Sunday, August 16, 2015

Pump Up Your Book Chats with Paulita Kincer, author of The Summer Of France

Thanks for joining us at the book club Paulita. Can we begin by having you tell us how you got into writing? 

Since I was in the second grade or so, I’ve been writing stories and looking for adventures to write about. I remember in fifth grade when we had to tell the class what we wanted to be. I was so embarrassed to say an author. Why did I know at age 10 that it seemed presumptuous to write books and have people read my words? I worked as a journalist, a job that paid the rent and allowed me to write every day, but I felt novels percolating that needed to get out. So I let them, and hopefully, readers find nuggets of wisdom or emotions that they can connect to in my writing.

Why did you choose to write novels in the women's fiction genre? 

All of my novels have strong female characters because I’m living some of the issues that women face today. If a man wrote about these same issues, it would probably be called fiction, but that’s the sexism we still deal with in society. Hopefully, and I have book reviews to back this up, people of both genders enjoy my books which include travel, adventure, some intrigue, and romance too.

Where is your book set and why did you choose that location? 

The Summer of France is set in Aix en Provence, France, (pronounced X on Pro-vohns). I traveled there 30 years ago when working as a nanny for some American children staying with their French grandparents. We took a few days to travel from Corsica to the family’s summer house near Bourges, and one of the places we stopped was Aix. The minute I walked along the boulevard of the Cours Mirabeau, strolling beneath the plane trees with white peeling bark, and hearing the tinkling of the fountains placed strategically in each traffic circle, I felt like I’d come home.

I’ve been back a few times and fall more deeply in love each time. So when I have to choose a location for my characters, I know that Aix en Provence can make them come alive to the beauty of life again.

I’d like to know more about The Summer of France. Can you give us a little background into why you wrote the novel?

My husband and I have talked about running a bed & breakfast. Since we haven’t made that dream come true yet, I figured I’d send some characters to try it in Aix en Provence. And that could have been the entire novel, as Fia, the main character, learned to be excited about life again while soaking up French culture– the salads with squares of melting goat cheese, the patter of the language in rich throaty sounds, the cobblestone streets that the workers hose off every morning. But I threw in a disgruntled husband and juxtaposed him with a dashing, dark-haired Frenchman. Fia’s two teenagers begin to grow up too fast while visiting France, and an uncle who has a secret from World War II hidden in the bed and breakfast puts the entire family into jeopardy. The idea for the American World War II vet who made bad choices during the war was sparked by a story on NPR about the coffee-table book Rescuing DaVinci. The uncle’s mystery pushes much of the intrigue in this book, as Fia tries to right his wrong and keep her family together.

I’d like to know more about your main character. Can you tell us more about her? 

The story is told by Fia, who’s 40 and totally devoted to her 14-year-old twins, but now that she has lost her reporting job, she’s worried about bills. She and her husband Grayson have grown apart. When her uncle offers them a summer running a bed and breakfast in France, she figures that’s the perfect opportunity to draw her family closer. Fia may be a little naïve. She trusts her teenagers to make the right decisions and doesn’t suspect anything when her husband begins to traverse the nearby beaches and villages with a striking French woman. She’s also oblivious to the flirtations of Christophe, a Frenchman with a dark past. When things get dire though, she takes a deep breath and decides to do the right thing for her family. That doesn’t always mean saving a marriage though.

Can you tell us a little about the other supporting characters? 

Uncle Martin tells part of the story in this novel. He grew up in Kentucky as the youngest in a large farming family. He never had a new pair of shoes until he snuck off to join the army at 17, where he fought in World War II. After he was wounded in Italy, he met a French nurse, Lucie, who later became his wife. He settled in France, and eventually they turned the family homestead into a bed & breakfast. Although childless, family means everything to Martin and Lucie, but Martin can’t let his wife realize the mistake he made as a soldier. He can’t bear to see her detest him for his past actions.

A Frenchman, Christophe, plays a big role in the novel too. He begins as a chance encounter at the airport and again on the train from France to Provence, before showing up at the bed and breakfast for his niece’s birthday party. He and his family suddenly are interconnected with Fia’s family, and Fia feels herself being drawn in by his charm and the way his blue eyes crinkle at the edges. Like many Frenchmen, Christophe has a very close relationship with his family, maybe too close because he works for the family and doesn’t even own his car. The fact that the family has shady dealings with black market art dealerships makes that relationship even harder to break away from. Christophe begins by tempting Fia to surrender to greed, but she ends up making him choose between right and wrong.

