Paperback Writer welcomes Paula McLain, author of the historical novel, The Paris Wife. Find out about her typical writing day and what her morning smells like?
About the Author
Paula McLain received an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan and has been a resident of Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. She is the author of two collections of poetry, as well as a memoir, Like Family, and a first novel, A Ticket to Ride. She lives in Cleveland with her family. You can visit Paula McLain’s website to learn more about The Paris Wife at www.pariswife.com.
Visit Pauls’ tour page at Pump Up Your Book
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About The Paris Wife
A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time—Paris in the twenties—and an extraordinary love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.
In Chicago in 1920, Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and finds herself captivated by his good looks, intensity, and passionate desire to write. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group of expatriates that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
But the hard-drinking and fast-living café life does not celebrate traditional notions of family and monogamy. As Hadley struggles with jealousy and self-doubt and Ernest wrestles with his burgeoning writing career, they must confront a deception that could prove the undoing of one of the great romances in literary history.
Welcome to Paperback Writer, Paula and thanks for stopping by on your virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book.
It’s my pleasure to be here.
Q: Give us an example of a typical writing day.
After my younger kids (4 and 6) are off to school and preschool, and the house smells like waffles and syrup, I usually dig right in by rereading what I’ve done the day before. If I’m not loving that I’ll try to move on anyway, and keep things moving forward. That can be hard, when the first impulse is to delete, delete, delete! I usually work until 2, and then run errands or buzz quickly to the gym before I have to meet my daughter’s bus at 3:30.
Q: Do you write on a computer or with pen/pencil and paper?
I write on a sleek little Mac laptop. I have writer friends who do whole drafts longhand, and I find that beautiful and admirable, but I know it wouldn’t work with my process. I seem to need to do an awful lot of futzing around with sentences, and I just don’t think I have the patience to do that longhand.
Q: Biggest Pet Peeve about the writing life.
It can be frustrating to work your heart out writing a book, and love it, and want it to have a great life, and then have it land in the world without even the slightest noise. Don’t get me wrong, I’m endlessly grateful to have the career I’ve had, but I’ve gotten many, many royalty statements with numbers in the negative column, and that’s tough.
Q: Worst rejection you’ve ever received?
When I was between agents and searching like crazy for representation for my first novel, I had an agent (very well known, though I won’t name names) leave me a voicemail rejection saying that she found my characters deeply disturbing, and that they left a bad taste in her mouth. My characters. I wanted to run out into the street!
Q: Do you have a writer’s studio? Describe it for us and what is the view you see from the window?
My desk is in my living room, surrounded by windows and overlooking a playground where children shriek on the swing set. Was it Joyce Carol Oates who said she liked her desk to face a wall so that her imagination might be more fully engaged? I need windows!
Q: Time Frame: From start to finish
The first draft came like gangbusters, in seven months or thereabouts. It needed two more drafts, which were a little wilier and more resistant. About two years all told.
Read the Excerpt!
The very first thing he does is fix me with those wonderfully brown eyes and say, “It’s possible I’m too drunk to judge, but you might have something there.”
It’s October 1920 and jazz is everywhere. I don’t know any jazz, so I’m playing Rachmaninoff. I can feel a flush beginning in my cheeks from the hard cider my dear pal Kate Smith has stuffed down me so I’ll relax. I’m getting there, second by second. It starts in my fingers, warm and loose, and moves along my nerves, rounding through me. I haven’t been drunk in over a year–not since my mother fell seriously ill–and I’ve missed the way it comes with its own perfect glove of fog, settling snugly and beautifully over my brain. I don’t want to think and I don’t want to feel, either, unless it’s as simple as this beautiful boy’s knee inches from mine.
The knee is nearly enough on its own, but there’s a whole package of a man attached, tall and lean, with a lot of very dark hair and a dimple in his left cheek you could fall into. His friends call him Hemingstein, Oinbones, Bird, Nesto, Wemedge, anything they can dream up on the spot. He calls Kate Stut or Butstein (not very flattering!), and another fellow Little Fever, and yet another Horney or the Great Horned Article. He seems to know everyone, and everyone seems to know the same jokes and stories. They telegraph punch lines back and forth in code, lightning fast and wisecracking. I can’t keep up, but I don’t mind really. Being near these happy strangers is like a powerful transfusion of good cheer.
When Kate wanders over from the vicinity of the kitchen, he points his perfect chin at me and says, “What should we name our new friend?”
“Hash,” Kate says.
“Hashedad’s better,” he says. “Hasovitch.”
“And you’re Bird?” I ask.
“Wem,” Kate says.
“I’m the fellow who thinks someone should be dancing.” He smiles with everything he’s got, and in very short order, Kate’s brother Kenley has kicked the living room carpet to one side and is manning the Victrola. We throw ourselves into it, dancing our way through a stack of records. He’s not a natural, but his arms and legs are free in their joints, and I can tell that he likes being in his body. He’s not the least shy about moving in on me either. In no time at all our hands are damp and clenched, our cheeks close enough that I can feel the very real heat of him. And that’s when he finally tells me his name is Ernest.
“I’m thinking of giving it away, though. Ernest is so dull, and Hemingway? Who wants a Hemingway?”
Probably every girl between here and Michigan Avenue, I think, looking at my feet to keep from blushing. When I look up again, he has his brown eyes locked on me.
“Well? What do you think? Should I toss it out?”
“Maybe not just yet.”
A slow number starts, and without asking, he reaches for my waist and scoops me toward his body, which is even better up close. His chest is solid and so are his arms. I rest my hands on them lightly as he backs me around the room, past Kenley cranking the Victrola with glee, past Kate giving us a long, curious look. I close my eyes and lean into Ernest, smelling bourbon and soap, tobacco and damp cotton–and everything about this moment is so sharp and lovely, I do something completely out of character and just let myself have it.
Thanks for visiting!