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Passport: France- Interview with author Cara Black + GIVEAWAY

Submitted by on February 26, 2011 – 4:00 am8 Comments
Cara Black frequents a Paris little known outside the beaten tourist track. A Paris she discovers on research trips and interviews with French police, private detectives and café owners. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, a bookseller, and their teenage son. She is a San Francisco Library Laureate and a member of the Paris Sociéte Historique in the Marais. Her nationally bestselling and award nominated Aimée Leduc Investigation series has been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Hebrew. She’s included in the GREAT WOMEN MYSTERY WRITERS by Elizabeth Lindsay 2nd editon published in the UK. Her first three novels in the series MURDER IN THE MARAIS, MURDER IN BELLEVILLE AN MURDER IN THE SENTIER – nominated for an Anthony Award as Best Novel – were published in the UK in 2008 and MURDER IN THE LATIN QUARTER comes out in the UK in 2010. Several of her books have been chosen as BookSense Picks and INDIE NEXT choice by the Amerian Association of Independent Bookstores. The Washington Post listed MURDER IN THE RUE DE PARADIS in the Best Fiction Choices of 2008. MURDER IN THE LATIN QUARTER is a finalist for Best Novel Award from the NCIBA Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.

We are so thrilled to have the fabulous Cara Black here today answering some questions and chatting about her award winning mystery series set in…where else…PARIS!!!


PBD- What was your inspiration behind the Paris Mysteries of your Aimée Leduc Investigation?
CB- A story my friend told me about her mother, a hidden Jewish girl, during the German Occupation of Paris in WWII. My friend showed me her mother’s former apartment in the Marais, the old Jewish section, told me how her mother hid and survived – her family didn’t – how her mother met her father after the war and this story haunted me. I looked at people on the Paris streets differently and wondered how they’d survived the war, what love affairs they’d had, the family they’d lost and what compromises they’d made to survive. This story could only have happened in Paris. For me, a detective novel was a great framework to use to tell this story of how the past impacted the present.
PBD- Are any of the characters modeled after people in your life?
CB- I think I take a bit from a lot of people I’ve met or know. Aimée my computer security detective (half-American, half-French) is computer savvy, a fashionista, and attracted to bad boys. Many of my friends have one or more of those elements. Yet I’m not French and I can’t even tie my scarf the right way. But I love France and have a deep appreciation for this country. Sometimes a character will appear to me in Paris, I’ll watch someone on the late night Metro, or a couple in a bistro and wonder about them – their life, this relationship to the other person across from them at the table. Something about her scarf, his look out the window, how they hold hands or don’t suggest a whiff of feeling and then three months later ‘they’ are on the page, in that bistro drinking wine and in the story.
PBD- Were any of your books more challenging to write than others?
CB- I’m an eavesdropper, bad habit, but invaluable in my line of work. I think writers do that all the time.

A line of dialogue or a mannerism for me can put a character onto the page. The challenge is to keep the character speaking more dialogue, being memorable and intrinsic to the plot and storyline. That’s true for me in every book. Especially in crime fiction and mysteries, as you probably know, everything happens for a reason, every detail could be a clue, a red herring, a false lead or a key to a sub plot and a suspect.

PBD- The 11th installment,Murder in Passy, in the Aimee Leduc Paris mysteries is coming out soon.(Mar) How do you continue to keep things exciting in a long running series?
CB- That’s a great point because when I wrote my first book, Murder in the Marais, I had no idea it would get published much less that I’d write a series. There was no master plan, the editor asked where Aimée’s next investigation would take place in Paris – what district would she go to. Dumbfound I said ‘what?” You are planning a series, aren’t you? Of course, I lied and ran to the computer and my maps. It all just happened and I’m so grateful. I love to go window shopping ‘with’ Aimée, hang out at the flea markets and think what vintage couture she’d find, what case she’d be working on, what bad boy she might be attracted to. It’s an evolving process to find out where she’ll be in her life. To me she’s a contemporary young Parisienne who has office rent to pay, a business to run, a dog to walk on the quai lining the Seine and trouble with men. Yet, writing a series is a challenge, one I’m lucky to have, and I strive to keep it fresh for myself and the reader. To show a different slice of Paris, one off the beaten track unexplored by tourists and fascinating
PBD- What is it about Paris that you find makes it a good setting for murder/mystery?
CB- Paris is layered with history. But it’s not a museum, it’s a living vibrant city with a traditional society still in place and a recent past of World War II, the Algerian conflict, colonialism in Indochina and all with a very French flavor. The intrigues since the time of the Kings and Royalty, the Revolution haven’t changed that much to present day scandals which are more contemporary and relevant than we think. Love, money, revenge are eternal and what better place than in Paris? You know the first murder mystery credit goes to Edgar Allen Poe – an American – for his Murder on the Rue Morgue set in Paris. There’s something elusive in Paris, a past that I feel can just about be grabbed if I scratch the surface enough and feel how it resonates today.

