Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Celebrating a New Aimee Leduc with Cara Black

 RHYS BOWEN: It is always a great joy to welcome back to Jungle Reds my dear friend and long-time travel companion Cara Black. This time it's with a new Aimee book.: MURDER AT THE PORTE DE VERSAILLES. Those of you who don't know Aimee should! Chic, edgy, impossibly high heels, designer fashions bought at the flea market and rides a pink Vespa...and with a penchant for bad boys and danger. 

So Cara and I are going to have a little chat to find out what's going on with Aimee and with Cara.

RHYS: So welcome, Cara. Let's start with a little about Aimee herself. Where is she now in her life --professional and personal - in the 20th book? 

CARA BLACK: We met her in the first book Murder in the Marais set in 1993 I know 20 books later it’s now about 8 years later in her life and she now has a toddler whose name is Chloé and she is still running her detective agency with her partner. She has a difficult relationship with Chloe's biological father who wants her to leave Paris and come to live in Brittany because it will be better for Chloe. He has a farm with horses and goats, close to the sea and the air is wonderful and Aimée is very conflicted. She wants the best for Chloé and is feeling guilty that she doesn't want to go to Brittany because her business is in Paris. She likes having a café at the corner of the street and she doesn't think in Brittany there are cafés at the end of the farm field. Also she is juggling as a single mother with her business, raising her daughter, and doubts if she is doing a good job. She feels a gnawing guilt and wondering if she’s being selfish not to leave Paris. But for once, her detective agency is doing really well, she and René have more computer security business than they can handle and she’s got to put the ‘baguette’ on the table as the sole breadwinner.

RHYS: What inspired you to write this? What's this book about briefly?


CARA: My book came from a story I heard in Paris from my friend -w hen he was a young boy he lived directly across the street from the police laboratory in the 15th arrondissement. In the middle of the he fell out his bed and found himself on the floor. There had been a bomb explosion in the police laboratory across the street his window looked right on it. In the morning his parents told him it was a Basque separatist bombing ‘only’ a political statement. No one was hurt and that was very much what the Basques did at this time you know doing this as political statements. At the time I was also going to explore what Paris and France were like after 9/11 which very much time wise followed with Aimée’s previous investigation and so the book is set shortly after 9/11 in November. In Paris it’s the anniversary of Aimée’s fathers death and she has brought Chloe her three-year-old to honor her father whose remains are at the Pere Lachaise cemetery and it is very bittersweet because it is also Chloe's birthday she is turning three years old. 

At Chloe's birthday in Aimée’s apartment on Ile Saint-Louis everyone in Aimée’s life is there: her partner in the business, Chloe's biological father, her godfather, and Boris and Michou close friends who babysit Chloe. But mon Dieu Boris has forgotten Chloe's present on his desk at his office in the police laboratory and jumps in a taxi to get it. When he doesn't return they receive a phone call that there has been a bomb explosion at the police laboratory. Boris is found in the rubble barely alive but with traces of explosive under his fingernails and he is a suspect in the bombing.

RHYS: I'm currently writing a book partly set in Paris. How come we're never there at the same time!  So....What if we were  in Paris at the same time researching - first thing we’d do would be….?

CARA: I think it would be so fun to meet you in Paris while we are both researching. The first place I suggest is we meet for Champagne and oysters is at the belle époque Café de la Paix right in front of the opera and I think it would be amazing and so much fun. and bien sûr, any Reds who are in town are invited :)

RHYS: Tell the Reds what your research in Paris is like. (I already hear moans of envy.

CARA: My research takes place at the archives for primary source material, consulting digitised newspapers and hanging with les flics, the police and going to the shooting ranges with them - at least before 9/11 I did. I'm talking with cafe owners, bus drivers, basically anyone who will talk to me. I like walking the streets and really feel that walking the ground of the place I am writing about gives my work some weight. I’ve joined several historical associations in the different arrondissements of Paris and I find out historical details and get to meet people who were born and grew up in the arrondissement and talk about their childhood; what it's like to live there. I love going to the market and discovering a new cheese shop or patisserie that’s new to me. Of course, I need to sample, right?  It's really important getting to know that arrondissement I'm writing about even going back in time to its origins and history. For me it's always about finding that special characteristic of this place in Paris, the flavour and ambience and capture that village like feeling. I think it's important to walk on the street; smell the smells, hear the noises, how the light falls as Aimée, my detective would. And of course, stop off at a patisserie - did I mention I like patisseries? 

