I always wanted to be a writer. I love to read, and I can quite easily get lost in a good book for hours and not even notice time has passed. Yet somehow I have never quite managed to translate that love of the written word into writing my own word. So, when I cross paths with actual authors… I’m impressed.
Adria J Cimino is one such author. Her debut novel, “Paris, Rue des Martyrs” is a real treat – still can’t believe it’s her first! After pouring over her words and loving every minute of it, I had to try and get a sneak peak into the mind behind the pen (or computer, or whatever). She was kind enough to agree to answer some questions I had for her about her work. This is the result of our conversation.
Can you tell us a bit of your background? Where you are from and how you got to where you are today?
Hi Amy, Thanks for inviting me to your blog… I was born in Connecticut, but consider myself a Floridian since my family moved to Sarasota, Florida when I was a toddler. I always had a very active imagination and I think my love of writing came from my love of stories. My grandpa and my mom were both wonderful storytellers and could entertain me for hours. I started writing in high school, but was very shy about it. To me it was such a personal thing. Working for the newspaper at the University of South Florida actually helped me break through the shyness and I went on to be a journalist — my day job while I worked on fiction in my free time. My journalism career brought me to South Carolina, Boston and finally Paris. And in the meantime, I had the same experience as many new authors: lots of rejection letters! A few years ago, I sent “Paris, Rue des Martyrs” to the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency and Ashley decided to represent my work. Then came more rejection from publishers. So I went back to work on “Paris, Rue des Martyrs” and worked on other projects as well. At the same time, my agent created an e-book imprint called “Agency Editions” and decided to publish my debut novel through this new imprint.
When did you decide to write a novel? How did you start?
I first decided to write a novel when I graduated from college. I had an idea, sat down at my computer and just started typing away. The result was terrible! I tried a second and a third… The ideas were OK, but I don’t think I had enough knowledge of people and the world to write anything convincing. But I never considered giving up. I knew I had stories to tell. I just had to find my voice. And with each failure, I learned something.
Where do you find your inspiration for your story and characters?
In general, I’m inspired by people and places. I see the extraordinary in ordinary people… Even if someone seems to have a mundane life, if you dig deep enough, you’ll often find stories that are even more fascinating than fiction! My characters aren’t based on people I know, but they certainly are an amalgamation of characteristics/values/behavior that I’ve observed in others. As for places, I like to examine how they affect people in different ways. And finally, I’m also inspired by real-life stories. After reading an article about emerald brokers in Colombia, I knew that would somehow end up in one of my books… and voila: Rafael in “Paris, Rue des Martyrs.”
What was your greatest challenge in writing your first novel?
Since “Paris, Rue des Martyrs” is actually four stories in one, I had to be very careful about the pace. I couldn’t have Rafael’s story reach a conclusion while Cecile’s lags behind. I wanted to construct the stories so each would unfold at about the same rhythm as the others. At times, this would get tricky!
How has your international lifestyle influenced you creatively?
Living abroad has greatly influenced me… I’ve had the opportunity to meet people with different cultures, traditions and ways of seeing the world. For me, that’s like striking gold because it gives me so many ideas for characters. And I love discovering new places that might serve as a setting in one of my novels. My favorite ones are unassuming… a little street or park that I come upon unexpectedly.
What is your favorite aspect of living in Paris?
Being able to sit at a café for hours with a cup of tea and a book.
What advice would you give to any aspiring novelists out there?
First of all, don’t give up. Write the type of novels that you feel comfortable writing — even if chick lit is popular, if it’s not your thing, you won’t be able to write it well. If you don’t have a literary agent or publisher editing your work, hire a good editor. This is extremely important. Explore opportunities to publish through small presses or self-publish an e-book. And of course, start making new reader friends using social media!
Any new projects in the near future for you?
Since I’ve been writing for several years, I actually have completed two other novels. At this point, I can’t go into detail. But I can say that one, set in London and New York, is about the role of destiny in a young woman’s life, and the other is about a perfumer in Grasse, France. Location plays a big role in both of them, as it does in “Paris, Rue des Martyrs.”
And for the traveler in us all, any recommendations for a “must see” list from your travels?
Absolutely! Let’s start with Sicily… It is my favorite place when it comes to food, and the people are so welcoming, especially when they see that you’re a foodie! The big market in Palermo is not to be missed. On to San Francisco, one of my favorite cities in the U.S. There, the “must see” is the view from around the Cliff House restaurant. If you are a dance fan like me, and happen to be in New York, visiting the beautiful Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater building is a real treat. Next, let’s go to a warm place… just about any beach in south Florida will do. And finally, let’s travel to Paris, where I, of course, will recommend that you explore Montmartre, the setting for my novel. But here’s the tip: Go there in the morning and explore the sleepy, winding streets that are a few blocks away from the famous “Place du Tertre.” And you will have seen the real Montmartre!
Be sure to check out her blog, Adria in Paris. You can also keep up with her adventure through her social media!