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Interview: Rozsa Gaston, Author of Paris Adieu

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Rozsa Gaston is an author who writes serious books on playful matters. She is the author of Paris Adieu, Dogsitters, Budapest Romance, Lyric, Running from Love and the soon to be released Paris Adieu sequel, Black is Not a Color Unless Worn By a Blonde.

Ms. Gaston studied European intellectual history at Yale, and then received her master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia. In between Rozsa Gaston worked as a singer/pianist all over the world. She currently resides in Connecticut with her family.

To learn more about Rozsa Gaston and her work, please visit the following links:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon Kindle Store | Smashwords | LinkedIn | Barnes & Noble

Could you please tell us a bit about your book? The story? The characters?

Paris Adieu is a coming of age tale of self-discovery and self-acceptance.

The book has two themes: 1) how to be comfortable in your own skin and 2) how to fake it till you make it.

Paris Adieu’s heroine, Ava Fodor, is clueless about both at the start of the story. But over ten years and three separate stays in Paris, she figures out a thing or two — thanks to the insights living in Paris has given her. Ava studies French women, French food, French attitude — while French men study her. By the final chapters of Paris Adieu, she’s more or less transformed herself into the woman she wants to be. And if she hasn’t entirely, at least she’s learned how to fake it till she makes it.

Ultimately, Ava grasps that her newfound sense of self will work for her back in the U.S. in a way it never will if she stays in Paris. She’ll never become French. But she has become fabulous. More or less.

The characters include Ava Fodor, a slightly plump, frizzy-haired nineteen-year-old American au pair in Paris who struggles with being less than perfect. Jean-Michel is Ava’s fussy, exacting first French boyfriend whose provincialism drives her up the wall yet who educates her on all matters Parisian. Four years later, Pascal, Ava’s second French boyfriend, gives her something she’ll thank him for eternally — an introduction to her own womanhood. Arnaud, Ava’s third French boyfriend, dazzles Ava’s head as well as her heart, until she finally tires of matching wits with him in a never ending zero-sum game. Recalling Pascal’s advice to her to always seek authenticity, she realizes she can’t be herself with Arnaud, nor in her career as a singer pianist. When Arnaud’s friend Pierre shows interest in her original songs in a way Arnaud never has, Ava gains insight into who she really is and where she belongs. Pierre’s entrance into her life catalyzes her to move in a new direction — back to New York armed with the lessons Paris has taught her.

How did you come up with the title and how much say did you have on the cover design?

I had another title to begin with, Queen of Diamonds Loves Me Not. It referred to my main character’s largely one-sided love affair with Paris. But my editor told me it was rubbish, then another editor at a large publishing house said the same thing. I scuttled it and came up with a shorter title.

Paris Adieu says what it means. “Adieu” means “goodbye forever” in French. It’s not the typical French goodbye, “au revoir,” which means “see you again.” At the end of Paris Adieu, my main character Ava Fodor makes a decision to leave Paris. She’s learned how to be fabulous there, and when she isn’t, she’s learned how to fake it till she makes it. But now it’s time to take her act back to New York, where she belongs.

As for the book’s cover design, I told my agent, Sharon Belcastro of Belcastro Agency, I wanted a wistful, appealing image of Paris Adieu’s main character, Ava. I expected a long back and forth would ensue over many months, with discussions and disagreements as we honed in on the right look.

Instead, Rob Mohan, the book cover designer engaged by my agent, nailed it right away. He perfectly captured Ava’s innocence, slight chubbiness and fledgling thirst for romantic adventure. The first moment I saw it, I loved it.

He then took it one step further, and refined the title’s lettering by adding the Eiffel Tower and Empire State Building images so that the reader knows immediately the story is not just about Paris, but leads back to New York. The color scheme of hot pink with shades of grey perfectly captures the journey Ava makes from black and white, Puritan-inflected New England, where she grew up, to Paris’ shades of grey, accented with Ava’s hot pink readiness to embrace life.

Do you have a favorite line or excerpt that you would like to share from your book?

“Fake it till you make it” is Ava’s motto and my favorite line from Paris Adieu.

What are some of your favorite ways to promote your work?