RHYS: Oh oui, patisseries! My favorite occupation in Paris is window shopping in Patisseries and trying not to drool.

Now we're at book 20. Aren't there 20 arrondissements? You’ve pretty much exhausted the arrondissements. So what’s next. Will she move to Brittany?(can’t see her there)

CARA: Actually I have one more arrondissement left because I goofed and put two books in one arrondissement so I am working on that story and you'll have to guess which is the last arrondissement:)

What's next is really the follow up to Three Hours in Paris, my WW2 historical standalone thriller and Kate Rees will be back in the next follow up set in 1942. The title is Night Flight to Paris which is your suggestion Rhys! I not only thank you but want you always to come up with my titles.

RHYS: Three Hours in Paris was amazing! Such a great thriller.  And happy to help with titles. Many of mine are a collaboration of good minds.  

Nearly all of Aimee’s cases are intensely personal for her. Was this something you planned when you started or has she just taken over and decided what she’ll investigate?

CARA: That's a great question and it makes me think about when I started writing a series and the books that I like to read and stories that captured me. They always came from a personal tie in from the protagonist. A police person in law enforcement that’s their job but a challenge to make it personal. Aimée grew up with a father, a former French policeman. So many police would sit at their kitchen table so she has absorbed that world, is familiar with the boys network and watching your partner’s back. She’s got that skill set to investigate, her father taught her and he was a single father and she learned from helping her father in the detective agency. She became a licensed detective and will only help and take a case when it's important to someone or she feels the person is a victim and they are voiceless and she wants to give a voice to them. Give them some form of justice.

RHYS:Some of her cases are really harrowing. How much do they affect you or can you keep yourself detached?

CARA: Yes, I love the fact that Aimée is in danger and she looks stylish at the same time! In Murder at the port of Versailles she's climbing on a roof wearing a black leather cat suit and that was really fun to write. I wish I could do that and look good at the same time but I’m not French. She needs to be in danger, the stakes need to be high to make the story compelling in her world. Our genre has many threads - cozy, suspense, domestic thrillers etc and I like to write what what I like to read. I think it's very important she's not a plastic stereotype, but human she's vulnerable and makes mistakes, too.

RHYS:Did you manage to get to Paris during the pandemic? If so how was it there?

CARA: After two years I was lucky to go in September 2021 because I was teaching a writing class weeklong at a Château outside of Bordeaux. It was amazing and I am so thrilled that it we actually got to do that and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  Bordeaux was an area that I had never had been to. I want to go back and explore. Yes in Paris everyone was very conscious of Covid and wearing masks and we had to show our vaccination card constantly which I really appreciated. In the museums even the free ones you had to make a reservation to limit the number of people. It’s always changing so I'm going in April and  need to find out the new regulations.

RHYS: And of course: is Aimee an alter ego? Do you want her life with the Vespa and the high heels? ( I notice she is giving up smoking!)

CARA: Maybe an alter ego but I am afraid of heights I don’t wear high heels and I know that I do want to live in her apartment. The Vespa would be great but it's very temperamental. Yes I have given up smoking but Aimée is always struggling with that and she's much better on the computer than I am.

RHYS: Thank you for taking the time to talk today, CARA. I've just finished the book and it is a nail-biter! Oh my goodness--so many twists and turns, plus a little surprise at the end....

MURDER AT THE PORT DE VERSAILLES is the 20th in the series, and one of the best, in my opinion. Do ask Cara questions today!











22 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your newest book, Cara . . . twenty amazing, wonderful stories that bring Aimée and Paris to life for the reader. I’m wondering if, of all of those stories, do you have a favorite?

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    1. Thank you Joan! All of them are special and of course, love the latest. It's different because I wrote it during the pandemic.

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  2. CARA: Welcome back to JRW and congratulations on the latest Aimee book. I have been a fan since reading Murder in the Marais. Yes, I am one of the readers who swoon in envy as I picture you explore an arrondissement for your book. Stopping by a patisserie, cheese shop and cafe are definite perks of the job! Thanks for allowing me to virtually visit so many different parts of Paris in your books.

    I know you're not Aimee... so how do you write those rooftop or other tricky escape scenes if you're afraid of heights? Have you ever had troubling entering a building to do your research?

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    1. So true, Grace I am very afraid of heights. I confess here to you all and the Reds that I stretch the truth in Paris and use my wits to get into a building or up on the roof.

