Today Corinne LaBalme is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about French Ghost, her first novel in Paris Ghost Writer Mystery series.
Welcome, Corinne. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
French Ghost is the first book in a trilogy. With a contract to pen a reputation-restoring memoir for a nasty French movie star, American Melody Layne relocates to Paris. Before the interviews begins, the star drowns (accidentally or not?) and things only get weirder when the actor’s estranged son, Carlos Ortega, asks Melody to write a feel-good bio about the father he clearly despised. In French Toast (first draft completed), Melody works on a cookbook-memoir for a celebrity chef whose restaurant gets sabotaged; Book 3, French Poster Girl brings Melody into the dark digital world of high-end influencers.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
The first author I ever met was Harriet S. Adams (pen name Carolyn Keene), the grandmother of my best high-school friend. I eventually got a degree in French literature but Proust and Flaubert have had less influence on my writing than the Nancy Drew books. I don’t think I’m capable of writing a book (or a laundry list) without a mystery theme.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
“Lies and the liars who tell them” is the major theme. The book’s moody and mysterious Spanish lust interest, Carlos Ortega, has a tortured relationship with the truth despite his noble intentions. Straight-shooter Melody has little patience for alternative facts. How will that work out?
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
Melody and her BFF, food-blogger Jenna Bardet, are both offshoots of my Paris journalism career. However, I am awfully partial to Charlene Trent, the booze-challenged, silicon-enhanced starlet who Melody meets at the Cannes Film Festival. Charlene’s a mash-up of all the dissipated Z-list actresses that one reads about in celeb mags at the hair salon. Charlene’s a perfectionist: she practices her wardrobe malfunctions.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
Paris is where I live but during lockdown, I used this book to ‘virtually’ revisit so many French towns that I’ve written about for magazines: Bordeaux, Vichy, Rouen, Dijon… I missed them!
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
I love research, but books 1 and 2 of this trilogy treat facets of French life – food, fashion, cinema — that I know quite well. However, for Book 3, I am definitely all over the internet map trying to figure out what makes an influencer hot.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
French Ghost is all about having a laugh and a little escape. It’s no more serious than a glass of chilled Chablis in a Paris bistro or a cup of tea by the fireside
PS: I love your site and just subscribed!
Thanks Corinne, and thanks for answering my questions. Good luck with French Ghost, the first book in Paris Ghost Writer series.
The novel is available online at Amazon.
About Corinne LaBalme: My first jobs after college (incredibly useful art history degree) were in the New York fashion industry (modeling, working for designers). When I gave up on my Greenwich Village walk-up (after realizing that I couldn’t bear to smoosh the cockroaches in my shower because they were a ‘family’), I cut out to Paris where I became Fashion Editor for the English language magazine PASSION.
I subsequently wrote and edited the gourmet destination guide LA BELLE FRANCE for fifteen years while freelancing for the NEW YORK TIMES Travel section, various in-flight magazines, and guide books (GAULT MILLAU, VIRGIN, ZAGAT). From 2011 – 2012, I wrote screenplays for the PBS travel series CUISINE CULTURE.
The cinema figures in FRENCH GHOST are loosely based on stars I’ve interviewed (and been groped by); the restaurateurs in Book 2 (FRENCH TOAST) are drawn from the lovely, often impractical, chefs I met through LA BELLE FRANCE.
I suspect that Book 3 will toss Melody Layne into the cut-throat Paris fashion scene. May the Gods of Ghosting have mercy on her soul…