Doing blog interviews. Each one helps me to refine and define what my character Ava Fodor is all about. I’m deep into Paris Adieu’s sequel now, with Ava back in New York, tangled in a thicket of mixed emotions and responsibilities for her aging father, a man she didn’t meet until age sixteen. Meanwhile, she’s scared to take her relationship with Pierre a step further. Will romance ruin the most important adult friendship she’s ever had with a man? And if it doesn’t, is she ready for the next step? She’s never had a romance that didn’t blow up or blow over sooner or later. Help!!!

I’m eager to continue Ava’s story for many books to come. She’s a nuanced character and her journey is the story of how to grow up gracefully. I hope I’ll learn something while writing it.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

It’s almost always the same; completely the opposite of what my life was like before having a family, when I was a professional singer pianist. I’m in the saddle now — and it’s a good place to be, especially for maximizing literary output.

A typical writing day is from Monday to Friday. I get up, get the charming varmints out the door and onto the school bus, then return to the house at 7:50 am where I do housework for the shortest amount of time possible to be able to live with myself. Then I’m fed up and get down to what I really want to do – write.

First I edit the pages I wrote the day before. This gives me an opportunity to congratulate myself on either 1) what a genius I am, or 2) what a smart woman I am for not letting anyone see those pages before editing them with fresh eyes.

I knock off the writing about half past one or after I’ve produced 1500 words, whichever comes first. Then I turn to social media book promotion activities. After polishing my image in cyberspace and making contact with like-minded individuals, I print out whatever I’ve written that morning and put it on top of my desk, so it’s the first thing that catches my eye on the morrow.

At three p.m. the school bus pulls up in front of the house and I pull the plug on my distinguished writer persona.

What are some ways that you like to relax?

I’m the kind of person who relaxes by moving. Cats hate me. As soon as they settle onto my lap, I jump up and do something. Then I sit down again, they settle in, and BAM — I’m up again. I like to run, work out on the elliptical twice a week at the gym with my fabulously interesting friend who is actually a Baroness, soak in the hot tub while chatting with my daughter, and read fiction. Right now I’m re-reading Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I’m also reading I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe.

What author/s do you think are overlooked in the writing/reading world today?

Authors who are not celebrities have a hard time getting published today. What does being a celebrity have to do with producing good literature? Why has the publishing industry lost its commitment to connect talented authors with hungry readers? Is it all just about business now? Thank God the Internet has come along and given independent authors a voice.

What author would you most like to meet and why?

Françoise Sagan. She had it all: style, austerity, chic, wit, ennui, the whole gamut of what the French refer to as “je ne sais quoi” – “I don’t know what.” It’s probably just as well that she’s dead, since I’d be jealous. She represents everything that I want and some things that I’ll never be. She was French. I’m not. She wrote her first novel and masterpiece, Bonjour Tristesse, when she was seventeen. I wrote my first novel eight years ago. It hasn’t yet been identified as a masterpiece, and I wasn’t seventeen at the time. I hate that woman’s guts. No. I love her.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share with readers?

Yes. I’m halfway through the sequel to Paris Adieu, Black is Not a Color … Unless Worn by a Blonde. It’s the story of Ava’s relationship with her father, who has a heart attack soon after she returns to New York from Paris. Caring for him consumes her, putting the brakes on her budding romance with Pierre, the Frenchman she has met at the end of Paris Adieu. There’s another more important man in her life whom she needs to figure out first.

Zsolt Fodor is a Hungarian poet fond of saying crazy, cryptic things such as “black is not a color unless worn by a blonde.” No one understands him, foremost of all, his daughter. Ava learns how to accept, love, and care for the man who fathered, but didn’t raise her. It’s a struggle, but with the help of friends she’s made at her new job at the United Nations — a few Serbs and a Romanian — she begins to understand something of her father’s own fractured background and the difficulties he has endured as an immigrant in New York City. By learning to love and forgive her father, Ava learns how to look at men in a new light. But is it too late to find Pierre again? And if she does, is she ready for the real, real thing? I can’t wait to finish the story and find out myself, so I can share it with readers.

What is something about yourself that would come as a surprise to many people?

I turn into an ogre if I can’t write. Other people yearn for weekends or vacations. I yearn for Mondays through Fridays: a solid workweek with no school holidays, early dismissals, children at home sick, doctor’s appointments or daytime social obligations. I love to work, because my work is play. It’s also work however, and crafting a story involves time to write, then more time to re-write. It’s a time-intensive activity, like golf. I’ll never be a good golfer. But I hope to be a good writer one day. Practice makes perfect, and I love to practice. Au revoir, my friends. I’ve got to get back to work.

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