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  3. Cara, welcome to JRW and congratulations on the release of your 20th Aimee Leduc! Thank you for sharing your research methods. I think lots of us would like to help with the exploration of different arrondissements and especially the patisseries.

    Please tell us about your personal connection to Paris and how you chose to place your stories there.

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    1. Judy, thanks and I always need help in patisserie research :)
      I went to a French Catholic school and learned a form of French not used today - it was archaic. My father was a Francophile and I grew up in a Frenchy atmosphere but we are not French and I come from solid midwest mongrel stock.

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  4. Absolutely fascinating! Yes, what IS IT about that Parisian fashion sense that makes the rest of us feel so dorky by contrast? And wondering how you learned to speak (and understand) French so well. Congratulations on the new book, dear Cara!

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    1. Dear Hallie, I miss seeing you! Hope you will hit the West Coast in the not too distant future! Fashion wise I think it's about how the French put the look together with a few 'good' or quality pieces and that's a skill. So my archaic school French is not what is spoken on the Paris streets today...I get some pointers from the flics who teach me slang.

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  5. Congratulations on the new book, Cara! If I managed to get to Paris, I don't think I would get beyond the patisseries.

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    1. Liz, I'm with you on that - have a few new addresses I'm going to check out in April. the good thing is you do so much walking in Paris it burns those calories!

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  6. Twenty books! That is an achievement, Cara, to take a set of characters through that much of life. I am in awe of all authors who have done that. And Aimee is such a compelling and complicated character. I am woefully behind on the series, though.

    How much of your life has been lived in Paris? Did you stay there for short visits, or have you ever actually taken a residence for an extended period?

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    1. Thanks, Karen! Before the pandemic I went twice a year usually. I'm so lucky because my friend lives in Paris and I can sleep on her couch. Years ago, I lived in Switzerland in Basel and we went to France a lot. But it's important to 'walk the ground' so to speak and really feel the place, breathe the air and capture the smells so it comes out on the page.

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  7. Hi Cara!! Always such a treat to see you here! And a new Aimee!! I can't wait! I am wondering how you made your police contacts in Paris. It must be great to get the inside scoop!

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  8. Hey Debs! Thanks and I'm eagerly awaiting your next!!! When, please? My police contacts stem and have branched out from the first contact I ever made in Paris - a Commissaire who ran the Princess Diana case. At the time I wasn't published and was below amateur status but he was the designated contact for screenwriters and writers who talked to the police. Somehow he agreed to meet me and was so helpful. He'd meet me for a coffee after that and insisted - when I luckily got published - that I get the details RIGHT! He even let me run plot ideas by him and his input made my work so much better. He passed away during the pandemic and was one of a kind!

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  9. I'm late commenting, and even later keeping up with your series, Cara. I have been to Paris a few times, but not for years. Must rememy that - and bring one of your books with me!

    I wouldn't have been so brave to venture there in 2020, though. Even now I hesitate to get on an airplane, although I'm overdue for a visit to my son in Puerto Rico. Soon!

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  10. Understand, Edith! Many of my writer friends from here are going to Left Coast - and it's a worry still about the plane, wearing masks or not in the LCC hotel etc. It's tough. I hope you get to Puerto Rico before too long.

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    1. Yes. I had planned to go to Albuquerque, but this winter every time I thought about it, I got anxious, so I canceled, despite how much I LOVE New Mexico. Next time!

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  11. This is amazing, you two - I can imagine I'm sitting in a cafe, enjoying a chocolat chaud and a tartine while listening to you talk. Cara, I'm delighted to see another Aimée Leduc book and and VERY excited to see you have a follow up to THREE HOURS IN PARIS, which was a stunning read.

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  12. Cheers Julia! I would so love to sit in a cafe with you in Paris. How fun would that be?
    I think all the Reds need to have a girlfriend trip to the City of Light, non? Thanks for the kind words - I never knew I was writing a series when I started. THREE HOURS IN PARIS was a leap of faith to write, it took me out of my comfort zone and Rhys was a big supporter saying try it! So glad I did and thank you again - ALL you Reds - for inviting me here!

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  13. Thrilling!!! I love this series so much. Congratulations, Cara, on what I'm sure is another fabulous mystery.

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  14. Becky Sue EpsteinMarch 31, 2022 at 7:35 AM

    Cara, I was so happy to discover your series: so intense and authentic. Personally, I'm thrilled that you have written so many books in this series. Professionally, I'm awed!

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