David R. Poe, who was born in Buffalo, is a long-time resident of France where he has taught both creative and technical writing. His new book “French Kisses” (in our book corner http://www.fusac.fr/livres) depicts Americans in France through twelve stories with a broad array of characters and situations- -a boozy basketball player colliding with bigotry; a vet at Omaha Beach confronting a memory; a jealous sister coveting one last heirloom; a killer seeking peace at Lake Geneva; an American woman who’s never lived in America; sons bullied by fathers; a relentless dreamer about to go illegal. All seek the enchantment, refuge or even forgiveness France might offer. But they can’t quite discard the baggage they carry.
David R. Poe answers a few questions for us. We discuss his book and life in France.
Hi David, where do you come from? Born in Buffalo, studied at Syracuse, met my wife in Washington D.C.
I believe you live in Paris and Normandy now. Do you miss the States? I like to visit the States, but I prefer to live in France largely for the wine, food and health care.
What made you come to France in the first place? My girlfriend – now my wife – and I took a trip to Paris in the 80s. I fell in love with the city. I told her “You have to get a job here.” Sure enough, two years later, we were in Paris, she working at an international organization and I doing the “writer in Paris” thing.
What do you love the most about Paris? And about Normandy? I love Paris architecture and taking a boat or a 72 bus trip along the Seine to look at the buildings all lit up. In Normandy I love Norman thatch-roofed and half-timbered houses, apple orchards, brown and white cows, butter and cream dishes, and our wonderful neighbors. My life in Normandy is described in the last part of “French Kisses,” in an autobiographical piece which they now call “creative non-fiction”.
How did you get into writing? I studied creative writing at Syracuse University. When we moved to France, I had the time to write and tried plays at first. No luck. Then I tried short stories and published my first one, “Frederico’s Wife.” Beginner’s luck. After that, it became much more difficult to publish although I have had some success with US literary journals.
What is the most satisfying thing about writing? The joy of creating characters, breathing life into them, and then watching them work out their conflicts – that is my favorite part of writing.
Can you tell us a few words about your book “French Kisses”? There has not been much fiction written about Americans in France since the days of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, who were writing about a certain class of people. To fill this gap, I put together a collection of short stories about average Americans in France who are from different parts of the United States and different walks of life. My stories are always inspired by people in some sort of conflict. The characters are an amalgamation of different people I’ve met or known and the stories reflect some of my own experiences here. Expatriates all bring some baggage with us to France which influences our perceptions and our actions.
What is your chief characteristic? I have a passion for precision whether writing stories or working on my Normandy house.
How did you choose the pictures on the cover of the book? The cover of “French Kisses” was designed by my son Alex who studied graphic design; it is an arrangement of French post cards which link to the stories – the fountains at Versailles, the TGV, gargoyles on Notre Dame, the Normandy American Cemetery, the Eiffel Tower, etc.
How can FUSAC readers get a copy of it? The book is available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.
What is your next project? I am working on another collection of stories about American characters in France. Also, I wonder what happens to a few of the characters in “French Kisses,” like Manda in “Aubade.” An American on a French stage – the possibilities are endlessly fascinating!
What is your favorite place to eat in Paris? I love the falafels at l’As du Fallafel on rue des Rosiers. It features in one of the stories in “French Kisses.”
What is your favorite quote? An Oscar Wilde quote: “When good Americans die, they go to Paris.”