stephanie perkins day!
January 20th, 2011
We interrupt the regularly scheduled program to bring you
The Stephanie Channel
If you follow this blog or me on Twitter or Facebook, you might know that I was a wee bit OBSESSED with a new book called ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins. It came out about six weeks ago, and from what I can tell, scores of you have become obsessed, too. It really is the Perfect Romance. Main characters with chemistry that leaps off the page. A pacing that just makes you abandon everything else you have to do to finish that book. A great supporting cast of characters. But what really nailed it for me was that, unlike so many novels where the lovers are in love by page 12, Anna and Étienne’s desire is so rooted in friendship and that friendship slowly builds until it erupts into a hot lava of love. Except without fleeing villagers and mass destruction.
Anyhow, I could go on and on—in fact, I have done.
I loved the book so much, I wound up fangirling Stephanie and we wound up becoming email buddies and then friends—she may be the nicest person in YA, which is saying something because YA is strewn with nice people; if you read her blog you certainly can get a sense of her non fakey-fake and non barfy-barf sweetness. Point of it all is, I have now managed to rope her into doing this here interview (my first time interviewing someone else on my blog—good God, am I such a navel-gazer?). And if that’s not exciting enough, there’s a giveaway. Not just one. But two.
Oh, and one of the giveways, it involves chocolate. The non fakey-fake, non barfy barfy kind. The Fancy Fine French Jacques Torres Kind (Okay, Jaques Torres chocolate is, admittedly, made in NYC, but it’s artisanal and made by a Frenchman so same diff).
In order to win the chocolates, it will have helped to have READ THE BOOK because you’ll have to know stuff and answer some questions. (I know, I know but do I EVER make it easy?) But because that’s not fair to the rest of you and because part of the reason to host Stephanie is to get you to read this AMAZING book, I’m doing a second giveaway, a signed copy of ANNA, and to win that you have to do nothing except write a comment in the comment box. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, as my brother would say.
Anyhow, I’ll get to the rules in a bit. But first, THE STEPHANIE PERKINS INTERVIEW. Or, EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT ÉTIENNE…WARNING: My questions, Steph’s answers and the quiz questions contain mild spoilers.
What kind of “preparation/research” do you do for kissing scenes?
I make out with my husband for eleventy-billion hours straight. Or maybe I just watch a lot of BBC period romances.
Do you find it odd that you curse like an Englishman quite so well? Do you walk around Asheville muttering “bollocks, oh fer fucks sake” etc. in Cockney esque accent?
Ha! Thank you. Yes, I actually do say those things! (Though not with an accent.) I have a voraciously foul mouth and to combat it when I’m in public, I often substitute English expressions. My favorite is “bollocks” followed by “bugger” with a mighty helping of “Oh, bloody hell.”
Anna and Étienne have a very grown-up type emotional bond. Do you think it’s unrealistic to portray teenagers have such a mature relationship? (Ahem, feel free to answer with personal anecdote).
Definitely not. And here’s the obligatory personal anecdote: I was Anna’s age when I met my husband. We had a very natural, very easy, but very serious courtship. I was married as a teenager. Our ten-year anniversary is this year. I realize that our relationship is unusual—and I definitely don’t believe that most high school loves are True Loves—but, yes, absolutely it can happen.
Responsible, mature teens often have responsible, mature relationships. And whether the relationship lasts or not, those emotions, those bonds are as powerful and real as anything forged between adults.
You mention crepes a lot in the book. And macarons. Can you describe a macaron for an American audience? Also, what do you have against crème brulée!? Why did you not mention it at all in ANNA? Is there something WRONG with you? It might just be the one flaw in the book.
My favorite local eatery is a French restaurant called Bouchon, and my favorite dish is Chef Michel’s quadruple mini-crème brulées—it changes with the season, but it’ll be a sampler of something like: lavender, rosemary, chocolate orange, and espresso. So definitely no hard feelings against the glorious crème brulée!
(Perhaps it deserves a starring role in my third novel?)
[Editor’s note: YES!!!!!]
But . . . macarons. Macarons are special. In America, we think of those bleh coconut thingies, but in France, they’re these GORGEOUS sandwiches cookies made with eggshell-fragile crusts and melt-in-your-mouth fillings. They have these beautiful, bright colors, and they’re so cheerful to look at! And the flavors: Blackcurrant! Rose! Passion fruit! My favorite is fleur d’oranger, orange flower. It tastes like the sun.
What do you have against daylight?
