Since nowadays my life is pretty much all about The Paris Effect, these FAQs center around that. But in my previous life I wrote a non-fiction book (The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use). You can find some FAQs about that here.
Is The Paris Effect autobiographical?
This is the first question people usually ask. The answer is: No. It’s true that I used to live in Phoenix, as Amy did, and that, like Amy, I didn’t care for it much. Sorry for all those snarky remarks, good citizens of Phoenix! And I know Paris pretty well, having spent a number of years there, so that is why I chose France for her destination. But I never ran away from home and husband, like Amy did. And (except for being robbed and stalked, which happens to pretty much everyone) I never had any of the adventures she had in Paris.
Are the catacombs a real place?
Yes. Hundreds of miles of tunnels run underneath the streets of Paris. Some are sewers but many are fairly clean, dry passageways left over from the quarries dug years ago to cut the stones to build the city. People (they call themselves “cata-philes”) explore them, just the way Balzac and his crew do in the book. It is illegal, though, and the French police maintain a special force to try to keep people out (known as “cata-flics”).
Have you gone down into the catacombs yourself?
No! You could not pay me to go down there. But some of the people who have wrote detailed accounts of their adventures, which I used as source material. Everything Amy saw and did while down there is entirely plausible. There really are murals and rooms full of bones. Insane as it sounds, some do shimmy through tight narrow “wormholes” the way Amy did. People go there to escape modern life, to hold wild parties, or (as in the book) just to have innocent picnics. It’s a part of an “urban explorers” phenomenon that’s worldwide. (P.S. I have visited the official catacombs a couple times, just to get the feel of the place.)
What about all the diet rules? Where did they come from?
Just before I started working on the book my doctor told me I needed to lose some weight. I was not happy! But I put myself on a diet and as time went by I realized I was devising all sorts of idiosyncratic “rules” to keep my eating in check. So I decided it would be fun to include rules in the book. In this respect, I guess the novel is autobiographical. (Except for the more out-there rules, of course. I’m not that nutty.)
Uh-huh. Did it work? Did you lose weight?
It did. I lost what the doctor said I needed to lose. It was not easy! And since then, I have to admit it’s been a struggle to maintain. Ugh. Dieting really is “perpetual.”
In the book Amy says a lot of really mean things about fat people. Where did you get all this stuff?
Where do you think? The Internet. The Internet is full of all sorts of unsavory information. One of Amy’s challenges in the book is to accept that fat is not her enemy, and I think she does, but she starts out sounding pretty awful, I do recognize. Maintaining a healthy body image is a struggle, especially nowadays.
Are you writing another novel?
Yes, I am writing a sequel to The Paris Effect. All I can say about it is that it takes place entirely in Paris, and picks up six months after The Paris Effect ends.