From the moment I first saw Seven Letters of Paris adverted for this blog tour with France Book Tours, I *knew!* I wanted to become a part of the readership who not only found a new voice of literary merit to follow an emerging career of but to become part of the magic that eclipsed one woman’s life after a twenty-year search for truth, romance, and a life that all of us would be blessed to find! I was caught up in the synopsis breathing in the life of a woman I had not yet become acquainted with but captured by her real-life Romance whose blurb read like a bonefide Romance novel!
What impressed me the most was how wicked it was her relationship with Jean-Luc had a bit of a false start in France, but a continued connection through postal mail & correspondences with a bit of a wee gap between his seventh letter and her first! The story that is between the two letters is what held me in suspension – my curious heart beating quite rapidly like a hummingbird’s wings and my intent to read her memoir grew out of yearning to know the finer details of her life!
It is with honour I am able to bring a conversation I had with Ms. Vérant about the things that sparked into my own mind to ask after having found her memoir in my hands! I will be sharing my ruminations and reactions to reading her memoir after this brief interlude of conversative exchange, but the best delight by far is getting to read such an uplift of joy of a story pulled straight out of a life that is still being lived!
Twenty years, seven letters, and one long-lost love of a lifetime
At age 40, Samantha Vérant’s life is falling apart-she’s jobless, in debt, and feeling stuck… until she stumbles upon seven old love letters from Jean-Luc, the sexy Frenchman she’d met in Paris when she was 19. With a quick Google search, she finds him, and both are quick to realize that the passion they felt 20 years prior hasn’t faded with time and distance.
Samantha knows that jetting off to France to reconnect with a man that she only knew for one sun-drenched, passion-filled day is crazy-but it’s the kind of crazy she’s been waiting for her whole life.
Samantha Vérant is a travel addict,
a self-professed oenophile,
and a determined, if occasionally unconventional, French chef.
Over the years, she’s visited many different countries,
lived in many places, and worked many jobs
— always on the search for the one thing that truly excited her.
Then, one day, she found everything she’s been looking for:
a passion for the written word and true love.
Writing not only enabled her to open her heart, it led her to southwestern France,
where she’s now married to a sexy French rocket scientist she met in 1989,
but ignored for 20 years.
What kind of research did you conduct to write your memoir or did you decide to forgo research non-fiction writing & journaling of real-life events and simply write the book from your heart? I oft wonder what goes into writing non-fiction releases especially one grounded in a lived reality of time, love, and life.
Vérant responds: I wrote the first draft of Seven Letters as the events unfolded around me. Even though I didn’t have an ending to the story, I needed to deal with all of the questions I had about my past and writing helped me do just that. At the time, I clung on to the hope that things were going to change in my life– for the better. Writing the story was a very therapeutic undertaking, almost like a journal, and the book was completely written from the heart. Thankfully, I found the happy ending I’d been searching for.
I would not have suspected this, as I have found even in my own life the hardest part of journalling is being able to capture your thoughts in the height of the hours your living inside. I find it incredibly inspiring that the words not only fused together for you in a way that helped you work through everything that needed a bit of clarity in your mind & heart, but that you were able to sort through everything as it came to be and give back a piece of your journey to others who read your memoir. Your story and the outcome of the letters themselves is a true lift of spirit for anyone who ever dared to believe in the impossible! As much as the affirming belief in true love and true passion of finding someone who accepts you just as you are.
I have a dear friend (an American) who married a Frenchman herself, and she was the inspiration for my own curiosity on behalf of your own love story to be read – what are some of the most memorable reasons to jump ship and call France home without the difficulties of the transition muddling the joy? What are a few unique differences between life in America & France that stand out to you the most?
Vérant responds: In Seven Letters, I kick fear to the curb and approach life and love with an open heart. All mind-blowing adjustments aside, and being with the man I love, the move to France was quite the adventure! So, I guess you could call me an adventuress! Carving out a new life with Jean-Luc and the kids was the most memorable reason to jump ship. And, boy, did I jump! As for the unique difference between life in America and France, here are a few highlights:
1) La politesse, or politeness. We say thank you, bonjour, and please to everyone. For example, at the local patisserie, you say, “Bonjour, Madame. Une baguette, s’il vous plait.” If you don’t say ‘please’ or greet a person, you are considered very rude. When leaving a shop with your purchase, you always wish the person a nice day, afternoon, or evening. “Bonne soirée. Merci, au revoir!” (Have a nice evening. Thank you! Goodbye!) The same holds true for the other party. I hear or say, “A vous de même” (same to you) a lot!
