A pleasure to meet Linda Kovic-Skow, the author of the higly popular French Illusions, an amazing true story of a young American au-pair at a Château in the Loire Valley, west of Paris.
Linda, how would you describe your book to someone who has not yet read it?
In the summer of 1979, when I was twenty-one, I contracted to become an au-pair for a wealthy French family in the Loire Valley. To secure the attractive position, I pretended to speak French, fully aware that my deception would be discovered, once I arrived at my destination.
Based on my diary, French Illusions captures my often challenging, real-life story inside and outside the Château de Montclair.
The over-bearing, Madame Dubois, her accommodating husband Monsieur Dubois, and their two children are highlighted as I struggled to adapt to my new environment. Continually battling the language barrier, I signed up and attended classes at the local university in the nearby town of Tours. When I encountered, Adam, a handsome young student, my life with the Dubois family became more complicated, adding fuel to my internal battle for independence.
Is there a message in your book that you want your readers to grasp?
Set in the beautiful Loire Valley, French Illusions, my remarkable true story, recounts my exploits as a young, adventurous woman filled with dreams. It’s not too late to create your own memories. Go out and explore the world. Life’s for living, after all.
This prompted me to review what I like to call my “mid-life list.” This is similar to a “bucket list,” with an important twist. The idea was to refocus myself and figure out the things I wanted to do with my life in my fifties – while I could still do them. My list was short.
- Learn to play the piano
- Travel to Africa to see the elephants
- Travel to Tahiti and see the island of Bora Bora
- Travel back to France (with my family this time)
- Write a book
At the time, I didn’t own a piano and, with two daughters in college (on the east coast no less!), I couldn’t afford a trip to Africa or Tahiti. I had already traveled back to France in 2001 with my family, so that left me to examine the fifth item on my list more closely. If I did write a book, would it be fiction or non-fiction? What genre would I choose?
The answers to my questions came to me in the shower (which is where many of my ideas seem to materialize, strangely enough). I decided to hunt down my diary from my au pair adventure in France and compose a memoir. It took me three years and countless hours to write French Illusions, but now I can scratch another item off my mid-life list.
“Ten minutes later, I returned to the salon with a tray of refreshments and under the watchful eyes of everyone there, I poured and served the tea. My hand trembled, but I kept going and completed the task without incident. Heaving a sigh of satisfaction, I plopped down next to Alexandre.It felt good to be around other people besides the Dubois family. Even though I still struggled with French conversations, at least now I understood many of the words spoken around me. If I encountered trouble with certain words, I knew how to ask the speaker to speak more slowly or repeat what they’d said.Turning toward Alexandre, I tried out a new phrase. “Donne-moi une pâtisserie, s’il te plait.” Please pass the pastry. Madame Moulon noticed and congratulated me on my progress with the language, “Mademoiselle Kovic, votre français s’améliore.”“Merci beaucoup, madame.” I replied, glancing at my patron, eyes hopeful.Madame Dubois opened her mouth, but no words of praise burst forth. Instead, she pointed to the teapot and asked me in English to pour her mother another cup of tea.”.
The story flows nicely as she paints a picture of the quaint towns and rolling hillsides of her new home, but the highlights for this reader were the vignettes with the children, especially little Antoine. His adorable one-liners and interactions with Linda never ceased to brighten my mood. The relationships with the rest of the family are nicely developed throughout the book, and the dialogue reads well. Don’t be surprised when you see French dialogue on the page, though, because it is a convention that carries throughout. Overall, I thought that Francophiles and casual readers alike could enjoy this story, and I personally can’t wait for a sequel!” – Amazon Reviewer
If Oprah invited you onto her show to talk about your book, what would the theme of the show be?
“Rows of tables presided over by neighboring farmers and tradesman filled the square, many of them offering tempting samples to potential customers. Everything from pungent goat cheeses to hand-made sweaters were on display. Ahead, I noticed a booth offering tastes of guignolet, a local liqueur made from wild and sour cherries. The vendor, a deeply tanned man wearing a beret, waved me over. “Mademoiselle! Venez donc goûter!”
Unable to resist the temptation, I stepped up to his booth and he poured me a small drink, pushing it toward me with a wink. Down it went, its syrupy sweet taste so scrumptious I licked my lips afterward. “Merci,” I said. “C’est très bon.”
Down a few stalls, I discovered products made entirely from honey, including confections, lotions, and soaps. The scent compelled me to bring a bar to my nose, closing my eyes as I inhaled.
Curious about a small crowd near a retailer up ahead, I peeked around a bystander and discovered a colorful display of misshapen orange, yellow, and striped squashes. It took me a few moments, but my eyes honed in on the real stars of the show. Unique samples of squash resembling geese and ducks sat upright, charming the audience—the children in particular.”
Where can readers learn more about your writing?
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Tagged: aristocratic French family, Chateau in France, French Illusions, French language, memoir filled with challenges, Memoir of an American au-pair, She pretended to speak French