I received the advance copies of my new book, L’Amérique, this morning. This is the edition that I will go over with a fine tooth comb, searching for any typos or edits I should have caught before.
L’Amérique is thinner and smaller than I thought it would be. I didn’t expect War and Peace; I did think my book would be impressively large enough to dominate a single bookshelf. It is, after all, MY book, and Leo Tolstoy and I share Europeans roots. Plus, I know his great-grand-daughter; we went to school together, which should have counted for something.
The manuscript was 308 pages long when I sent it to the publisher. In print, it’s 230 pages. It’s a handsome small volume with a gorgeous cover, but it’s hard to accept that I spent almost a decade, on and off, writing it. IMG_0046
It went through several iterations. Initially, it was a novel whose point of view hopped about. There were vignettes about my mother and father together, about them individually, about the relatives who lived on the first floor, and the concierge who both terrified and entertained the inhabitants of 3, rue de la Terrasse, in the 17em arrondissement near the Parc Monceau. It was a book about postwar Paris, as well, and finally, it was a book about me.
When I first wrote it, I wanted to include everything I could about my wonderfully dysfunctional yet kind family. I wanted to describe my brave father’s long walk from Portugal to Brittany at the beginning of the war. I wanted readers to be impressed by my frightfully talented mother, whose paintings were hung in the best galleries of Paris, who wrote books and acted and became a couturière bent on challenging Coco Chanel. I wanted everyone to love my eccentric Tante Thérèse who slept with her hat on, and hate her detestable maid, Guénolé. There were so many stories to tell, and I was—and still am—in a hurry. Time is running out.
I submitted chapter after chapter to various writers, most notably members of the Arlington Writers’ Group, and the critiques I got from these fellow authors was priceless. Some liked it, some loved it, and, one memorable evening, a woman told me how detestable was the entire tale I had given her to read. It dealt with the drowning of a child, and she hated it.
When the book changed from a recounting of various tales to a sort-of memoire, many stories were left behind, and in the end this was all right. My wonderful editor at the time was draconian, and I fought her advice even when I knew she was correct. Her efforts made L’Amérique vastly better and much shorter. The book no longer wandered aimlessly. Its structure became more solid, a work built on good, strong foundations rather than on sand. We read the book aloud to each other. I cried during a description of my mother’s behavior that hospitalized her and forever, in my eyes, changed my father.
When I opened the book for the first time this morning, I noticed immediately that the acknowledgement page was missing. It was the last piece of copy I handed in, and somehow it got mislaid. I suspect that as I go through the book this weekend, I’ll find others errors—all mine—and hopefully, when L’Amérique goes to bookstores in October, it will be error-free.
I’m happy this volume is finished, but I have to admit to a sense of post-partum depression. L’Amérique has been churning about in my head for three decades. Now it’s out of my hands. Luckily, I plan for this to be a trilogy, and book number two is half-written. I hope I’ll have the time to write book number three.
There are still so many people I need to remember.

About epiphanettes

Writer, songcrafter, possibly the best French pedal steel guitarist in Virginia.
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3 Responses to L’Amérique

  1. I cannot wait to read it in it’s entirety, Thierry!! I have loved all of the stories you’ve shared, but I might be biased. 🙂

  2. Sharing with a friend in hopes that both of us will complete our books and move on to mixed feelings…Chagrin est mon ami. (Google claims I got that right.)

  3. Pamela Hostetter says:

    This description of your book is wonderful and touching. Can’t wait to read it. Keep us posted on the debut in October.
    (We all miss you and want you back Saturday mornings.❤)

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