In the latest installment of our ongoing “Paris Expats Abroad” series, we interview Pauline Lévêque, a successful journalist and author. After many years reporting for Paris Match, she recently published a series of children’s books. She is married to celebrated French novelist Marc Levy.
- What originally brought you to New York City?
My husband and I have always loved New York City and we both used to travel to New York as much as we could. We both hoped that one day we would stay and live here. It happened in 2009 when Louis, my son-in-law, finished high school. We were living in London at that time. When he decided to go to college in San Francisco, we didn’t want to stay in an empty house so we moved a little closer to him, in New York.
- Can you discuss your writing career and background a bit?
I was a journalist for many years. I wrote about the film and entertainment industries for publications including Le journal du Dimanche and Paris Match where I was a contributor for ten years.
When my son Georges was born, I started to write Beep Beep, a bilingual children’s book series starring a funny little red car. I also illustrated the books. My dad is an artist and I grew up in his studio playing with his brushes. I recently co-authored and illustrated a book that will be published next March by Random House. Say Bonjour to the Lady: Parenting with Style, Humor & Love is a humorous, illustrated look at French and American parenting styles that is also equal parts love letter to two of the greatest cities in the world: Paris and New York.
- Where did you get the inspiration to write your children’s book series, Beep Beep?
My son Georges was a big part of my inspiration because he was obsessed with cars when he was 2. As a result, he was very involved in the stories – he even made me change the end of Beep Beep in Paris. He thought it was too sad and children wouldn’t like it! My husband is the motor of the Beep Beep series. He pushed me into drawing and always believed that I should tell stories and illustrate them. I wouldn’t have done it without him.
- What do you miss most about Paris?
My family and my friends. I have two young children and they’re growing up far from their grandparents, which is sad sometimes. Luckily, we have Facetime. I miss the little bistros where I could get a real hot dog in a baguette, I miss all the wonderful bakeries and their crispy viennoiseries. I miss the bookstores, the Pont Alexandre III, the Île Saint-Louis and the views of Paris along the Seine… Paris is the most beautiful city in the world.
- What is your favorite thing(s) to do in Paris on a lazy Saturday?
I left Paris ten years ago, so I never lived there with my husband and children. Our family doesn’t go very often, but when we do we have a busy schedule! I would have to say going to the Jardin d’Acclimatation with my kids, or to the Musée d’Orsay or the Louvre. I would definitely try to visit a monument or do a cultural activity.
- Do you think you’ll ever move back to France?
I don’t think so. If we were to move back, I don’t think we would move to Paris. We would go somewhere around Bordeaux.
- Who are some of your favorite writers and why?
Marc Levy, not only because he is a great man, but because his stories are beautiful and full of hope. Michel Tournier, who was my godfather, whose books were a big part of my childhood. I also love Dostoyevski, his writing really moved me; Zola; Jane Austen; Oscar Wilde…
- What are some lesser-known cultural differences you’ve observed between Americans and the French, since moving to the States?
I’ve observed a lot of differences in the ways we raise our children. My friend Florence Mars and I have been exchanging a lot about it, which is how our co-authored book came to be. I also think Americans are more positive than the French. They’re not afraid to start over, to try things, to trust others.
- What is something that surprised you about New York City?
I’ve discovered that New Yorkers are much friendlier than Parisians. Especially when you are French. Americans love to practice our language and are always very proud of it. It’s super easy to meet people in New York and become friends. I live in the West Village and it really feels like a village. Just walking your dog, people will start talking to you and telling you about their life. People are just so nice around here!
- What is it like being married to a fellow author (Marc Levy)? Do you read each other’s work and give each other feedback?
I don’t consider myself an author. I’m a mom who makes up stories for her children. I’m very proud of being married to a great author, but even more so that my husband is a wonderful dad to our kids, a perfect husband, and my best friend. There’s absolutely no competition between us. And besides, as I’ve always teased him, one day I will sell more books than he does! Of course, we follow each other’s work quite closely. I’m lucky in that I get to read the pages of his latest novel as soon as he writes them. Then I give him feedback, good or bad. Sharing opinions is important, and it really helps with the writing process. The same goes for me, I always ask him for advice about my books or my drawings.
- What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Just do it! Don’t be afraid to write stories and share them with others. It may become a hit! I think if you believe in yourself, that’s already a good beginning! Then you may be lucky…