Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 is Francine Prose's 17th novel (and 27th book, counting nonfiction and young adult titles). And even this longtime fan considers it one of her very best. The story of bohemian Paris between the World Wars, it's bawdy and racy and not a little brave. Prose says it all started with a photograph she saw in a museum, a shot of two women at a table in a French bar: "one in a sparkly evening gown, the other in [male] drag." Et voila: a novel was born.
What's the elevator pitch for your book?
First I hit the panic button so we stall between floors, giving me a little more time to say: It's about what Paris was like and how it changed in the 20 years between 1924-1944. At the book's center is a woman, a professional athlete/auto racer and cross-dresser who attended the 1936 Berlin Olympics and became a spy for the Germans. The book is about (and told by) the people around her: a baroness who fostered her racing career; the brilliant photographer who took an iconic portrait of her and her lover; an American novelist; a heroine of the French Resistance; the owner of a legendary nightclub for cross-dressers. It's about love, evil, history, and truth.
What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?
I'm rereading the complete works of Barbara Pym; some of the books are physical books, some are on my Kindle, and all of them make me purely happy"¦.
Top 3-5 favorite books of all time?
I'd have to tell you the top 300-500 books of all time.
What's the most Important book you never read?
What's the book that changed your life?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
What's the book that made you want to become a writer? Alt: Favorite book(s) as a child?
The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking --the ultimate empowered little girl. Nowadays I even put up with the horrendous '70s film version of the book, to which my 7-year-old granddaughter is devoted.
What's your most memorable author moment?
The day that the legendary editor Harry Ford called to tell me he wanted to publish my first novel. This was in the early '70s. He said he supposed I'd be wanting an advance. I said I did. He asked, How much. I asked, What did he think? He said, How about a thousand dollars? I said, Great!! I was at a friend's house. I was sure I'd be hit by a truck on my way home.
What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?
X-ray vision--the ability to see what people are really thinking. The ability to learn languages instantly and fluently.
What are you obsessed with now?
Syria. The Ukraine. Climate change.
What are you stressed about now?
Same as above.
What's your most prized/treasured possession?
Three rainbow-loom rubber-band bracelets.
What's the best piece of advice you ever got? The worst?
The brilliant Mavis Gallant, one of the great writers of our era, told me not to drink cheap wine, it's bad for the liver.
Author crush - who's your current author crush?
What's the last dream you remember?
I dreamed I was wandering around a giant factory"”lost. Confused, scared, running into weird and terrifying dead ends. I finally found some people who worked there and asked what exactly the factory manufactured. They said: Ball-point pens, and showed me one. I said, That's funny, those are the kind of pens I write with"¦.Doctor Freud? Do we have to bother with this one?
What's your favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?
Computer solitaire is the answer to all three.
What do you collect?
Vintage postcards. Masks.
Best piece of fan mail you ever got?
I got a beautiful letter from a woman who told me that she had been reading Blue Angel and felt, in the room, the presence of her mother, who had died, and who would have loved my novel.