2) There is no rush. In the US, we’re a fast-paced society and move quick, quick, quick. Here, in France, people savor their time. Dinner parties last five to six hours. Weddings last until the wee hours of the morning. Family dinners are never scarfed down in minutes with the TV on; we discuss daily events or the latest news. I’ve found people really take the time to appreciate the little things in life here much more than in the US. It’s nice to slow down, to not move so fast.
3) Women take extreme care of their appearance.* Unless they are working out, women are rarely seen running around in yoga pants, t-shirts, and gym shoes. In my town of 13,000, there are at least fifteen hair salons and five beauty centers (skin care/waxing/nails/etc.) all within a two-mile radius. That’s a lot of beauty!
*Most women! I’ve seen a few disasters, but it’s rare!
I found it quite quintessential that you broached this topic, as oft-times my own family & I are more than curious what sets us apart from others in our community. We always have a pleasant smile and a heart full of gratitude for those who serve us in places where your making a purchase that can be endeared with a few kind words of praise. Yet, as you have mentioned this is not the norm for communities in America; hardly anyone else is voicing their appreciation nor are they able to ‘go with the flow’ when there is a rush or a bit of a time delay in being served. I think the worst example was at a donut shoppe where a loud voiced New Yorker (he felt it necessary the whole place knew he was from NYC) expressed his disdain to find service so sluggish and customer centered rather than having his order, his change, and receipt haphazardly thrown into a bag so that he could get on his way. We were all quite aghast at his brash response to a clerk who was attempting to put a bit of cheer into his afternoon. I am not sure if this is the case for all New Yorkers, but this one in particular wanted a full absence of acknowledgement of his well-being and no kindness whatsoever through the order process. I had found that a bit disappointing and sad.
Why have we become this near-feral society where rudeness trumps courtesy, and where being mindful of respect for those we interact with is considered ‘out of date’. Again, this isn’t everywhere I have travelled in America, nor is it always the case in a small towne or larger city. I simply have observed the differences your mentioning and feel disappointed more than vexed that others cannot take a calm moment out of their day to give a smile and a wink of courtesy to those they routinely interact with on a daily basis.
In regards to how women dress — it is not limited to girls, as I have seen so much sloven ensembles on men & boys to make a girl’s heart cringe. My state is the infamous one that sparked the whole ‘hang your trousers from your undies’ movement and although that trend was reversed publicly by those who instigated it, it is not something that ‘caught on’ with the populace. Why anyone wants to walk around half exposed is beyond me! Plus, too I was always raised to be presentable whilst outside the home and to make an effort to put forth a good first impression. I am not sure where along the sea of time this has evaporated but I have seen so much ‘curious’ examples of future participants of “What Not To Wear, 2.0” that it makes my head spin!
On the level of a slower pace of life – threaded throughout my blog are my own lamentations about how that is my most ideal lifestyle and how a sense of community who embodies the same ideal is the place I am seeking to live next. I no longer want to be around people who constantly have a gadget in front of them, constantly needing tech to expand their hours, and constantly caring more about the superficial aspects of life than the in-person social gatherings, the conversations that stem out of like-minded interests, the card & board games that encourage camaraderie, and the potlucks, dinner parties, and get togethers that are based on bonefide human to human interactions that do not have a ticking clock attached to the activities. On this level, we are of accord with one another as it is how I grew up and how I have always lived my own life. There is of course a time and place for tech, don’t get me wrong, but not to the level where it cuts out humanity and the bonds that we create whilst we get to know each other on a personal level.
Are you currently working on a sequel to carry forward where Seven Letters leaves off, do you have plans to attempt your hand at fiction down the road or stick with non-fiction memoir? I was thinking that you’d have a great footing in Romantic Realism and give a new dimension to Contemporary Romance?
