Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What I learned in Paris

Blechta here a day late. Did you miss me?

I just flew in from Paris and boy are my arms tired. (cue "ba-doom-boom" on drums) If you've read any of my previous few blogs, you'll know all about why I was there. Don't worry, it was ALL book-related.

As always, I had ebbs and flows while there. The list of things in my job jar was pretty extensive and quite often by mid-afternoon I was thinking, That's it for today. I just want to go back to the apartment and sleep. (And rest my barking dogs, for we walked nearly everywhere.)

The worst was having to get up early one morning, race to the Gare du Nord for a train out to the Picardie countryside to visit a town that's used in the book. It was cold, it was wet, we couldn't figure out how to use the ticket machines, and by the time we did, we stood there watching the train depart. I almost gave up and said those sad words, "I'm going to fake this part."

But sense prevailed and I trudged on with my faithful translator along (aka The Wife) to Beauvais, where it was even wetter and colder. But, I learned a ton about that place in the few hours spent there, and that scene is going to be much stronger than it would have been if we'd gone to a museum for the day and I'd faked that scene in the book.

We took lots of reference photos, like nearly 800. (God bless the inventors of digital photography.) I have every location shot from multiple angles, including some that are pretty ridiculous, but as the next few weeks go by, I will be able to completely refresh my memory when needed. Ditto recordings of my on-site thoughts. We even shot about an hour of video for use on the website and for viral advertising when the time comes.

Non-book stuff: I learned that it isn't as expensive to eat in Paris if you're smart and talk to people who know the place and you're willing to do a bit of work. We ate well, very well and had fun doing it. Made some useful friends, too -- and scored free eats!

In short, it was driven home again very strongly: there is no substitute for "being there". I know the sights, sounds, smells, the feel of the places I've written about.

Last benefit? I have a ton of interesting and funny stories that can be used in interviews, readings, library appearances, whenever I'm asked to speak about my book.

And unlike my story, they're all true!

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