When writers are asked, ‘Where do you get your inspiration from?’ and they reply with a vague, ‘Oh everywhere and anywhere really’, they’re actually telling the truth. You never know where your next idea will come from and more often than not, it finds its roots in some throw-away comment or idea that just manages to cling onto your imagination. A newspaper headline; a passing remark on a TV show; or a piece of gossip you heard on the bus, can lodge itself in your subconscious and present itself as a story begging to be told, just when you least expect it.
This was exactly the case for The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris. A few years ago, I stumbled across a cookery show by Trish Deseine, an Irish woman who moved to Paris and embraced French food and culture wholeheartedly. Being a huge fan of both food and France I figured, what’s not to like?! Anyway, during one of her shows, she saunters around Paris sharing her favourite spots for shopping and eating. Then she points out a bakery, famed for its secrecy and delicious breads, whose patrons include the A-list of Parisien society. I can’t remember the story entirely, but apparently no-one was seen either entering or leaving. It was an old stone building with a basement entrance and there was something very mysterious about its clandestine operations.
A half-forgotten story about a mysterious bakery waited patiently at the back of my mind for years. Finally, I decided to write a short story about it, but it just didn’t seem to work. Then along came NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) and I seized the opportunity to breathe new life into the story. Writing a novel in thirty days is a daunting task, but it certainly focuses the mind! My bakery took on a life of its own, and lots of new characters to tell the tale. I decided to set my novel in a town that lies one hour north of Paris – the town of Compiègne, which is full of history and has very strong connections with World War II. Even though this book is not in the ‘Time-Slip’ genre like my first novel, there are still a lot of historical elements in the book and Compiègne seemed like the perfect location for the story to unfold. I really enjoy tracing the influence of the past through my stories and exploring its effects on my characters, and so the bakery’s story really begins during Nazi Germany’s occupation of France.
I also wanted this book to retain a light-hearted quality and I relished being able to describe the culture shock that is ‘la vie en France’. Having lived in Toulouse for a year in my twenties, I had a lot of personal experience to draw from. My protagonist, Edith, also brings a lot of warmth and humour to the story. A woman in her thirties, who is trying desperately to recapture her ‘student years’ by flitting off to a job in Paris, but needless to say, nothing goes according to plan (which is usually when you have the most fun!)
The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris is a blend of all my pleasures in life: Pastries, travel, history and a good old fashioned story about finding yourself, your bliss and hopefully, some romance. Where do you find your ideas and how do you translate them into your writing? I’d love to know 🙂