Vérant responds: Thank you, Jorie! I do have plans for memoir book two. In fact, I’ve already written 35k of it. And it does pick up where Seven Letters from Paris leaves off. I jump into a new life in France…but I forget to pack a parachute and I land pretty hard. But as I settle into my new life and Jean-Luc’s children and I become closer, and as the relationship with Jean-Luc and I intensifies, no matter how terrifying things appear, I remind myself that I have love on my side. And with love on my side I can do anything (including renovating a kitchen and building a bedroom– the true test of any relationship!) Memoir book two will be another love story, but the focus will be on family. Of course, there will also be some romance. Maybe I’ll finally get back to Paris with Jean-Luc to retrace our steps? Or go on a honeymoon? Neither of these things have happened…yet. I’m working on it. I’m also working on a few concepts, all fiction. Hey, I can’t write memoir for the rest of my life!
I was most esteemed to have learnt there is a sequel already in the works for Seven Letters — talk about a giddy ray of happiness knowing that the story does not end where this one leaves off! I love how you curate your voice in literature, how your breathing your personality into the words that you elect to use and how you draw us close into wanting to know where your life is leading you each time you write a piece of your daily adventures! Focusing on family is wickedly brilliant, as ‘family’ has become a near-absent presence in the world. Everything about family has evolved differently than the way in which it was cherished whilst I was growing up. I understand why, of course, but at the heart of knowing what broke families apart I have always held a lot of hope that their ties of connection can be repaired. Family is the one bond that strengthens communities, society, and the world at large because it connects all of us to people who genuinely care about us and are interested in our affairs. I love the jolt of the ‘unknown’ coming next in the sequel, and I very much do hope you & your husband make it back to Paris! Your love story has been a beautiful arc of kismet threads of inspiration!
Was there any aspect of writing the memoir where you had a second thought as to how revealing you wanted to be verses how revealing the story needed to become in order to resonate with readers? Did you hold back at all or decide to be completely vulnerable?
Vérant responds: In the first draft, I didn’t hold back at all. The manuscript was 110,000-words! It’s now 75k. When editing, I needed to decide what was pertinent to the story. For example, my story isn’t about my divorce or all the reasons behind it; it’s about rekindling the relationship with Jean-Luc and restarting my life. So, yes, there were some cuts. I also don’t get into every aspect of my life. The timing of the story only spans one year. I was forty when I wrote it! Of course, some back-story is worked into Seven Letters, but only if it drove the pacing/plot/character development forward. Yes, even in memoir, I had to think on this, otherwise I wouldn’t have a book; I’d have a 1,000,000,000-word diary.
You gave me a good chuckle here, as I could very well see the same being true for me if I were to set down a moment of time to chronicle my own life! I think the grace though is how you were able to instinctively know what would resonate the most with readers and what would be beneficial to share on a whole! The fact that it is bare bones honest and upfront about how everything knitted together is a credit to your confidence and the strength of your bond with Jean-Luc! It is also an encouraging testament of how love alights in our lives at an age where we might not have realised it would be possible to take a chance on getting close to someone because we were outside the general ‘age’ of when most women find the love of their life. To me that was the most endearing part of the story overall – to re-discover how life can start right in the midst of an ordinary hour and lead to such an incredible adventure full of romance, love, joy, and family!
Being a sous chef to my Mum, I know what it is like to slowly garnish your confidence in your own cooking skills – what led you into the kitchen initially? Were you always a foodie before the idea of cooking yourself came to be or was it a slow progression of joy as it was for me? I personally am in love with herbs and spices as much as the transformation of raw ingredients into a meal made out of love.
Vérant responds: I’ve been a foodie since the age of eight or nine! I used to cook with my mom in the kitchen, starting off with simple recipes like meatloaf or salads. (I still make the best salads!) At the age of eleven, I made a sundae pie I’d found in Gourmet Magazine. It was even garnished chocolate leaves– you pour chocolate onto actual leaves, and then peel the leaf off. I think the pie weighed twenty-pounds. Anyway, I love to cook and living in France has opened up a new world of recipes to me. (I even make my own Sushi, only because I can’t find the amazing rolls I love, like shrimp tempura with mango and avocado, here!)
