Question & Answer
Interview of Patricia Daly-Lipe by [email protected]
Notes related to Questions below:
Forbidden Loves, Paris Between the Wars was rewritten and republished in 2016 as A Cruel Calm, Paris Between the Wars.
One reviewer wrote, “On the surface, ‘Forbidden Loves’ is a romantic ‘coming of age’ novel about love, loss, and redemption. Describe to us what is below the surface of this story from the authors point of view.”
“Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.” Or: “People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.” (Edmond Burke) So true. Not only have I experienced a kind of healing from researching the life of a mother I hardly knew, but I sensed so much was being done and considered in that era for us to learn from and to consider in today’s world. Another way to look at this is to consider that history is “a compound of past and present” (Barzum and Graff). I wasn’t there. But I am writing as if I were. Taking as much as I could from the writings of others, walking the streets where the buildings are the same as they were then, watching the river Seine flow with all her secrets just as my protagonist (aka my mother) did, I am combining my feelings with theirs and creating a living past. Someone suggested that in the phrase “historical fiction”, it is moot which of the two words is a noun. In my opinion, history is someone else’s point of view. This is the basis of my book La Jolla, A Celebration of Its Past. So below the surface, I hope to have achieved more for the reader than the spinning of a tale. By the way, I am so glad my editor had me rewrite the book in the first person. Thank you, Glenda.
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1. Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life? Who were your earliest influences and why?
I grew up in both La Jolla, CA and Washington, DC. My mother encouraged me to read the classics from a very early age. This got me in trouble at La Jolla Elementary School. I preferred books like Treasure Island and Swiss Family Robinson to stories about Dick and Jane and dog Spot which, at that time, was required reading. I was sent to the Principal’s office several times for this travesty. Today, the school system has fortunately recognized the value of reading good books.
As a child, I also loved the Just So Stories by Kipling and read every one of the Wizard of Oz books and later the Nancy Drew series (not great literature, but fun). Then it was a fascination with Russian authors, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, which worried my mother because she was afraid I might become an intellectual (didn’t happen).
2. Why do you write?
The act of writing brings ideas out from hiding in my unconscious mind. When I write, the words take over. It is amazing sometimes for me to read what I have written and recognize ideas and opinions concealed until released by the pen or keyboard. Besides, it is the act of writing, I believe, that sustains the process of creativity. The same can be said of painting which I also enjoy.
3. Where did the plot for A CRUEL CALM, PARIS BETWEEN THE WARS come from?
The book is based on my mother’s life. She died when I was 18, but little bits of information, enough to get me enthused, were dropped into conversations here and there over the years and I always wanted to know more.
4. How was Paris different between the two world wars? How was it the cultural capital of the Western world? Please explain. Why was race not an issue in Paris as it was in the US?
After the devastation of the Great War, Paris was a mecca for artists of all genres. The French government sponsored research in aeronautics and gave financial support to pilots. It was clear that for any future war, airplanes (aeroplanes) were going to be key players. With a love and a history of artistic innovation (the Fauves, the Impressionists, the Surrealists), Paris was a center that beckoned artists like Picasso from Spain, Gertrude Stein from America, James Joyce from Ireland. The literary circles became world famous like that of Natalie Barney and the group from the Left Bank, including .
Why race was not an issue perhaps stems from the philosophic basis of the French language itself. There is no logic in bias. Besides, the French had colonies and a federation of eight overseas territories in Africa. For American writer and editor, Jessie Fauser, the move to Paris was necessitated because “I find something here, something of integrity, which I seem to have strangely lost in my own country. It is simplest of all to say that I like living among people and surroundings where I am not always conscious of ‘thou shall not’. I am colored and wish to be known as colored, but sometimes I have felt that my growth as a writer has been hampered in my own country. And so –but only temporary–I have fled from it.” (Paris Tribune, Feb 1, 1923)
5. A CRUEL CALM, PARIS BETWEEN THE WARS is not only a wonderful novel and story but a fascinating history lesson. How did you research for this book?
When I completed studies at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, I went to live in Paris for a year (one of the stories about this time appears in my newest book, Nature’s Wisdom, a collection of short stories about animals and nature on the high seas). Always curious about my mother’s life, I met with people still living whom I found in her old address book. Since then, I have been back several times and as I speak French, I have been able to collect stories about different localities within the city of Paris. One summer I spent painting in Provence and although my mother may never have visited LaCoste, couldn’t resist incorporating that beautiful and historic place into the story.
6. Character or plot? Which do you feel is more important and why?
Hard question. For this book, the plot was a given but the way to present the issues and to introduce the characters was complex. When I taught (bad word, ‘encouraged’ is better) creative writing classes, I told my students not to waste time worrying about the first chapter. Chances were that chapter would be eliminated when the book was completed. Sure enough, the first chapter to Forbidden Loves was the first to go when placed in the hands of my editor!
7. What do you hope to achieve with your books? What do you hope readers will take away after reading your books?
More than ever, I believe, in this age of high tech and horrific world events, three aspects of the human psyche need to be developed: imagination, inspiration and creativity. If my books send any of these vibes into the heart of the reader, then I have succeeded.
8. What has been your feed back from readers?
Teachers at Writing Centers and Universities draw on Myth, Magic & Metaphor as a core for their writing classes. The only problem is, they use the contents but don’t recommend it to their students to buy. Individuals who have purchased the book have written to say they have been stimulated to write; which is, of course, the intention of the book.
La Jolla, A Celebration of Its Past has won the book of the year award in San Diego and has received rave reviews. It started as a series of newspaper articles. The publisher came and asked that I make the articles into a book. When I handed them 500 plus pages, they said, “No, we meant 200 or so pages.” Two years later after considerable rewriting, the book was published. My husband helped by integrating the old photographs into the text. It surprises and pleases me how well th book sells when I do presentations on the East Coast. La Jolla is truly a special place.
Forbidden Loves has received reviews like “I felt I was there” which is great. Others have been amazed at the scope of the war and its legacy to the people of Paris. Most have been interested in Libby’s life and heart broken at the end (reality is stranger than fiction) and think that I really did find letters in a trunk. The truth is, I did but with the infinite wisdom of a teen, burned all of them. Wish I hadn’t.
Nature’s Wisdom, also rewritten and republished in 2007 as Messages from Nature, is a collection of short stories previously published in several magazines across the United States and the Caribbean.
9. What’s next?
Ah, that’s a secret, but the keyboard keys are busy!
10. What was the last book you read?
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and
Portraits of the Artist in Exile, Recollections of James Joyce by Europeans, Edited by Willard Potts (copywright 1979)
11. Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?
I paint. Two of my book covers are my paintings. As Georgia O’Keeffe said, “To see takes time.” This is precisely why painting may not only enhance my writing, it forces me to take the time to look, be it trees bending in the wind or a butterfly in flight, the rays of the setting sun playing with the clouds, the light coming through the branches like daggers across the country road, dewdrops on petals, shadows cast as twilight approaches, the moon when it appears as a brilliant orange ball rising up from the horizon, or the look on someone’s face when they are happy or sad. So many times the image sticks and later finds itself on a canvas, but often passages in my books reflect these images as well.