PBD- With a family and life in the States, are you still able to do ‘hands on’ research? (Visiting the locations etc… )
CB- Research is the BEST part of my job. It means I must go to Paris as I tell my husband:) I’m lucky because I use frequent flyer miles, my friend lets me sleep on her Montmartre apartment couch in return for a little babysitting (she’s Parisienne has two children and a demanding job and I’ve known her forever). This way I can research in the archives, in the cafe’s, interview police and private detectives and scout out real locations. From the sewers to the Morgue I go there. I keep notes, take photos, trace routes on maps where characters would really go, record conversations and noises in the cobbled streets and soak up as much atmosphere I can.
PBD- Your books are set in modern times – these days there are so many forensic details that need to be remembered – do you find that hard to deal with when planning your plot? And, how do you get the details just right?
CB- Good question. My books are set in the mid 90′s before Google came into being in 1998. Aimée still uses dial up, people pay in Francs but they had cell phones. I collected Paris phone books from that time ( a whole suitcase full) so I get the streets, the shops and the details right. Newspapers from that time give me what’s on sale, world events and traffic jams in Paris. I’ve visited the morgue, spoken with the river police on the Seine about ‘floaters’ those bodies recovered in the Seine and procedures. My computer security detective Aimée and her partner René, who’s a dwarf and computer hacker extraordinaire, are cutting edge in technology. To me a gripping story is about the characters, how crime impacts them, the victim’s world and forensics and technology are tools. Every computer hacker I’ve had the chance to talk with has said that technology is only as good as the user – social engineering (chatting someone up, flirting, outwitting them) can get you a password, or beyond a computer’s firewall much faster than anything else. No system or laboratory is immune from the human element.
PBD- What are some of your favorite things about France?
CB- The light hitting the Paris rooftops at sunset, the butter smells emanating from the bakery, the gurgle of the Seine, the yellow leaves on the cobblestones, the love of a good meal with friends, appreciation for food and the time to savor it. The way a young man smiles at a woman of a certain age ie over 40 and no strings are attached. They have fun and enjoy a momentary appreciation that knows no age boundaries. I’ve seen a young Parisian hipster open the door for an grandmother in her 70′s and flirt with her. I love the idea that I can walk out the door of my friend’s apartment in Paris and within a block go to ‘my’ cafe where the owner smiles and asks ‘the usual?’ This only took seven years but now he knows me.
PBD- Things you wish the French got rid of?
CB- French bureaucracy is something even French people complain about. Tons of paperwork, visits to different offices getting official seals and stamps can take up a day, a week or a month for something that’s quite straightforward in the States. I opened a bank account last time in Paris well, I thought I did, with La Poste, the post office bank. For that I needed ten Euros, no problem, and a faxed phone bill from my house.

Two months later after receiving no acknowledgment or way into my online account, my friend in Paris called La Poste to find they needed three more forms. C’est la vie.

PBD- What’s next for you? Can we expect more Paris adventures in the future?

CB- Mais oui! Aimée’s next investigation is in the editing phase.
Paris has twenty arrondissements – districts – and I’ve only covered eleven so far :)

PBD- Yay! Looking forward to them all!!! Thank you so much Cara for taking the time to answer our questions and contributing to our Passport to France!
CB- Thanks Paperbackdolls for having me!


Full of French political intrigue, Black’s atmospheric 11th Aimée Leduc investigation (after 2010′s Murder in the Palais Royal) finds the Paris PI’s world turned upside down with the arrest of her godfather and longtime mentor, Commissaire Morbier, for murder. Worse yet, the victim—Morbier’s inamorata, Xavierre d’Eslay—was with Aimée minutes before her death by strangulation. To clear Morbier, Aimée must dig deep as his fellow officers close rank and refuse to cooperate. Helping Aimée are her detective agency partner, René; her cousin, Sebastian; and her former policeman lover, Melac, who may or may not have an agenda of his own during the investigation. Though Xavierre lived a life of privilege in the posh suburb of Passy, Aimée discovers her past is shrouded in secrecy, linked to Basque separatists and terrorist acts. While the characters and their motivations can sometimes be hard to follow, the plot builds to a satisfying conclusion.

Cara Black has got a signed copy of her soon to be released for one lucky commenter in the US if you answer this question: Why do you love Paris?

More ways to win:
+1 for each place you post about today’s contest on your blog, social network, or anywhere you can. Digg it, stumble it, twit it, facebook it, share it with the world. Wherever you share it, make sure you add a link to it along with your comment.

Giveaway ends March 4th and the winner will be chosen by and announced in our ‘Week in Review’ post March 6th. We ask the winners to post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out. Also, we will try to contact the winners, but we ask that you check back to see if you’ve won.

Visit the wonderful Cara Black
Paperback Dolls is made up of women from different parts of the world, with different backgrounds, different tastes and beliefs that were brought together through a love of reading. We like to think of ourselves as a cyber version of "The View" that focuses on books, authors, and reading. We are proof positive that one common love can unite the most opposite of people and form lasting friendships that introduce other ways of life and perspectives to each other.
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  • Tore says:

    I have never been to paris before but I would like to visit one day. It sounds like a very a beautiful place with a lot of history. Please enter me in contest.

    Reply to this comment »
  • Anne says:

    The food and Louvre in that order. I'm not a big francophile though.

    I've never heard of this series before even though it's on the 11th book and I'm a big mystery reader.

    Reply to this comment »
  • June M. says:

    I would like to see all the historical buildings.

    Reply to this comment »
  • BLHmistress says:

    I never been to Paris either but I always wanted to go, I would love to visit the Eiffel tower and other sites. I am a huge fan of history would love to hit all the historical sites as well.

    Reply to this comment »
  • Day says:

    Thank you so much for the interview! These are great books everyone!

    Reply to this comment »
  • Stephanie says:

    I've never been, but I've always wanted to try the food.

    Reply to this comment »
  • Italia Marie says:

    I love the art and history in Paris!

    I would love to win this book! I can't believe that I haven't read any of her books yet considering how much I love a good murder mystery and Paris too!!! I'm absolutely going to get the first few this week! Thank you dolls once again for introducing me to a new book series!

    Reply to this comment »
  • LSUReader says:

    I love Paris (from afar, since I've not been there) because of the history, art, food, churches, architecture, wine and heritage. (I'm part French.) Thanks for a fun contest. (Email in profile.)

    Reply to this comment »