Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Top 10 Research Methods Used to Write The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson + Giveaway! (US/Can only)

The Paris Winter
Imogen Robertson

"There is but one Paris."
– Vincent van Goh

Maud Heighton came to Lafond's famous Academie to paint, and to flee the constraints of her small English town. It took all her courage to escape, but Paris, she quickly realizes, is no place for a light purse. While her fellow students enjoy the dazzling decadence of the Belle Époque, Maud slips into poverty.

Quietly starving, and dreading another cold Paris winter, she stumbles upon an opportunity when Christian Morel engages her as a live-in companion to his beautiful young sister, Sylvie. Maud is overjoyed by her good fortune. With a clean room, hot meals, and an umbrella to keep her dry, she is able to hold her head high as she strolls the streets of Montmartre. No longer hostage to poverty and hunger, Maud can at last devote herself to her art. But all is not as it seems.

Christian and Sylvie, Maud soon discovers, are not quite the darlings they pretend to be. Sylvie has a secret addiction to opium and Christian has an ominous air of intrigue. As this dark and powerful tale progresses, Maud is drawn further into the Morels' world of elegant deception. Their secrets become hers, and soon she is caught in a scheme of betrayal and revenge that will plunge her into the darkness that waits beneath this glittering city of light.

Research Routes I Took to Compose The Paris Winter

  1. Visiting an artist. I was lucky enough to spend time with an artist, Caroline de Peyrecave, who was trained in the same way as my heroine, an English woman studying in Paris, would have been in 1910. It gave me a totally new way of understanding the book, and Caroline even came to do a painting demonstration at Goldsboro Books for the UK launch.
  2. Visiting a diamond seller. Diamonds play a big part in the novel. A very kind Bond Street jeweler let me ask him all sorts of questions and handle some gems of exceptional quality. My eyes still sparkle whenever I think about that afternoon.
  3. Reading memoirs of Paris. One of the great finds of my research was Paris Vistas by Helen Davenport Gibbons. Because she was an American living in Paris at the same time as my character, she noticed all the details that my heroine Maud would have noticed too. She also gave a fantastic account of the floods.
  4. Smoking opium. Okay, actually I didn’t smoke opium, but it does have a big role in the novel, and I was struggling to find the sort of first hand accounts that I needed. While I was editing the book however Steven Martin published his remarkable and painfully honest account of his own struggles with opium addiction. He combines memoir with a history of the drug and it gave me just the material I needed. I loved the book and have been recommending it to everyone I meet.
  5. Consulting maps and guide books. The 1908 Guide to Paris I have has fallen apart now, I used it so much. It’s full of the sorts of details a novelist needs taxi fares and restaurants, shops, and hotels and guides to the museums. It’s those details which I think it’s so important to get right to create a real sense of atmosphere.
  6. Understanding art history. To understand Maud as an artist, I needed to understand the traditions she was coming from and the sort of art she’d be exposed to in Paris at the time. As well as reading lots of contemporary catalogues and criticism I studied the art of the generation before Maud and learned a great deal as a result.
  7. Examining photographs, films, and postcards. I normally write about the 18th Century, so having photographs and films of the places and people I was writing about was amazing. It was also a bit overwhelming, I spent hours buying and studying postcards of the Parisian floods of 1910 and pouring over fashion magazines.
  8. Fighting with my husband. It’s very difficult to write about scenes of violent action without acting them out. One does it slowly and safely of course, but it makes all the difference. My husband is still not quite used to me walking into a room and demanding he try to stab me, but he does make the effort and only ever uses a spatula. Bless him.
  9. Being cold, hungry, and ill. Sometimes it feels like one’s whole life is research for a novel. We have to delve back into difficult times to feel with our characters and sometimes lived experience is the best way to learn. Working outside in December with no time to eat was tough at the time, but when I needed to understand what Maud went through in her darkest moments drawing on those memories was very important.
  10. Visiting Paris. Ahh, the things I do for my work! I love Paris and know it quite well, but it’s very different visiting with a novel in mind. I was lucky enough to get in contact with American writer David Downie and his wife, Alison Harris, who is a photographer. They have lived in Paris for years and were able to show me all sorts of secret places in the city which I never would have found on my own; many of them found their way into the novel.

About the Author

Imogen Robertson grew up in Darlington, studied Russian and German at Cambridge, and now lives in London. She directed for film, TV and radio before becoming a full-time author and won the Telegraph’s ‘First thousand words of a novel’ competition in 2007 with the opening of Instruments of Darkness, her first novel. Her other novels also featuring the detective duo of Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther are Anatomy of Murder, Island of Bones, and Circle of Shadows.

Her latest novel, The Paris Winter, is a story of betrayal and darkness set during the Belle Époque; it will be make its US release next week. Imogen has been short-listed for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger twice and is married to a freelance cheesemonger.


Books à la Mode is giving away two print copies of The Paris Winter—yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
Have you traveled to Paris before? If so, what was your favorite activity or attraction? If not, what is the first thing you'd want to see or do if you visited?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Imogen and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks at St. Martin's Press!
Giveaway ends November 26th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canadian residents only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for a list of running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!