Daylight blows. Suck it, daylight!
[Editor’s night. Stephanie writes on a vampire’s schedule. Up all night. Asleep all day. It’s all very cool and romantic. Unless you want to communicate in real time.]
What was your favorite scene to write in ANNA?
Anna and Étienne’s first kiss. I try to live each scene as I write it, so their make out in the grass was revised many, many, many times. Many times.
Which scene kicked your ass?
The scene in which I had to describe the cancer treatments that Étienne’s mother would receive. The research was so sad, so terrible. The simple reason that macarons showed up in my novel was because I couldn’t write about cancer without giving myself a distraction. Thus, the conversation about his mother is set in a pâtisserie.
San Francisco vs. Paris: The victor?
Oh, man! Such an evil question. I love them both and for very different reasons. I suppose, under a gun, I’d pick San Francisco. My husband courted me there, so it’ll always be romantic to me.
How tall is Étienne exactly? Why did you choose to make him short?
Now it’s my turn to be evil. You’ll learn his height in A FUTURE BOOK!!! (Unless the sentence gets cut, which it might, and in that case, I’ll come back and tell you.) I made him short, because . . . I just knew that he was. It was never a question.
And I love the idea of a hero who isn’t embarrassed or held back by his short stature. Someone who still has an incredible amount of confidence and charisma, someone who is loved by people who don’t judge him for it either. Height is a silly thing to get judgmental about. It’s not like anyone can help it.
Are you already getting annoyed/protective that people want to talk about Étienne more than Anna, apparently this interviewer included?
Oh, goodness, no. I’d rather talk about him, too.
Set the record straight so you can shock your readers: Did you or did you not…go to an American boarding school in Paris?
Live in Paris for much of your life?
Study abroad as an exchange student?
Live in England?
God, I wish.
Live with an Englishperson?
If not, explain then, how you managed to WRITE THAT BOOK.
One word: research.
More words: The English part was easy, because I’m a longtime Anglophile. A lot can be absorbed by regular viewings of British programming.
The French part was challenging. I didn’t have the money to travel, so for several years, I read every book about France that I could get my hands on, listened to French music, watched French films, ate French food, took a French language class, etc. I’ve since spent a month in Paris, but it was after ANNA was already in edits. I was so relieved to discover that my extensive research had paid off. Paris was everything I’d expected and hoped it to be. In other words, hurrah for research! And hurrah for Paris!
* * *
Thank you, Stephanie!!!
Okay, contests: First off, both contests run through Friday, January 28th.
UPDATE: CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. WINNERS HAVE BEEN CHOSEN AND ANNOUNCED HERE. Thanks for playing, all!
Now, if you have not read ANNA and want to—and how could you not?—you can of course, buy the book. Or you can try to win a signed copy. To do that simply comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. Got it? To win a signed copy of ANNA all you have to do is leave a comment on this post and you’re done. Okay, thanks for playing, bye. Now stop reading because there are big spoilers coming. Seriously, go write your name in the comment box and do something good for the world. Stop Reading Now.
I mean it. STOP READING. It’s for your own good.
REALLY. Curiosity killed the cat. And ruined the reading experience. Now, BYE!
Okay, I thought they’d never leave. It’s just us now, ANNA lovers and chocophiles. Your task is a little more complicated. And way more fun! Herewith is a quiz to test your arcane ANNA knowledge. Complete it. Then email the answers to me (because posting your answers would be like waving your Scantron around for all the world to see). If you get the answers right (or most of them) you’ll be entered into a random drawing for the chocolate. If you win, you can even tell me your preference for dark or milk chocolate (or have a mix). Email your anwers to info at gayle forman dot com.
The quiz is open book, btw.
Okay, ready for the ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS QUIZ? Pencils up. Good luck. Or, as they might say at SOAP, Bon Chance.
1. Describe Étienne’s flaw
2. What is the name of Bridget and Toph’s band?
3. What is the thing Étienne wears that his mom made for him?
4. Where do Anna and Étienne first kiss?
5. What does Anna’s mom send for her birthday?
6. What is the first movie Anna goes to see in Paris?
7. Who is Anna’s car named after?
8. What sport does Meredith play?
9. What does the acronym SOAP, Anna’s school in Paris, stand for?
Bonus Question: What real-life romance novelist does Anna’s father resemble?
Don’t forget. Email the answers to info at gayleforman dot com. Don’t post them in the comments.
As they say in Paris, Au Revoir!