My uncle once cornered me back in those same long ago 1990s about how for his next novel he planned to "borrow" the name of a friend of mine for a French policewoman character and base the character on her personality. "Oh, dear God, no," I recall half-laughing and, horrified, blurting out in response.
I had never used Instagram until back in 2016, when I started that account to supplement my blog here. I approached Insta with no illusions. I knew I was not a "19 year old woman"; I was a male writer. But I thought it could used as outreach to those who had never heard of me or my blog here - and particularly to women, who are the bulk of my readers.
We decided to do it on the spur of the moment. On Tuesday, we booked a hotel and reserved a ferry there and back. On Thursday, we headed from Dover to Calais to have a night away not far from Calais, in Boulogne-sur-Mer.
"You seem to know lots about what Frenchwomen think," my [English] wife has teased me more than once. Actually, no, I don’t believe I do...
I always think when I see such a meme or assertion: “If you actually do believe that rubbish, you’ll learn that you can't do it. I have.”
I will always remember what I was told after I revealed in 2013 I was writing Passports and showed the initial draft first to my (English) Mrs., and then to an English woman friend. Having read it, separately they both noticed that I was inadvertently mixing American-English language forms and British-English.
The first time I ever mentioned - back in university nearly three decades ago - that I was interested in visiting France, my mother turned to me and was immediately harshly negative: "Are you nuts? They hate us."
"In San Francisco, the first place I work in USA, I meet an American woman who loved my French accent. I learned after that to speak it with women in America more. 'I love your accent,' they always say that," he chuckled.
"Are you going to be writing while we're here?" our friends' daughter asked me at one point as we walked in the town. "I hope so," I replied.
Gather 'round, kids, and let me share with you a taste 20th century living. We booked our coming trip entirely using the internet: flights, accommodation, taxi. Before the internet existed, to book an airline ticket it was commonplace in those olde days to visit a business - a physical building - that was called a "travel agency."
Since starting my first book in 2012 I have also written many women, so how women are portrayed generally in novels (particularly by male writers such as myself) has become of great interest to me.
If you are about to take your first major international journey without Mom and Dad, I suggest you don't rely only on your iPhone and Instagram for the memories. Taking photos is now so easy. No longer are we restricted to a roll of 24 or 36 at a time.
How about a show of hands. How many of you have ever written a serious love letter? Or - to be all 21st century-ish - how many of you have perhaps written even a love email or other similar electronic message? And by the latter I mean composing complete, carefully crafted, thoughtful sentences: texting emojis doesn't count!😂
Above all, I thank you for your support over these last five years.
In a restaurant in 1939 Germany, thirty-ish American foreign service officer "Leslie Slote" and young American twenties-something expat "Byron Henry" - who had just returned from the chaos of Poland during the German invasion weeks earlier - fall into discussing anti-Semitism...