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9 Questions with Author Elizabeth Ross

March 4, 2013

Today we are excited to welcome debut author Elizabeth Ross to the blog to talk about the inspiration for her upcoming young adult novel Belle Epoque. Set in bohemian Paris, the book tells the story of Maude, a poor teenage girl supporting herself with a very unusual job: working as a secret “beauty foil” for wealthy debutantes. But when she is hired to work with privileged, spirited Isabelle, she must decide if money and the glamorous life she is being exposed to is worth the cost of her deception. 

We loved the book’s smart, passionate female characters, the peek into an exciting period in Paris’s history and the mix of thrills and romance. Belle Epoque won’t be available until June but we have a galley to give away to one lucky reader. Leave a comment at the end of the post and you’ll be entered to win. US readers only, please.

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What inspired the subject of the book?

BELLE EPOQUE is inspired by a short story I read by Émile Zola called “Les Repoussoirs.” The story is an account of the opening of the fictional Durandeau Agency. Really it was an excuse for Zola to poke fun at the Parisian bourgeoisie and show that all they cared about was money – even if it meant making a profit from ugliness! I was surprised by how relevant and modern the story felt and couldn’t help but compare it to the present-day and how much pressure is put on girls to be attractive, above all else. It really struck a chord. As fascinating as Durandeau was, I realized that the more interesting story would be the point of view of one of those agency girls. That was a light bulb moment and I just knew it was a story that I needed to tell.

Are you working on a new project?

Yes, I’m at work on a new book which is set in 1940’s Los Angeles and is inspired by film noir. I’m really excited to be writing in this time period and because I live in LA there’s inspiration all around me. Of course it’s a definite bummer not to be traveling to Europe with the excuse of a research trip! Insert memory of Paris!

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What compelled you to write for teen readers instead of adults?

I think it’s a time I can easily recall from my own life. BELLE EPOQUE, in particular, is a story that teens will relate to. I mean, who escapes adolescence without feeling like an ugly foil at some point?! But I think if a story is compelling you can’t put limits on who might enjoy it. There is such a rich variety of incredible books being written for teens right now – it’s no wonder that adults are drawn to them too.

What character do you connect with most and why?

Of course I’m partial to Maude – she’s the protagonist and we experience the story through her eyes. By now she feels like an old friend and it was sad for me to let go of her when I finished writing the book. But I look forward to her living on as readers discover her. I’m also very fond of Isabelle, her determination and pride. I have a great affection for Marie-Josée who arrived on the page so full of life it took me by surprise. And I had a lot of fun with the Countess and her devious ways. As a character in a film, I think she’d be the most devilishly fun part to play!

As a debut author, what are you most looking forward to in regards to the book’s publication?

I can’t wait to share BELLE EPOQUE with readers and to have it live on beyond my own imagination. I think when you finish at book, you set it free and that’s kind of magical. Writing can be a lonely process sometimes, and it gives me joy, just the thought of one reader connecting with the story and its characters. I think that’s such a privilege and it’s why we write, to connect with people.

Has anything surprised you about the publishing process so far?

I loved the editing process (maybe not surprising as I worked as a film editor). I love the collaboration with my editor, the back and forth and working hard to get the story right. (I am lucky in that I have a fabulous editor, Krista Marino). Also I appreciate that in publishing the author is really respected as the creator of the work. Coming from the film business, publishing feels very writer-friendly!

Do you ever have writer’s block? What do you do to overcome it?

I don’t think I’ve suffered serious writer’s block. I mean writing is just hard, no matter what. I love listening to film scores (no lyrics) and I cover my office walls with inspiration pictures for characters, costumes and settings. Sometimes it feels like there’s a whole film crew in my head playing the movie of my book in my imagination.

Here are pictures of my office and some of the images that helped inspire me during the writing of BELLE EPOQUE (and my canine muse, Ozzie!).

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Inspiration for the Countess.

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Inspiration for Isabelle.

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Inspiration for the agency girls.

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Ozzie, hard at work.

Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share with your readers?

I’d like to share a secret… as a kid I wasn’t an ‘avid reader’! In fact I still shudder when I hear that phrase! There were books I loved of course, but the real reader in the family was definitely my older sister (she read War and Peace at age 13!!). Not being able to wear the medal of ‘reader’ pushed me away from books for a while and I discovered film. But eventually I found my way back to literature because whether it’s a book or a film, it’s all about story and finding yourself by connecting with other characters. So I’d want to encourage readers not to be put off by labels or comparisons and just embrace what they love. The right book, the right story will find you and you’ll be hooked.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I hope you enjoy BELLE EPOQUE! Merci beaucoup to Random Acts of Reading for the great questions.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Leigh permalink
    March 4, 2013 8:24 am

    I am a teacher at a public all girls school in NYC and I’m always looking for new books to fill the classroom library with- especially if there are strong female characters and/or history involved!
    I will definitely be getting a copy in June.

  2. annemarie o'brien permalink
    March 4, 2013 11:05 am

    I’d like to interview Elizabeth Ross for my blog, World Reads where I host interviews with authors who have written a book for young adults set outside of the United States!

  3. Jess permalink
    March 4, 2013 6:10 pm

    Love Elizabeth’s inspiration boards, and love the fact that she says it’s important to not be put off by labels or comparisons to others. Such an important lesson for all would-be readers! 🙂

    Also, most importantly: can’t wait to read Belle Epoque! The Zola inspiration is awesome.

    Thank you for the wonderful interview!

  4. March 7, 2013 6:47 pm

    I was lucky enough to read an early ARC of BELLE EPOQUE. I wouldn’t have hesitated to add it to my reading list when I was teaching. Beautifully written, fantastic, relevant themes, and quick pacing that reads very cinematically.

  5. March 17, 2013 6:05 pm

    Great Post! I would love, love, love for this author to guest post on my blog during Novel Fashion Week!

  6. Shaila permalink
    March 18, 2013 3:52 pm

    i want to read this book so bad it literally pains me

  7. April 18, 2013 11:40 am

    Fabulous! I’m ADICTED to Paris and this book seems like it was written for me!!

  8. April 26, 2013 9:50 am

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