuns. I fell in love with Paris on my first visit.
Rhys: You have written an impressive 13 novels, each of which are set in a different arrondissment of Paris. How many more do you plan to write?
Cara: Well, Rhys Paris has 20 arrondissements so I've got seven more to go!
Rhys: Where did the idea come for Murder Below Montparnasse which launches today?
Cara: My dear friend has asked me for years to write about her neighborhood. She's French and can't pronounce H so as she'd take me around her 'ood which is in the 14th arrondissement below Montparnasse, she extolled her bakery, the cheeseshop and excellent designer markdown shops. The only tourist attraction, if you call it that, is the Catacombs. Parts of her area feel like a village, quiet cobbled tree-lined lanes, a rich tradition of ateliers where artists like Modigliani, Picasso, Giacometti worked before they were famous. But it all wove together when I managed an introduction to the Paris 'Art Cops' yes, they exist, who told me about the art thefts they investigate. Not only that but they introduced to two investigators at Interpol dealing with stolen art investigations throughout Europe.
Rhys: This is so amazing, Cara, as the Molly book I’m writing at this moment has to do with the Paris art world in 1905 and Picasso is young and impetuous at the time and artists are drinking coffee at the cafes in Montparnasse. It will be fun to read your book and get a glimpse of the art world today!
Rhys: I was in Paris last summer, researching for this Molly book and it’s a city one never tires of. There is always something new to discover. So how often do you visit Paris?
Cara: Never enough. Twice a year if I'm lucky. My research trips mean pounding the cobbles, talking to cafe owners and police and visiting the archives.
Rhys: Okay, confessions. Where is your favorite place to eat in Paris? And to drink?
Cara: Ma Bourgoyne - a bistro on Places des Vosges. The tart tatine is to die for.
The Hemingway Bar in the Ritz. You can feel the ghost of 'Papa'
Rhys: And most important of all… I know your heroine favors vintage haute couture clothing. Where is your favorite place to shop in Paris?
Cara: The flea market at Porte de Vanves - treasures exist if you're willing to roll up your sleeves and search.
Rhys: Where is your favorite place to play (a nightclub, a park, a museum etc.) in Paris?
Cara: Sitting on the bank of the Seine on Ile Saint-Louis under the lime trees when they're in blossom.
Rhys: Where is your favorite place to write in Paris?
Cara: In the Metro, in a cafe, or in the oasis-like park fronting the Carnavalet museum. Wherever I can.
Rhys: Where are some of your other favorite hidden spots? And the place you like to escape to on a day trip from Paris?
Cara: The Canal Saint Martin for strolling and watching the barges go through the locks. Vaux-le-Vicomte the chateau not far from Paris built by the architect of Versailles. The Chateau is still owned by a family who live in the Orangerie, and it has personal touches and wasn't rifled during the Revolution. The incredible gardens were designed by le Notre.
Rhys: I am sure these tips will have whetted your appetite because… drum roll please… Cara’ s publisher SOHO is giving away a trip to Paris WITH Cara. She will show you her favorite secret places. You can find a black dress like Aimee’s. Can anything be more perfect? I just emailed her and asked how I could make sure I won and she e-mailed back “Wouldn’t we have fun???”
Visit Cara’s website, www.carablack.com for details on how to enter.
Whoever wins it will indeed have fun. And if you love Paris but can’t get there, then read Cara’s books. They are always so rich in small details it’s like taking a mini-trip.And Cara will be giving away a copy of Murder Below Montparnasse for the best comment today so chime in, ask Cara questions and share your thoughts