A Chat with Cara Black, Author of “Murder on the Quai”

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A Chat with Cara Black, Author of “Murder on the Quai”
Cara Black is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of 16 books in the Aimée Leduc mystery series, all set in Paris. This very popular series (more than 400,000 books in print!) has delighted readers around the world, and in multiple languages– her books so far having been translated into German, Norwegian, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian and Hebrew. Cara has been nominated for numerous awards, and honored with the Médaille de la Ville de Paris—the Paris City Medal, which is awarded in recognition of contribution to international culture. She recently took the time to answer Janet Hulstrand’s questions about her latest book, “Murder on the Quai,” which takes place in the 8th arrondissement as well as in a village in the Sologne, via e-mail. Janet Hulstrand: How often do you come to Paris, and how long do you stay when you do? And what do you love most about it? Do you have a favorite arrondissement, or a favorite place in Paris? And what is your favorite thing to do when you’re here? Cara Black: Usually I get to Paris twice a year – I’m so lucky to be able to stay with friends, often it’s sleeping on a couch or in a bunk bed courtesy of my friend’s five-year-old daughter. When I’m researching, it depends on who I can meet, the archives, and what appointments I can set up to interview people. So I stay a few weeks or a month at a time. I have a puppy so I can’t be away too long. I love having time to wander, feel the rhythm of the streets, the ambiance of the quartier, turning a corner and discovering a hidden part of Paris. Love sitting in a café on the terrasse and people watching. Every arrondissement of Paris that I write about, and so far it’s 16 of them, becomes a special place to me. When I can dig deep every arrondissement reveals their village character, so it’s hard to pick just one. I’m a member of the 10th arrondissement Historical Society: I made friends there years ago, and the 10th arrondissement remains special to me, especially along the Canal Saint Martin before it became bobo. My favorite thing to do is to meet my friend for an apéro, walk along the quai, and go to an open evening at the Petit Palais for an exhibition. JH: Before talking about your latest book, for the benefit of those who may be new to your work we should probably introduce your heroine, Aimée Leduc. How would you describe Aimée to someone who has never “met” her, in a sentence or two? CB: Aimée Leduc is half-American, half-French, born in Paris, who is taller and thinner than I am, and likes bad boys and vintage couture. She runs Leduc Detective, which she inherited from her father, and lives on the Ile Saint-Louis because that’s where I’d like to live. JH: “Murder on the Quai” is the sixteenth in the Aimée Leduc series, and each one is set in a different arrondissement, right? As you imagine your stories and choose your settings, which comes first, location, or story? And specifically, how did you come up with the fascinating story told in “Murder on the Quai,” which actually takes place both in the 8th arrondissement, and in a little village in the Sologne? CB: The setting is primary, a certain area of Paris. That said, it goes hand in hand with a story that’s organic to that place. To that time in history, and how Aimée gets involved investigating the characters who inhabit this place in Paris. Murder on the Quai came from stories I heard from one policeman who walked the beat in the 8th arrondissement, and another who worked vice off the Champs Elysées, primarily in the clubs where le jet set— at the time– hung out. My friend, who worked in a private bank on Boulevard Haussman, had stories, too. Without saying too much about the story in this book, Nazi gold was transported via train across Europe to Portugal to pay for war materials the Wehrmacht needed. I’d been to Berlin, a city with a long past, when the Wall was up, and wanted to explore the heady, exciting time when it came down and the face of Europe changed as Communism eroded. JH: The amount of research involved in writing your books is astonishing to me. I don’t know how you do it. In this book, for example, you had to research the process of melting gold, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and a great many facts about Occupied France during World War II, among other things. Not to mention the challenge in each book of getting the geography straight, as Aimée goes charging into one dangerous situation after another, in all these different parts of Paris. How do you manage it all? And do you ever wish you had decided to keep your stories confined to just one or two arrondissements?  And to one single period of time?  CB: I love researching. That’s the best part of my “job,” because it means I need to go to Paris. Seriously, I could spend all my time researching, talking to people, consulting the archives and never get any writing done. There comes a point where I stop, consult my notes and put my mind in another mode and remember I’m writing fiction, based on real places and events. So then I start writing the story. I walk about and think about things – think about the situation in the book, think about…

Lead photo credit : "Murder on the Quai" by Cara Black

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Janet Hulstrand is a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and teacher who divides her time between France and the U.S. She is the author of "Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You," and "A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France." She writes frequently about France for Bonjour Paris, France Today, and a variety of other publications, including her blog, Writing from the Heart, Reading for the Road. She has taught “Paris: A Literary Adventure” for education abroad programs of the City University of New York since 1997, and she teaches online classes for Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington D.C. She is currently working on her next book in Essoyes, a beautiful little village in Champagne.


  • Cindy W
    2016-10-28 06:03:05
    Cindy W
    I love Cara and Aimee! Every time I go to Paris I reread her books and then when I return I read several of them again. I will be joining her and Donna Morris on the Paris tour in a couple of weeks.


  • Cheryl Mueller
    2016-10-09 12:52:18
    Cheryl Mueller
    I met Cara at the Mystery Writers Conference in San Francisco; I pre-order every one of her books. She is a delightful person (just as I imagine AIMEE would be). I learn as much about the Paris culture in her books as well as through her delightful PI's escapades. Please keep writing, Cara, there are still many nooks and crannies in Paris I want to explore.


  • Teresa Engebretsen
    2016-10-08 13:21:24
    Teresa Engebretsen
    I cannot say Merci enough for the interview with Cara Black. I devour her books. And I am transported to Ile St. Louis where I pretend I am Aimée. I even saw a pink scooter there a couple of years ago and then I really thought I had found her! I blogged even blogged about her! http://thesabbaticalchef.blogspot.com/2013/03/searching-for-aimee-leduc.html Bonne journée! Teresa