Monday, January 24, 2011

I Don't See London, But Guess What I Do See?

More readers from France than even stateside, by a margin of over 200%.

I love seeing the French landing here, even if they are bots, because I have gained THAT much of an affinity for the place, writing about their first king.

If my fifteen-year-old self only knew. In our house, "French" was a dirty word, and not because of the kiss, and NOT because of my folks. My brother and I were the anti-francophiles; surrounded by pink and green preppy girls (a large number of them named for that color green) who thought the adjective determined the Nth degree of romantic, and who thought the nation itself proceeded from the eighteenth century cartoon-like, fully formed in quisine and cigarette-hazed languid accents, defining a refinement they could scarcely even have named as such, having learned the admiration more by funnel action of the crowd than through any individual experience (... or interest). So we hated what they loved. To fully entrench the rule, it had its exception - the French marines; perhaps itself a conceit chosen less from depth of education than some known factoid or other and b*tchin' footwear or something.

If I had known then my first novel would CENTER on this center of my adoptive reverse-snobbery, I would certainly have been pretty torn. Torn asunder at the idea I really would write a book someday ... but about something I was so faux-passionately against.

It would have been worse than the knowledge that my future self would come to own a cat. (And then three.)


Yet, in its way, my lacking the years-deep background in adoration - er, or even deep respect, ahem - in fact served me to be a clean slate in coming to my subject. In this reverse-decision, if in nothing else, it's impossible to deny that subjects choose authors, not the other way around.

In the early days of my writing, I actually feinted a tiny bit from looking too French-loving. I would joke, "if you go back far enough, the French are German" - which isn't strictly speaking true, but which research did make at least a defensible statement to make (if not a purely nice one, born as it was out of franc-ambivalent defensiveness and denial).

But the deeper I got into my own reading (I have no honest gauge for any extent to which my WRITING has effect here), the deeper my subject's homeland and heritage got into me. The homeland he *created*. The heritage of nation which was his patrimony, and the heritage of name which lives now around the world, and has been on the throne of his country more than twenty times. And which caused me to write my book.

My people come from Europe in its many stripes, mostly the UK and Germany, but my family's name, at least so the story goes, was born in the Channel Islands, of a Norman and his love. Norman territory is so close to the seat in which my King made his start, I as a dork and a woman and a writer hear some kind of *thrum* in the juxtaposition. I don't need to count myself part of Clovis' line (it is enough joy to know one of my best friends can clearly do so), but I like the idea nonetheless - that, even if not in blood, some part of me extracts from that place that spawned my first book.

The king's name helped make what I am. I count my work a service, hoping I can claim some ghost of the same in return.


So hello, France. I love to see you visit.

No comments: