Guest Blog by Stephanie Perkins: Changing a Life

StephDreamI never expected that writing a novel would change my life.

I mean . . . okay. That’s a lie. I totally did. I hoped that if I were ever lucky enough to reach publication, I could quit my day job and work full-time from home. In my pajamas. (The pajamas were a crucial part of my ambition.) But I never imagined that the actual process of writing would change my life in a much more dramatic way.

It would change me.

Anna And The French Kiss is set in Paris. The idea came to me in a dream, and unlike Stephenie Meyer who also had a dream, and was like, “Awesome! A cute boy in a meadow!” my earliest thoughts were more along the lines of, “Aw, crap. A cute boy in Paris.” I knew nothing about the French β€” the language, the culture, the country. And I’d certainly never cared.

But I really wanted to know more about that cute boy.

So I learned about Paris. I’ve described my research process on my blog in detail here, but it was, in short, endless. And intense. The narrator of my novel shares many of my anxieties about being thrust into a new culture; it was the only way I could have written it. As Anna had to learn something, I did too. As Anna grew more comfortable in her surroundings, I did too. And somewhere along the way . . . we both fell in love.

I am a timid person by nature. I make excuses for social gatherings so I can watch marathons of Jane Austen films. I’d rather take a sixty-minute detour than ask someone for directions. And if an orange accidentally rings up at double the price, I keep my mouth shut in fear of appearing unpleasant.

The thought of renting an apartment in a country whose first language is NOT English would have been unthinkable before Anna. But because I had to make her brave, somehow I’d made myself brave in the process.

This January, I rented that Parisian apartment. I stumbled my way through ordering in restaurants and purchasing cell phone minutes and, yes, asking for directions. I said “Oui!” to every question thrown at me. And I had the best month of my entire life.

I am a braver, happier person because I wrote a book.

So that novel you’re putting off because the idea is too big or too scary or too hard? You aren’t doing yourself any favors. Write the book. And let it change you.

Anna and the French Kiss will be published by Dutton in December 2010. Stephanie’s blog about her experiences in Paris is well worth a read. Learn more about her and other kt literary clients here.

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