They say all fiction books have pivotal points in the book where the reader just can’t put the book down. What’s one pivotal point in The Summer of France

One pivotal point in The Summer of France occurs when Fia realizes her husband, Grayson, betrayed her as he searches the house for Uncle Martin’s hidden treasure. With her husband’s French lover waiting outside, Fia chases him down the hall swinging a skateboard, ready to take him down if she needs to.

What’s next on the agenda for you, Paulita?

I’m nearly finished with my next novel Paris Runaway. You can tell from the title that France plays a major role once again. On the day Sadie turns 50, she learns that her 17-year-old daughter didn’t go to stay with her father for the summer, but instead ran away to Paris, following the French exchange student. Imagining sex slave traders kidnapping her daughter, Sadie chases after her daughter, Scarlett, and combines forces with the exchange student’s divorced father to find the teenagers before they make some dire choices.

What would you like to say to your readers and fans? 

I love hearing from people who have read my books. When you tell me that a scene came alive in your imagination or that you could feel the emotions of the characters, that makes my day, maybe my week. So thank you for going along on the adventures in my novels. I hope you’ll continue to explore the world through the eyes of my characters.

About The Book

TitleThe Summer of France
Author: Paulita Kincer
Publisher: Oblique Presse
Publication Date: July 1, 2013
Format: Paperback / eBook / PDF
Pages: 255
ISBN: 978-1300257332
Genre: Women's Fiction / Travel / Adventure

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Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Book Description:

When Fia Jennings loses her job at the local newspaper, she thinks she'll have the chance to bond with her teenage twins. As she realizes she may be too late to create the perfect family, she's saved by a phone call from her great Uncle Martin who operates a bed and breakfast in Provence. Uncle Martin wants Fia to venture to France to run the B&B so he and his wife Lucie can travel. He doesn't tell Fia about the secret he hid in the house when he married Lucie after fighting in World War II, and he doesn't mention the people who are tapping his phone and following him, hoping to find the secret.

Book Excerpt:


