Laura Florand is the author of THE CHOCOLATE KISS published by Kensington Books and out on 24 December. We will be reviewing THE CHOCOLATE KISS soon, but in the meantime here are Laura's answers to a few questions we recently asked her.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I mostly try to fit writing in wherever I can. I usually get up very early, by five, and write until it’s time to get my daughter ready for school. I teach also, at Duke University, and I try to keep the 5:00-9:00 p.m. window reserved for family, so often I can’t write again until after her bedtime, which means from nine until I’m falling asleep at the keyboard. But I’ve requested a reduced load at my university, so that does help some.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
No, they’re pure fiction. But I am inspired by the very real character traits you see in the types of professions I write about. For example, with the very top chocolatiers and pâtissiers, some things are common to all of them: perfectionism, passion, the driving desire to give pleasure and to give the most pleasure, to be the best, a powerful investment in the senses. And pure, stubborn drive. I can’t think of a better combination of traits for a fictional hero.
What is your favorite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
It would be impossible to pick just one. An author I particularly like is Sarah Addison Allen. I love the subtle sensuality in her writing and the threads of magic that run through it.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I just get ideas and go with it. Almost always a story starts with a scene. And I’ve written out thousands and thousands of vivid scenes that I wanted to get on paper but which never developed into a full story. But with some of those, I keep going. Mostly I write from one scene to the next, but if a vivid scene comes to me out of order, I’ll write it down before I lose it, even if that’s not where I’m at in the draft at that point. Then I rewrite. A lot. I redraft incessantly, from major rewrites to minor edits, and I rewrite as I draft and again after I finish. I am always tweaking little things up until it goes to the printer.
What was journey to being a published author?
I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was nine years old! My library had a subscription to The Writer, and it said you should write every day if you really wanted to be a writer. So, since I was nine years old, that’s what I did. I would send things out, too—I sent stories to The New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly before I was twelve! Those poor editors. You see, The Writer also said you should have ten things out at a time, so I had a green notebook where I tracked all the submissions and the date of the rejection letter, with these little optimistic “Date Sold” and “Payment” columns that stayed stubbornly empty. For pages and pages and pages. For years I kept ten things at a time out (ten different things, since you weren’t supposed to simultaneous submit according to The Writer, either). I was sixteen before I won a youth poetry contest and could put a big, proud $50.00 in a payment column.
So what can I say? I was just persistent. Very persistent. And I loved fiction and primarily wrote fiction. But I was also determined to find adventure in the great wide world, and as I traveled, I started writing about some of the funny or fascinating things I experienced, and those became some of my first published essays. Eventually, some of those about France grew into my first published book, a memoir, Blame It on Paris.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That anyone could do it if they bothered! I guess it depends how you define “bother”. Even the worst novel in the world is a lot harder to write than watching TV, or checking emails, or any of the thousand little things that pull us away from the focus we need to produce a full story.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
That they should carefully reread my answer to that question about my path to publication. :) Write every day, ignore rejection, keep refining and honing and also, living a very rich life. Because, unlike Proust, I believe you should live a very rich life as your first priority and then write about it second. By “write about it”, I don’t necessarily mean that you are recounting your own life, but that your characters will be far more vivid and real if your life is, too. Although I wouldn’t discount the power of imagination to create a vivid, rich life, even for someone bound to a chair.
Or perhaps, rather than using terms like “first” and “second”, it would be more accurate to say that living the rich life and writing about it should be inherently entwined.
What are you working on at the moment?
There are two more books after THE CHOCOLATE KISS in the Amour et Chocolat series, but of course I have finished writing those by now. I’ve started a new series set in Provence, in the fragrance production region. Vast fields of roses and jasmine and lavender around old medieval and Renaissance towns!
Thanks so much for having me on! I’m always delighted to hear from readers, so please feel free to join me on Facebook, where we spend an inordinate amount of time talking about chocolate, or email me through my website, where I also like to share my recommendations for top chocolatiers and behind-the-scenes glimpses from my research with these chocolatiers. And occasionally offer contests so readers can taste some of it for themselves!