In the latest installment of our ongoing “Paris Expats Abroad” series, we interview French Fantasy Writer L.M. Durand who was born on Réunion, a French island (and overseas department) in the Indian Ocean. After studying in Paris, she moved to California where she currently lives with her husband and little boy.
- You’re a YA fantasy writer – what appeals to you most about the genre? And what are you working on right now?
I’ve always been a daydreamer. Sometimes, I felt like I spent more time creating stories in my head than spending time with the people around me. There is something about having magical abilities, meeting magical creatures, and discovering uncharted territories that always appealed to me. Maybe it’s the child (or nerd) buried inside me, but I love the thrill of reading stories where everything is possible, and anything can happen.
I’m currently working on a YA fantasy novel. It’s about a 17-year-old girl who wants to become a magician to help save her world, but as the truth about her past unravels, she will find herself at a crossroads – two different paths that will both have terrible consequences.
- If you had to generalize, do you think there are any major differences in the style of French versus American writers?
It’s a tricky question because I’ve been reading primarily in English for the past 15 years. With that said, I like different things about English and French literature. I think it’s mainly the culture and experience that make them different. The writing style is different, and you can feel it while reading the book.
When you read authors from different countries, you travel with them, and that’s the beauty of it.
- What are you reading right now?
I just started to read Hollow City, the second novel of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I’m also reading a book on the craft, On Writing, by Stephen King. I’m trying to read as much as possible in my genre, but I also love reading other genres. I read a thriller and then a romance novel just before this book. I’m learning things and get ideas with each book that I read.
- Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
I love different authors for various reasons. I love Christian Jacq because he made me fall in love with books and I also learned a great deal about Egyptology. Paolo Coelho’s books always make me think. I need time to digest the lessons learned after each book.
I also always enjoy reading a book from J.K. Rowling, Veronica Roth, Rick Riordan, Rick Yancey, James Dashner, George R. R. Martin, Stephen King, Harlan Coben, or Jodi Picoult to only name a few.
I studied literature when I was in school and grew up reading Emile Zola, Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Voltaire, or Gustave Flaubert. I believe French is a beautiful language and these authors will always be part of me. I was probably the one kid who had read most of them before they became mandatory at school.
- Where are you from originally in France? And when were you last living in Paris?
I was born and raised on a French Island called Réunion– located off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. It’s a very beautiful island with amazing food. I left there when I was 21 to complete my degree.
After a short period in England, I went to Paris where I spent 6 years and absolutely loved it. I left Paris almost 8 years ago to live with my now husband in California, a place close to my heart. I feel lucky to have lived in such beautiful places.
- What is your favorite thing to do in Paris?
I lived in Bastille when I was there, and loved hanging out at a friend’s place, getting a drink in a café, but what I loved the most was to either walk or use a Velib going from Bastille to the Eiffel Tower while avoiding the main street. The architecture and the culture are so unique. This city has so much character, and there is always something to learn.
In August at night, I also loved going by the Seine in front of the Institut du Monde Arabe where they have various free dancing classes (tango, salsa, and other French traditional dances). Everyone would go and learn.
- What do you miss most about the city?
The food! I miss French cuisine above and beyond everything. I also miss going to the museums and walking on the streets, but that’s okay because every time I go back, I get to experience it all over again.
- How do you find that life in L.A. compares to life in Paris?
It’s very different for sure. I live near L.A., so it’s the perfect compromise. My neighborhood is safe and family friendly, but I’m close enough to the city to go to a nice restaurant and a concert if I want to. L.A. does not have that historic and romantic vibe that you can have in Paris. However, the hikes are breathtaking, and there are truly beautiful places here. The people are also very friendly.
The culture and way of thinking are different. Like in any cities, there are pros and cons to both places, but I personally enjoy living here. I think Paris was great for my college life and California is great for my family. Here, we have the sun and the ocean nearby and, as an islander, I need it.
- What advice would you give to someone who is going to visit Paris?
I would say walk as much as you can. This city has so much to offer. Take a cruise and visit the landmarks, but don’t forget the small streets. They are so beautiful. You can also use the Velib, but be careful. It can be dangerous on popular streets. Also – go to a boulangerie and enjoy the bread and the French delicacies. They are to die for.
- What do you do when you get homesick for France?
I’m fortunate to have a little French community here in L.A. We get together regularly and cook French food while enjoying cider, wine, or Ricard. Our kids were born here, but we speak French to them, so for an afternoon, it’s like we’re back in France.
- What advice would you give aspiring writers?
I’m still an aspiring writer myself, so I’ll tell you what advice was the most beneficial to me.
Read as much as you can, go to writing conferences and meet authors and agents, get to know the industry, and write every day even when you don’t feel like it. Finally, start building your author platform before your book is ready because it takes time. Being a writer is like being an entrepreneur, you need to learn how to be creative and how to run your business. There are a lot of great resources on the web. I’m sharing the best advice I receive and my journey on my blog lmdurand.com, but you need to find what works for you.
Build your writing community or join a group. I’m part of different groups, and the help I received is incredible. Be willing to help and don’t expect anything in return. Do it because you want to. There are so many great people out there. Being a writer can be a lonely activity at times and having a community that will support you when you feel down is the real treasure. Mingle, share your struggles, and help the people around you. Accept criticism, do what you love, and accept that not everyone will like it.