Cheese and Champagne with Adria J Cimino
Sitting at a French cafe waiting expectantly for a lovely author is a lovely way to pass the time. I’ve ordered a plate of cheese and two glasses of champagne. A little bird tells me that’s what Adria likes. She also likes to people watch I hear so I’ve picked a lovely table with a good view of the park and the street beyond it.
You’ve written four books where location features strongly. Can you tell us why Paris and France feature so heavily in your novels?
I fell in love with France at age 12 when I started studying the language—that was before I’d even set foot in the country! By the time I actually visited briefly with my grandmother and then for a longer period of time right out of college, I was hooked. I loved France, quite simply, for its beauty. From that point, I knew Paris and France would be the setting for many books I would write.
After moving to France, I discovered much more about the country, both positive and negative. And then I was really inspired! France is not one dimensional, but instead multi-faceted, making it an exciting place for an author to recreate. Although I enjoy setting books in other locations as well, France will probably always be my favorite.
Rue des Martyrs is set in Paris and features one street but so many Paris sights sounds and smells. It’s people watching literary style. What was the appeal of writing this novel and why this street?
The true appeal of writing this novel was capturing the feeling of people watching. In Paris, Rue des Martyrs, the reader is in fact people watching. I place the reader right there, in a neighborhood, among these lives that entwine. I chose this particular street because it’s the heart of a real Parisian neighborhood and still holds that neighborhood charm. It was the perfect place to capture “real life” in Paris at a critical moment in time for the main characters.
Which other places in Paris are ideal for people watching?
Neighborhood cafés are my favorite places for people watching. Parks also can be a great place for this.(Susan: Now how did I know she was going to say this?)
If you have one day in Paris, Tops tips to see the city via your books.
With Paris, Rue des Martyrs as your guide, you’ll visit the most charming parts of Montmartre, from the Rue des Martyrs, through the Place du Tertre, and you’ll walk along the narrow winding streets of the neighborhood. You’ll also take a stroll by the Canal Saint-Martin in the city’s 10th district and even stop at the elegant Place Vendome. And of course, you’ll spend plenty of time in Montmartre’s charming cafés.
This book takes us on a fragrant journey to another one of France’s iconic symbols – The perfume. Grasse is in the psyche of many French people is it not?
Yes, when you say the word “Grasse” here in France, people immediately think “perfume.” It is truly the French home of perfume, and the idea is, if a perfume or a perfumer has a connection to Grasse, chances are we’re dealing with quality and tradition.
A trail to find a special perfume is a lovely idea. What inspired you to write this and what kind of research did you do?
When I first came to France, I was impressed by the role perfume has in society. It is synonymous with luxury and elegance, yet just about everyone wears it on a daily basis. It is the one luxury everyone allows himself or herself. So I found the people who create fragrance especially interesting! They wield a power of sorts. The character of Zoe, whose life is guided by scent, soon bloomed in my mind. As for research, I travelled to Grasse and the surrounding towns that also make an appearance in A Perfumer’s Secret. I took in the sights, sounds and scents, and even created my own scent in a fragrance lab. Back home, I did a lot of reading, nonfiction about the business of perfume and scientific books about the composition of fragrances.
Do you have a favourite perfume?
I’m very seasonal when it comes to fragrance. I wear Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel in the winter and Un Jardin Sur Le Nil by Hermes in the warmer months.
Tips for visiting Grasse?
Visit in the spring or summer when nature is most beautiful. I recommend walking around the “downtown” area as it’s very pretty with the little shops, cafés and brightly colored facades. Visit The International Perfume Museum, and before leaving town, treat yourself to – of course – soap or perfume! I also recommend visiting Nice as well as other villages nearby. You’ll find their names and descriptions, which hopefully will entice you to go, in A Perfumer’s Secret!
With many many thanks to Adria for the lovely photo and all things French! Susan x