Parsons Paris

Parsons Paris Dean Florence Leclerc-Dickler talks about her career as an author

In the past four years, you have published four books. Where does your inspiration come from? What does your writing process involve? 

I would say my inspiration comes from life experiences, people I meet who tell me an inspiring story that I want to use as a starting point to tell another story, memories from childhood, people, and animals. 

My writing process comes as a big wave; the first draft flows out of me. I don’t try to control it. I have an idea and then one day I wake up and I know I have to start writing. 

Your first book Roméo XXL talks about a woman in her late forties searching for love online. How do you think the ability to curate one’s online identity impacts the expectations one might have for a potential relationship?

That’s an interesting one. I’m certainly not an expert in online dating, but as we know, it has become a very powerful tool for people to meet a longtime partner or start a casual relationship. It opens up the world for potential encounters that maybe would not have happened in the physical world because you can access many more people.

At the same time you’re also defining criteria of what you are looking for, of who you are or who you think you are or how you want to present yourself, and we know that what you say about yourself may not always be true. 

In your book Elle Avait du Chien! you narrate through the voice of Cléa, a poodle adopted in Marrakech. How did you come up with the idea for the book to be narrated by Cléa herself? 

A friend of mine gave me a gift from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, a paper mache dog made out of recycled newspapers which looked just like Cléa. I put it in my living room and every time I would sit down to write I asked, “What are you telling me Cléa?”. And that’s how it started. 

Knowing this story is personal to you, what was your experience of reliving the emotions of your relationship with your dog as you wrote in retrospect?

It was a needed journey to close that chapter. I took that dog everywhere with me for 17 years. She was sick for a year and so I had the time to process what was to come and take care of her as well as myself. This book allowed me to relive a lot of the emotions that I did not allow to come to the surface when she died, so it was very cathartic in many ways, very emotional. Some of it is fiction, some real, but it was almost therapeutic to write it and I’m happy I did.

The cover art for your third book Le Sel de Souvenirs lends itself to a photograph whereas the first two book covers were illustrated. How do you select the cover for your books and what is the meaning behind the title? 

The first three books were with the same publisher. They had someone who read each book and made several proposals for cover art from which I could choose. 

The title means “the Salt of Memories” and the reason for that title is memories which can be happy can also be painful enough to make you cry. Tears are salty and the location of the story is in Brittany by the ocean which is also salty. But the salt of life is why we live. It gives flavor.

A funny thing happened at the book launch party for Le Sel de Souvenirs. A friend from Switzerland came to help me set up and she suddenly noticed there was an actual grain of salt on one of the covers. Synchronicity.

You decided to donate 100% of your proceeds from this book to ‘Rêves de Chiens Refuge’ Why did you choose this shelter in particular? Do you think you will adopt another dog?

It was a coincidence. When I had Cléa, we visited a veterinary clinic where there was a general practitioner. I reconnected with her via Facebook to consult about places to give proceeds of the book sales. She knew that particular shelter which places the animals in foster families so they aren’t so they aren’t in cages. 

They are a very small association. I chose them in particular because initially I checked with big shelters; they told me they have many donors and my little book proceeds did not interest them. 

I will definitely adopt again, I just don’t know when. 

Is there a particular artist you would like to cooperate with in the future for your book covers? 

Often the publisher decides, but I would like to potentially work with students to design a cover and have it be a collaborative project. 

I have also been told to make a children’s version of the doggie book. I would have to rework it because I wrote to an adult audience, describing human feelings through the dog. And then it would have to be illustrated. It’s somewhere in the back of my mind. 

As the former chair of the Foreign Languages Dept at The New School in NY, on any given day you transfer between multiple languages of English, French, Italian and Arabic. In which way does this inspire your creative process?

Although I communicate in English all the time, French is the language of my heart which I use to write my books. In Elle Avait du Chien! The dog speaks in Arabic when in Morocco and in Miami Beach she speaks Spanish, so I play a little with that but I mostly write in French.  

This summer, you published L’Art de l’Ombre. Did confinement have an influence on your writing process? 

L’Art de l’Ombre was written before covid. Unfortunately it was released right after confinement which was not a very good time for publishing.

However, I did write the sequel to Roméo XXL during confinement while I was in the south of France staying with a friend. The sequel is not about online dating.

The group of friends who were my inspiration for the characters in the first book appear again. They anxiously awaited a new chapter from me each night. As it was inspired by confinement, I decided it would have to be finished by the end of it so I wrote all day and night!!

P.S. She adopted a dog today, February 17th! =)

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