Ooh, my dear stars — sushi?! Ooh, I would adore learning how to create my own delicate favourites with sushi as well! I only eat the cooked varieties though as I had a bit of trouble with the raw ones, but either/or if you find sushi enjoyable to create it on your own must be quite the accomplishment! I even dare myself to eat a bit more wasabi each time the chopsticks pick up the sushi roll to dip into the soy sauce! I think the time I made my eyes blank out through a watershed of tears, a nasal reaction of a four alarm fire, and a throat choking on the intensity was using a bit too much — but I still love sushi all the same! I am most definitely going to try your ‘chocolate leaves’ idea as I started out with a passion for baking before I turnt into approaching savoury with a newfound appreciation! Chocolate leaves – I can see how those would be wicked to use especially at a dinner party where no one would expect to see them! Ooh, I had forgotten to say ‘avocado’ is simply the best addition to sushi!
I loved how you integrated the seven letters into the context and flow of the memoir itself – as they were such an integral part of your love story. Did you learn anything new out of the experience of writing the memoir itself – anything that you hadn’t fused together previously that came to mind out of spending time with your memories? I was curious if the experience gave any new insight into what was the main reason there were two decades between the last letter and the new contact with Jean-Luc?
Vérant responds: When writing this memoir, I faced my past and I learned a lot about myself. Like the fact I harbored deep-seeded resentment toward my biological father. Abandonment issues! Because of him, I was never able to open up my heart completely to another, and he’s also the reason I never wrote Jean-Luc back way back when in 1989. Once I pinpointed the issue (I’d been so afraid of falling in love I’d never truly done it), though, I was able to face my then current life and past regrets. Honestly, I didn’t know if Jean-Luc was going to respond to my two-decades late apology. And I’m very, very happy that he did. We’re going on year five now!
Congratulations on your 5th year together! Seeing how much you have grown and have moved past what blocked your actions in the past, I can tell already that you will have a beautiful long life full of love and happiness now! You’ve been able to accomplish something that I know a lot of people struggle with themselves; accepting the parts of their lives that they couldn’t change nor effectively alter, yet having emotional angst that staid with them. Emotional stress is one of the hardest aspects of our lives to put to rest and to walk away with a clear conscience. The fact that you’ve been openly speaking about your own path and your own tribulations is a credit to how far you’ve come and how much you’ve learnt overall. I can only hope that your story will continue to bless and inspire everyone who picks up your memoir!
One interesting tidbit to your memoir is how it is a beautiful compilation of traditional and modern technology as much as the inter-weaving connections between traditional dating, work life, and one connected to online resources. What do you think was the main benefit to living in an age of the Internet? Do you think if the net had not been as resourceful as it were to be, would you have boarded a plane in search of Jean-Luc?
Vérant responds: Wow! The Internet is such a powerful tool—it’s how I found Jean-Luc (Google), how we reconnected (email), how we fanned the flames and stayed connected (frequent flyer miles and–eventually– a good digital long distance plan), and how he asked my father for my hand (Skype). Without modern technology, although I would have still gone through my divorce, I don’t think this love story would ever have happened.
This is what I was hinting at a moment ago, when I said there is a time for technology!? This is one of the best classic examples of where technology had such a pivotal role in uniting two long lost loves to inspire a new motion picture as heart-warming and sincere as “You’ve Got Mail”! I am keeping my eyes peeled on the film rights taking your memoir to the silver screen! Talk about built-in success for a visionary film-maker who understands the full scope of your story!
I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to share this conversation with my readers, as Ms. Vérant has left such a positive mark on my own life just by crossing paths with her on this blog tour! I do regret that due to a technical glitch this interview could not post as I had originally intended (earlier in the dawning light of morning), but I hope that despite the delay to polish and edit it on a restored server connection, the full joy of our conversation can be enjoyed! I cannot wait to finish editing my review for Seven Letters from Paris and shine a happy glow of delight on an emerging author whose leaving a strong impression on those of us who love being wrapped up inside a memoir of real-life that reads like a Romance novel! The story is epic in it’s depth and the cheeky humour of the writer befits the adventure of where her leap of faith took her! I hope that between this interview and my review, you will find yourself inspired to pick up a copy and soak inside a world that has a resounding element of daring hope and the tenacity of love!
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— Jorie Loves A Story (@JLovesAStory) October 15, 2014
— Jorie Loves A Story (@JLovesAStory) October 15, 2014