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Guest post | Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah’s Key

February 12, 2009

sarahskeyRecently I had the pleasure of reading Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. I’d like to thank Ms. de Rosany for taking time from her busy writing schedule to stop by The Printed Page.

The most amazing aspect about a novel being published in several countries is the feedback from all these different readers. I used to be published only in France. Things changed with “Sarah’s Key” which has been printed in 25 countries so far and more to come. I can’t describe how thrilling it is to open your computer and read messages from all around the world. Most readers write to me in English, sometimes in their native tongue, and I answer back in English, except for my French readers.

Getting all these emails means taking time to answer them. I answer each email in a personal way, and this can take up to an hour a day. Another surprise is getting mails from teenagers. The most prolific ones are from Italy, France, Germany and the USA. (I have two teenagers myself and reading is not their thing, alas.) My youngest readers are barely 11 or 12, with a big chunk of 13/14 year olds, both girls and boys. I chat with them on MSN, they’re from Martinique, Berlin, Chicago, Lille, Tours, Brest… I also get many messages from older people who have gone through the traumas of the war and who want to share their souvenirs with me. I am sent photos, old black and white portraits, copies of letters written 65 years ago, documents concerning the Occupation. All this paperwork I know I will treasure for a life time. I thought at first that the emails would slowly stop, but every day brings a new lot in. I even got one from Poland this morning. In broken English. Thanking me for writing this book.

The vast majority of my readers are convinced I am Julia Jarmond, Sarah’s Key’s heroine. However, I am not American, but half French, half English, I am not married to Bertrand Tézac, (thank God ! but to a marvelous man called Nicolas), I do not have a daughter called Zoë (but a son named Louis and a daughter named Charlotte, ), I am not a blue eyed blonde and I speak fluent French being French. Julia Jarmond was based on three American girlfriends married to Frenchmen and who have been living in Paris for the past 25 years. Yes, they still have accents. I chose the name Julia because my best friend is called that, (she’s American too, but she lives in London) and Jarmond because I thought it sounded good with Julia. The only thing I have in common with “JJ” is that we are the same age and she is a journalist as well. C’est tout ! Oh, and she hangs out at Le Select, on boulevard Montparnasse, like me.

Another pleasurable surprise was touring France with Sarah’s Key. Yes, I’m half French, but I have to admit I only know parts of my native country. Last year, Sarah took me to Lille, Limoges, Montaigu near Nantes, Saint Louis near Basel, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Pau, Metz, Nice, Rennes, Brest, Marseille, the Loire valley, Fuveau near Aix en Provence, Besançon, Nancy, Saint Etienne, Colmar, Strasbourg… I fell in love with France all over again! We Parisians are blasé. We tend to see Paris as the center of the universe. And how wrong we are. Bordeaux is a silver splendor, Pau took my breath away with its Basque architecture overlooking the Pyrenees, Metz’s gothic cathedral is not to be missed, nor is Strasbourg’s, the vieux Nice uncannily resembles an Italian village, the Medieval heart of Montpellier is beautiful, Provence weaves a sunny spell it’s hard to resist. …Douce France, comme tu es belle!

Many of my readers want to know what my writing schedule is. First I start on a little note book, with my horrid scribbled handwriting that nobody can read. When I get to the end of that little note book (a small Moleskine format) it has usually taken me about a month. I then copy and edit the entire text on to the computer…Then the computer takes on from there, I don’t go back to paper.

My main problem is combining my writing with my job and my family. Virginia Woolf was right, you need a room of your own, which I actually don’t have. I used to share a small office at my publisher’s, and that worked well for a while, but the muse in that place fizzled out. Another thing that puts me off is noise : music, TV, talk, phones ringing. So, the “wee hours” are sometimes useful. I can’t stand it if a door is opened behind me and someone walks in as I’m writing. I like to have a window in front of me, not a blank wall. I try to write my book every day, even on weekends, (but this upsets my family, so I try not to). I drink tea while I write and when the tea gets cold, I make another pot. I read out loud from my book and sometimes cringe. I get back to work till I don’t cringe at the next reading. I can’t listen to music while I write. I admire writers who are able to do this. When I get stuck somewhere in my book, I come back to it later and write something else, an article, a blog post, an email, a short story. A poem ? Nope, haven’t written a poem since the 80’s. Thank God.

Tatiana de Rosnay
Author of Sarah’s Key (Saint Martin’s Press)
Tatiana de Rosnay

  1. February 13, 2009 6:16 am

    This is fantastic! We lived in France for 2 years and weren’t always welcomed by the young people. Old people were another story all together. I won’t ever forget one time when we met a woman who had lived through WW2 – she held our hands and thanked us profusely for the part our country had in liberating France during the war. We didn’t think she would ever let go.

    I love that young people are reading this book! I know one to pass my copy to once I’ve read it.
    I was very surprised by the ages of her young readers. I think it’s wonderful that they’ve picked up this exceptional book. My copy is headed to Australia this week.

  2. February 16, 2009 3:42 pm

    Great post! Sarah’s Key is in my TBR pile, and I can’t wait to read it!

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