I am so excited to feature Samantha Verant as my February author! Samantha and I share the same publisher for our memoirs and both have Chicago roots. When I asked about featuring her this month, she came up with the fabulous idea of doing an interview! I was sold and from now on will interview my featured authors each month! Thank you, Samantha, for your creativity and friendship. And now onto to interview.
Susan B-K: Your first memoir, Seven Letters From Paris (Sourcebooks, 2014), is a story most people can relate to, even if we haven’t all acted on it: re-establishing contact with a lost love from 20 years ago. Had you always wanted to write a book, or did your reconnection with Jean-Luc give you the idea for the first time?
Samantha Verant: In my teens, I wanted to be an actress or a singer, and in my junior year of high school I attended the Chicago Academy for the Performing and Visual Arts, choosing theatre as my major and taking voice lessons once a week. But after a move to Boston at the age of sixteen, my dreams had metamorphosed, and art had become a big part of my life. Instead of singing “One” on Broadway, I ended up at Syracuse University, majoring in advertising design, my father’s domain. Upon graduation, it didn’t take long for me to understand this dream simply wasn’t mine.
The writing bug bit in 2007. Since then, I’ve written two middle grade novels, my first a fantasy about two kids that play a role in saving the earth’s creatures from extinction, the other about a sideshow attraction on a search for his identity, and a Young Adult Fantasy, entitled Goddess. Writing allowed me to do everything I dreamed of – sing on the page, act out scenes, and design new worlds. I didn’t set out to write a memoir, but once I found myself living the story, I felt it was something readers, especially women, might connect to. Alas, I cleared my diabolical plan with Jean-Luc, wrote my heart out, and, after jumping over some hurdles, three years later, in 2012, I sold Seven Letters from Paris to Sourcebooks. Around the same time, I also sold one of my middle grades, King of the Mutants to Month9Books.
SBK: For readers who don’t know, you were studying abroad your junior year of college and were traveling in France with a friend. One night the two of you met a couple of French guys and ended up hanging out with them until your train left Paris the next morning. Jean-Luc then wrote seven love letters to you over the next year, but you never replied–until 20 years later when you contacted him out of the blue. The rest is history–and the subject of your book. What was the most difficult part of leaving your life in the US to be with Jean-Luc in southern France?
SV: Like most expats, or anybody who has ever moved to a new city/town, I experienced severe culture shock, where in the first stage (the honeymoon period) everything is great, new, and exciting, followed by the distress stage, where I felt overwhelmed, disconnected, and extremely frustrated– maybe even a little depressed. Of course, my relationship with Jean-Luc was wonderful, but I took a lot on at the same time. I’d moved to a new country, far away from my family and friends. I’d become a step-mom to Jean-Luc’s two young tweens, Max and Elvire, ages ten and thirteen then. I was dealing with immigration. And, although I spoke enough French to get by, when I stopped by the local boulangerie simply to ask for a baguette, my words barely formed. I called this my ‘mouse voice’ phase. It was kind of hard to communicate when people couldn’t actually hear you. Even simple tasks like going to the grocery store brought on anxiety. As I searched for one-ounce of familiarity, always coming up empty-handed, homesickness set in. Thankfully, on a much-needed trip back home, I was able to regroup. I delve into all these experiences (and more) in my next book How to Make a French Family: a memoir of love, food, and faux-pas, which will be released in April 2017.
SBK: Yes, congratulations on signing a deal for your follow-up memoir, How to Make a French Family. In this book, you will tell the story of your instant parenthood when you move to France to marry Jean-Luc and how you’ve adapted to a new culture. Where do you write and do you have a set schedule everyday, or does it depend on what else is going on around you in southern France?
SV: I have a small office upstairs, but don’t use it because I like to write in the kitchen at the breakfast bar– the coffee is handy and I have a nice view of our garden. I pop open Word during the day, when the kids are at school and Jean-Luc is at work. No distractions! I usually check my emails and social media accounts right after I get up, take a shower, have a cup of coffee, and then I’m ready to go by 9:00 am. I try to write for around four to five hours a day.
SBK: Seven Letters has been optioned as a film. Can you give us a little look into your dream cast? Do you think Daniel Craig can do a French accent?
Yes! I’m very excited about the film option! Love the studio and the producers! As for casting, we’re a long way off from that, but it is quite fun to think about.
I’m not quite sure if Daniel Craig could pull off a French accent, but I know Jean Dujardin can. Bradley Cooper speaks French fluently, too. On the side, I’ve been teasing Jean-Luc about Gerard Depardieu. I had to ask friends and family who they think would be good to play me, because it’s too hard to cast myself! In no particular order, here are the names that have come up: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Kate Hudson, Amy Adams, Amy Schumer, Reese Witherspoon, Naomi Watts, Leslie Mann, and Diane Kruger. My best friend, Tracey, is the easiest – Sandra Bullock or Tina Fey.
One of my mom’s favorite movies is Because I Said So with Diane Keaton, so she’d be a great choice. And I love Meryl Streep for her, too. Or Goldie Hawn. Or Michelle Pfeiffer. For my dad: Bill Nighy, Steve Martin, or Liam Neeson? For my sister: Kirsten Dunst, Amanda Seyfried, or Blake Lively? As for Max and Elvire, I think they’d have to go with two adorable unknown actors.
Let’s just hope and pray the film gets the greenlight!
SBK: Thank you so much for answering these questions! As a final question, what is the one travel accessory you never leave home without?
I have to choose one? Just one? I’m going to go with my phone– for taking photos and, if needed, connecting with people via calls, emails, Skype, or social media.
(I’d have to sneak my iPad and camera in my bag, too).
Thanks, Susan, this has been a real treat! Gros bisous from Toulouse!
Thank you, Samantha! It has been so much fun to talk about your books and life in France! To connect with Samantha online, you can find her here: