Tag: melanie benjamin

Author Melanie Benjamin Reflects on the Pleasures and Perils of the Writing Game

 

As a person who, in real life, doesn’t like change (I’ve driven the same kind of car for decades), I’m proud that my ability to pivot has saved my writing career more than once.

My first two published books were duds. I say that lovingly. I had a very tough time staying published. So—pivot! I changed my name, I changed my genre. It worked for me, as my goal, then and always, is to have a career, not a one-off. It’s a marathon, not a sprint; I tell myself that daily. And after having pivoted into writing historical fiction, I’ve had to pivot again. And again, and again.

Many aspiring authors think that after you’ve published a couple of bestsellers, life will be easy. The early obstacles—the agent dance, the rejections—have been overcome. You’re set for life.

Wrong.

You can still write bad books. Trust me on this. You can spend a year writing something that, no matter how much you wrestle with it, simply doesn’t work. You, the author, have a choice: If the book is contracted, and it’s good “enough,” you can insist that it be published anyway. Rarely will your publisher refuse it, unless it’s really, really awful. But here’s the thing: If you, the author, are the one who decides, “No, this isn’t good enough, I can do better, let me start over again,” you’re going to survive this. In other words, your ability to pivot from one book to another, without whining, without throwing tantrums, will save your career. I’ve had to do this with not one, but two contracted manuscripts, and you know what? I still have a career. They’ve been my choice to put aside—not without some barely subtle signals from my editor, but still—and so, I’m still in control. And the books that I’ve pivoted to have been some of my most successful.

 

 

I’ve had to pivot before books were completed, too. My editor and I, just this past spring, agreed on the subject for my next contracted historical. I happily went off to do the research—I traveled abroad to visit pertinent locations, ordered dozens of books, outlined it. I invested not only money and time in this exciting new novel, but emotion. And then—

Something happened. The market for fiction caved in. It’s more tough than ever to break a novel out. And the more I thought about this new one, the more I realized that it might be a difficult sell. When I hesitantly mentioned this to my editor, she nearly sobbed with relief—she’d been thinking the same thing, too. Not that we both didn’t believe the proposed book would be intriguing, the story worth telling. We just feared its marketability in a challenging climate.
Now, you might think that this time, I did throw that tantrum. I loved the idea of this book. But no. I filed my research under “maybe another time.” And I pivoted. Once again. Twenty-four hours later, my editor and I had agreed on another subject, and now I’m beginning the research. I can’t wait to start writing it. I love the idea of this book.

I can’t predict, of course, how it will sell. The only thing I can predict is that I will always come up with more stories to tell. And that I will give my heart to each one—but never lose it. Because I may need to fall out of love at some point, too, for the good of my career. But I will pivot once again, into another lover’s arms.

 


MELANIE BENJAMIN is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife. Previous historical novels include national bestseller Alice I Have Been, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb and The Girls in the Picture.  Her novels have been translated in over fifteen languages, featured in national magazines such as Good Housekeeping, People, and Entertainment Weekly, and optioned for film. Her latest novel is Mistress of the Ritz. Melanie lives in Chicago with her husband, where she is at work on her next historical novel.


Don’t forget to enter our competition for a chance to win signed copies of all of Melanie Benjamin’s novels Including ‘Mistress of the Ritz’, plus  amazing Parisian prizes! 

 

10 Tips for a Perfect Trip to Paris from Author Melanie Benjamin

I love Paris, and I was thrilled finally to be able to set a book in my favorite city in the world. And now I would love to share some of my favorite tips for falling in love with the City of Light.

 

1. Try to speak French

Merci
Image Via Giphy

 

When in Rome….I am a big believer of leaving behind my Americanisms and fully immersing myself in the rhythms and customs of a different culture. When I’m in Paris, I try to speak a bit of French…nothing more than a few common phrases, but I feel it’s a courtesy, and indeed in Paris, these polite phrases are very much part of the culture. You don’t enter any establishment without saying “Bonjour!” “Merci” goes a long way. And when you leave, take the time to say either “Au revoir!” or if it’s evening, “Bonsoir!” You will find that almost all Parisians speak English and will be happy to do so with you, but being courteous in the native tongue is important. Also, when dining, do so as a Parisian does. Dine later—8:00 PM is about right—and do so slowly. I’ve never found French waiters to be rude if you adjust to the more leisurely pace of dining. Paris restaurants are smaller than American restaurants, and have fewer wait staff, who have to take care of a larger number of tables, then. This is why service is different. But no one hurries through a meal in Paris; dining is meant to last a couple of hours as you savor each course, enjoy the wine, enjoy the atmosphere. Slow your pace down and don’t be rude, and you will find most Parisians happy to help you.

 

2. Take a boat ride on the Seine

 

Boatride Sen

 

It’s such a touristy thing to do, but everyone has to take a Bateau Rouge trip up and down the Seine at night, ideally on the first evening there. To see Notre Dame lit up, the Eiffel Tower get all sparkly—and also to spy on young lovers hanging out along the banks – it’s such a great way to get the feel of Paris right away. Plus, I love to look at all the colorful house boats that are docked along the Seine.

 

3. Museums!

 

 

Museums, museums, museums! To tell the truth, I’ve yet to tour the Louvre; every time I’m there it seems I just don’t have enough time to do it right. If I did do it, I would definitely book a private tour, based on the advice of others. But I’ve visited plenty of museums in Paris—the Musée Carnavalet (devoted to the history of Paris) in the Marais (one of the oldest neighborhoods in Paris, and the former Jewish Quarter), the Shoah Memorial (also in the Marais), the Musée d’Orsay. I have to say one of my favorites is the Musée de l’Armée, which also houses Napoleon’s tomb.

 

4. Galleries Lafayette

 

 

The most beautiful department store in the world. Not affordable for most of us, but worth going to and gaping at all the designer fashions (once you make your way up from the first floor, which is just a horde of tourists). Have some tea and a macaron and gape up at the beautiful domed ceiling. And don’t miss the top floor, which is the book section.

 

5. Flower Markets

 

 

The flower markets, particularly on the Ile St. Louis, are charming. Not only are they full of blossoms, but they are also full of songbirds for sale.

6. Take a bike tour!

 

 

I once was skeptical of this kind of thing—again, too touristy—but now I’m a convert. They really are great fun, and you learn a lot, and meet interesting people. We took the Fat Tire tour of Giverny, leaving from the St. Lazare train station in Paris. Once we got to Giverny, we went shopping for lunch – bread, cheese, pastries—and hopped aboard bicycles. We rode to the Seine and had a picnic lunch before riding our bikes to Monet’s house and the little village surrounding it, where we spent the afternoon at our leisure. Our guide was charming and full of information but we were also able to break off and be on our own in the famous gardens. It was a terrific afternoon in the countryside.

7. Visit the Left Bank.

 

 

This is where I’ve done most of my shopping over the years, including at the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore, just across the Seine from Notre Dame. There are great shops and cafes, and the Luxembourg Palace and Gardens are here, as well, with the charming bandstands. Also, if you must visit Ladurée – and you must! – skip the one on the Champs Élysées and go to the one on the Left Bank. It’s much less crowded. (Just skip the Champs all together, really; it’s far too touristy, full of garish lights and American department stores and hustlers.)

8. Explore, but be careful!

 

 

There are so many wonderful neighborhoods to visit, make sure you branch out from the main tourist traps. In fact, I’ve never been to the Eiffel Tower; it’s so visible throughout the city, you don’t need to go to it, and again, it’s full of tourists and scam artists. (Scam artists are part of Paris, as are pickpockets; in fact, my husband almost had his wallet lifted at a Métro station. If you’re prepared and aware of your surroundings, you’ll be fine. Just read up about the situation before you go, and don’t let fear get in the way of adventure! I’ve witnessed far more scary situations here in the United States than I ever have in Paris.)

9. Walk!

 

Paris is a highly walkable city, and to me, that’s the main reason to visit – walking along the streets, soaking up the atmosphere of the city, occasionally stopping to sit at a café and have a glass of wine or a pastry. The Métro is easy to navigate and certainly the way to get to some of the suburbs and neighborhoods away from the center of the city. But walking is the best way to see Paris. Don’t try to fit everything in on your first visit; take your time to wander the city at your own pace and discover your own treasures.

10. The Ritz

 

 

The Ritz—how could I not mention the most iconic hotel in all the world? Most mortals can’t afford to stay there, but you can certainly have tea in Salon Proust, or a drink in one of the three Ritz bars. The Bar Hemingway is the best known, but it’s also the smallest; there most likely will be a wait to get inside. But once you are, you’ll be rewarded; my favorite, the champagne cocktail, is served with a fresh rose. And take the chance to wander through the beautiful Hall of Dreams, the hallway connecting the two buildings that make up the hotel. Gape at the luxury goods displayed—Montblanc pens and Chanel scarves and Limoges china, Gucci shoes, Van Cleef and Arpels necklaces. The entire neighborhood surrounding the Ritz is home to luxury brands; the original house of Chanel is right around the corner.

 


Don’t forget to enter our competition for a chance to win signed copies of all of Melanie Benjamin’s novels Including ‘Mistress of the Ritz’, plus  amazing Parisian prizes! 


 

MELANIE BENJAMIN is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife. Previous historical novels include national bestseller Alice I Have Been, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb and The Girls in the Picture.  Her novels have been translated in over fifteen languages, featured in national magazines such as Good Housekeeping, People, and Entertainment Weekly, and optioned for film. Her latest novel is Mistress of the Ritz. Melanie lives in Chicago with her husband, where she is at work on her next historical novel.

Enter to Win Signed Copies of Every Melanie Benjamin Novel Plus Stunning Parisian Prizes!

“No one writes of the complexities of women’s lives and loves like [New York Times and USA Today bestselling author] Melanie Benjamin.”

—Elizabeth Letts, New York Times bestselling author of Finding Dorothy.

 

To celebrate the release of Melanie Benjamin’s latest novel about wartime Paris, Mistress of the Ritz, we’re offering Bookstr readers the chance to win some incredible prizes, including signed copies of all of Melanie Benjamin’s novels!

 

Enter our amazing giveaway for your chance to win:

 

  • Signed copies of Melanie Benjamin novels, including, Mistress of the Ritz, Alice I Have Been, The Girls in the Picture, The Aviator’s Wife, The Swans of Fifth Avenue, and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb. 

  • A stunning Paris-inspired necklace

  • an Eiffel Tower poster

  • $25 Fandango gift-card, allowing you to watch a female-centered movie celebrating women like Mistress of the ritz

 

Enter to Win Signed Copies of Every Melanie Benjamin Novel Plus Stunning Parisian Prizes! (Contest on Hive.co)

 

About The Book:

 

 

In her newest novel, Mistress of the Ritz, Benjamin artfully weaves together suspense and love. We see the famous Ritz hotel go from glamorous to gory, after the German army invades Paris, and sets up headquarters in the very hotel that F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemingway, and other famous, dazzling guests have vacationed.

Publishers Weekly calls this novel, “Utterly unforgettable,” and if you are interested in the power of love within a country ravaged by war, this novel is just for you!

Nothing bad can happen at the Ritz; inside its gilded walls every woman looks beautiful, every man appears witty. Favored guests like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor walk through its famous doors to be welcomed and pampered by Blanche Auzello and her husband, Claude, the hotel’s director. The Auzellos are the mistress and master of the Ritz, allowing the glamour and glitz to take their minds off their troubled marriage, and off the secrets that they keep from their guests—and each other.

Until June 1940, when the German army sweeps into Paris, setting up headquarters at the Ritz. Suddenly, with the likes of Hermann Goëring moving into suites once occupied by royalty, Blanche and Claude must navigate a terrifying new reality. One that entails even more secrets and lies. One that may destroy the tempestuous marriage between this beautiful, reckless American and her very proper Frenchman. For in order to survive—and strike a blow against their Nazi “guests”—Blanche and Claude must spin a web of deceit that ensnares everything and everyone they cherish.

But one secret is shared between Blanche and Claude alone—the secret that, in the end, threatens to imperil both of their lives, and to bring down the legendary Ritz itself.

Based on true events, Mistress of the Ritz is a taut tale of suspense wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war.

 

About the Author:

 

 

MELANIE BENJAMIN is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife. Previous historical novels include national bestseller Alice I Have Been, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb and The Girls in the Picture.  Her novels have been translated in over fifteen languages, featured in national magazines such as Good Housekeeping, People, and Entertainment Weekly, and optioned for film. Melanie lives in Chicago with her husband, where she is at work on her next historical novel.


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