Thursday, July 23, 2015

Interview with Patti Miller - Author of Ransacking Paris

 Patti Miller - Aussie Author & Memoirist

I was delighted to receive Patti's email agreeing to be interviewed for Paris in July this year, especially after I just devoured her latest book - Ransacking Paris. I chose her book as my first Paris in July dedicated read because she is an Aussie Author, and the main storyline is about living a year in Paris - every one's dream, right? 

Before we get into the questions, I thought I'd share some of my favourite quotes.
Bees ransack flowers here and flowers there, but then they make a honey which is entirely theirs; it is no longer thyme nor marjoram honey [Michel de Montaigne]. I ransacked all year; I'm not sure if I was the hard working bee or the bee keeper who simply bided her time until the honey was ready.
I don't remember bees as being significant at the time. I can see they come from Montaigne and his metaphorical bees making honey which is entirely theirs... but I don't know why they are multiplying...
Near the end of my childhood the muttering white rabbit and the raging Queen of Hearts still frightened me, but I wanted to be Alice nonetheless. To grow tall, or small, to fit through looking-glasses and tiny doors and rabbit holes into other worlds; how lucky she was. 
I quite enjoyed the theme of the bees ransacking Paris because I remember stumbling across the bee hives in le Jardins du Luxemburg and spending some time considering Bees living in Paris. 
Students enjoying coffee in Paris

Interview with Patti

1.       It’s clear to any reader of ‘Ransacking Paris’ that you love Paris, and that you’ve loved her for a long time. What’s your earliest memory of being captured by Paris? And how significant was that moment in your decision to move to Paris?  

It was a gradual layering of images rather than one specific memory, but when I was first introduced to French when I was twelve years old I was captivated by the language and by the idea of Paris. I think the black-and-white photographs by Doisneau certainly inspired my imagination. And also the Diaries of Anais Nin – she lived in Paris during the thirties – and Hemingway - so my version of Paris was rather old fashioned. All these associations shaped my decision to go and live in Paris – specifically to live in a literary and artistic Paris. For other people it might be Paris fashion or food or films, for me, it’s always been books.
 2.       In your book you introduce us to some classic French authors/memoirists – Montaigne, Madame de Sévigné, and Simone de Beauvoir, who are some of your modern day French literary heroes?

Annie Ernaux, who is introduced in Ransacking Paris, is a contemporary writer whom I admire. She uses the material of her own life as her subject, her working-class provincial background and her marriage and other relationships. I also enjoy the Nobel-prize winning novelist, Patrick Modiano, who writes stories where the characters’ identities are shifting and uncertain. I love the way his characters map the streets of Paris as they traverses the city. And I find Michel Houllebecq interesting, if a little startling...  he often writes about sex and a certain kind of disintegration that comes from our ‘atomised’ society.

3.       These days I understand you facilitate writing workshops and training for memoirists – what did you learn (about yourself or about writing) during your time in Paris that helps you teach others about writing?

 I’ve been giving memoir-writing workshops around Australia since 1991 and in Paris for the last ten years– I teach from my own experience as a writer – and as a reader too, of course. That is an ongoing experience, I learn more with every book I write, but specifically in Paris I learned how we are all made of many influences, not just family and the place we grew up, but other cultures and new experiences. Being open to change is important as a writer, otherwise we do not develop.

In Paris I realized that it was very fruitful to put oneself outside of one’s ordinary life by living in another country for a while because it gives fresh insight and awareness.  I recommend to everyone who wants to write that they regularly take time out to immerse themselves in their writing – and why not do that in Paris?

4.       During your book you describe beautifully where you take your guests when they visit Paris. If you were to host a small group of ‘Paris in July’ fans in Paris this July, where would you take them?

 In July, Paris is very crowded with tourists at all the major sites so I would take the group to places that tourists don’t go to such as the fascinating streets of Belleville in the 20th arrondissement, and the peaceful Parc des Buttes Chaumont, and lesser visited museums such as the Musée Cluny (medieval) and the Carnavalet (history of Paris). I would also take them early in the morning (before the busloads arrived) to St Chapelle, built in 1246, and then leap nearly a thousand years to La Defense, a 21st century quartier so that they could experience a little of the history of Paris firsthand. And I would take them bike-riding on the free Velib bikes along the Seine and up the canals and we’d have a class of wine in the shade.

5.       Do you have any thoughts for Paris in July fans about how to bring ‘Paris’ into your life when you’re not in Paris?

I read books by French writers and books about Paris and France  – both historical and modern. I watch French films – SBS On demand has an excellent selection that keeps me in Paris, or at least in France, for months at a time. I also listen to the French news online every day (France 2) so I’m up-to-date with French events and it keeps my ear tuned to the language. I go to my local French Café, France Douce in Darlinghurst Road in Kings Cross. And I have a baguette - with French cheese - for lunch most days!

Opportunity to join Patti in Paris
Patti facilitates a 17 day memoir writing experience in Paris. in 2016 she will be leading a Spring Memoir course with BookShop Travel. A Writing course that can change your life. Live the writer’s life in Paris. If you want to find out more about the Memoir writing course in Paris check out Bookshop Travel or Australian Writers Centre or drop me a line. 

I want to say a HUGE thank you to Patti for sharing with us for Paris in July, and I encourage all lovers of Paris, Parisian Authors and travel, to find your own copy of Ransacking Paris - I'm sure you'll devour it also.
 Many photo's in this post were supplied by Patti herself from her travels.
This post was my contribution to 


Arti said...

Thanks for an interesting and informative interview. That sounds like a wonderful book to read... and, love the title! Definitely, that would be a dream experience, to live in Paris for a year.

Mel u said...

Thanks for this very interesting post. One of my life dreams is to do a literary tour of France.

Sharon said...

Another book to look out for, and watching French movies on SBS great idea, I should have thought of that.

Louise said...

Congratulations on the interview Tamara. I'd love our Paris in July excursion as suggested by Patti, it sounds delightful. I have Ransacking Paris in my TBR, but sadly won't make it this month, her workshops in Paris sound fantastic, something to keep in mind for the future.

Audrey said...

I would love to read this... thanks for sharing (and bien sur for hosting!)

Teddyree said...

Wonderful interview Tamar and Patti. I love the sound of Ransacking Paris and I adore the sound of Paris in July fans enjoying a quieter Paris. My earliest memory of Paris is from one book in particular .... as a child I wanted to be Madeline lol.

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