The quiet of the house mocked me as I rummaged through the Sunday paper looking for the travel pages. I ignored the meticulously folded “Help Wanted” section of the newspaper and the yellow highlighter that my husband had placed on the counter to remind me that I’d been unemployed for two months and needed to find a job – soon. The ring of the kitchen phone saved me from isolation and from a job search as the thick accent of my aunt came across the crackly line inviting me to move to France.
After a few sentences in the language that Aunt Lucie considered English, she handed the phone to my great uncle Martin, and I heard his booming voice.
“Fia?” he called as if using a bullhorn rather than a telephone.  Uncle Martin, the baby of my grandfather’s family, ventured overseas as a teenager to fight in World War II, found a French wife, and stayed.
I’d never traveled to France to visit him, but Uncle Martin always came home for the family reunion at the beginning of summer.
Hearing his voice on the phone, I glanced at the wall calendar, assuring myself it was late June and Uncle Martin’s visit had ended nearly two weeks before.
“Uncle Martin! What a surprise. How’s life in France?” I asked in a quiet voice meant to encourage him to lower his volume.
Uncle Martin continued to bellow. “Look, Fia, let me get right to the point.” He hadn’t lost his American directness.  “Lucie and I are tired.
We need a break, maybe a permanent break.”
“What?” I gasped my voice growing louder to match his. “You and Aunt Lucie are…but you can’t be…you can’t break up?”
“No,” I heard his old man grunt across the phone lines. It sounded as if he said something like “Zut!”
“Listen. Don’t jump to conclusions,” he chastised me. “We’re tired of working so hard. We’re old and it doesn’t look like any of Lucie’s relatives are gonna step forward and take over. That’s why I’m calling. Will you and Grayson come over and run this place?”
“This place” is what Uncle Martin always called the eight-room bed and breakfast that he and Aunt Lucie ran in a small village in Provence. Lucie’s family had owned the home for generations, wringing olive oil from the trees and wine from the grape vines. But as big cities and ample education called, the younger branches of the family moved away. When Uncle Martin and Aunt Lucie found themselves the only ones living in the big, old house during the 1970s, they decided to capitalize on a tourism boom and turned the house into a bed and breakfast. They encouraged American and English tourists to stay, and, after A Year in Provence came out in 1990, their business exploded with people who wanted to see the land that Peter Mayle described.
“We thought you could take over,” Uncle Martin blared, “obviously, since you’re not working.”
Thanks, Uncle Martin, for reminding me again of my current jobless status.  When a huge conglomerate bought our local newspaper and combined resources with the paper in the next town, I became superfluous. So, after years of writing about home design, I sat staring at my own shoddy decorating. I tried to look on the bright side. Now I actually had time to try some of those design tips. To add depth to the alcove next to the fireplace, I painted it a darker color. Next I added crown molding around the opening from the living room to the dining room.
So far, mostly, I spent my time trying to stay positive so an amazing job would find me, and I watched cable TV shows about happy families. Who knew The Waltons was on five times a day? Mix that with the Duggars, that family with 19 kids on TLC, and my days just flew past. I slowly realized that driving my kids to sporting events and extracurricular lessons did not count as quality time. Inspired by those TV families, I amplified my efforts to pull my 14-year-old twins closer. When they ambled home from school, I’d suggest some family activities. “Let’s draw a hopscotch on the driveway!” I’d say. Their eyes rolled wildly in their heads like horses about to bolt. “How about making homemade bread together? We can all take turns kneading? Or maybe an old fashioned whiffle ball game in the backyard?”
They suggested we go out for pizza or visit a sporting goods store for new soccer cleats or swim goggles. I declined, picturing the credit card bills I juggled now that I didn’t have an income.
Bills. Ooh! I couldn’t see Uncle Martin’s invitation to France winning approval from my husband, Grayson, who had just been complaining about money.
As a two-income family, we had paid bills on time and planned our next extravagant purchase. Of course, my pragmatic husband, the almost accountant, never used credit cards. But with my own income, I wasn’t that concerned about using credit cards. When I started to run a balance, I made the minimum payment every month. No need to inform Grayson who would’ve disapproved of my indulgences. Not that I bought things for myself. Nothing but the best for our kids with their private swim clubs, technologically engineered swimsuits, travel soccer teams, and state-of-the-art skateboards. I hadn’t bothered to save for an emergency but spent and charged as I went along until the bottom dropped out of journalism.
“Uncle Martin, you know we’ve always dreamed of visiting you and Aunt Lucie, but without a job now, I just… I can’t see it working financially.”
“I’m not talking about a visit,” his voice grew agitated. “I’m talking about you moving in here and running the bed and breakfast. I’d send the plane fare to get you here. You, Grayson and the twins.”
I sat stunned for a moment, so Uncle Martin repeated himself.
“I’ll send you the tickets. I’ll just buy them online for you, Grayson and the twins. Both of them.”
My kids were always “the twins,” as if sharing a womb 14 years earlier made them one entity for the rest of their lives.
“Whoa. That is heavy stuff,” I slid onto the swiveling bar stool. “We can’t just move. Leave our house, school, Grayson’s job.”
Even as I said it, I felt hope rising in my chest. Yes! I waited for a job to come to me and it did. A spectacular opportunity. I pictured myself in a flowing skirt and low-heeled, leather sandals walking along a dusty road away from the market that would line the village streets. I’d carry a canvas bag with French bread jutting from the top as I headed home, the pungent fragrance of a cheese wafting from the bottom of the bag. Although I’d never been to France, I watched any sunny movie set in Europe. The women always wore skirts and had leisure time to linger along the roadside, smelling the lavender.
I heard the front door slam and my husband’s heavy footfall in his casual Sunday topsiders as he came in from the office. Even on a Sunday, the work at Grayson’s accounting firm was plentiful.
I turned my back on my approaching husband and said into the phone, “When are you thinking, Uncle Martin?”
“I’m thinking… NOW. Last week,” Uncle Martin’s voice rose again. I cupped my hand over the phone to try to smother the sound of his bellowing. “I’m tired of dealing with these snippy tourists. I want to roam around the world and give other innkeepers a hard time.”
“You make the job sound so enticing,” I tried to laugh lightly so Grayson, who was drawing nearer, wouldn’t realize the importance of this conversation. The idea began to form in the back of my mind: We could make this happen -- with a little cooperation. I shot a hopeful glance toward Grayson as he walked in the room. I quickly raised my eyebrows twice, which I thought should give him an indication that good news was on the phone. He looked grim and tired – the horizontal line between his own eyebrows resembled a recently plowed furrow.
“Look, I’ll have to call you back later,” I hissed into the phone and punched the button to hang up as Grayson threw his aluminum briefcase on the island. His look turned from grim to suspicious.
“Uncle Martin,” I said with a blasé wave toward the phone. “He has a business proposal…”
I tried to sound nonchalant, but I guess my eagerness showed because Grayson dropped his head on top of his briefcase for just a minute before he stepped toward the cabinet over the refrigerator. He opened the door and pulled down a bottle of Scotch.
This conversation might prove more difficult than I’d anticipated.

About The Author

Paulita Kincer is the author of three novels, The Summer of FranceI See London I See Franceand Trail Mix. She has an M.A. in journalism from American University and has written for The Baltimore Sun, The St. Petersburg Times, The Tampa Tribune, and The Columbus Dispatch. She currently teaches college English and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three children.

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