This week, I’m happy to present Estelle Ryan, the author of the Geneviève Lenard Series. They take place in Strasbourg – so I get a new pin in France on my Pin a Book map. Even more exciting: she’s from South Africa – a whole new continent for the map 🙂
How did the setting of your story impact your writing?
Since Strasbourg is a European city and the team consists of individuals from all over the globe, it gave me the freedom to write truly international, multi-cultural stories. Even though the location doesn’t play a major role in any of the books in the series, its significance comes in its importance in the EU and the beauty of a city with a long history.
How or why is the setting important to who your character is?
Genevieve has found a home in a city that is not her hometown. The importance of the location is rather Strasbourg’s strategic position in the EU – it’s the official seat of the European Parliament; seats of the Council of Europe, the International Institute of Human Rights, Eurocorps headquarters and more than a dozen other international institutions. Add to that the beauty and history of the city and I have unending material for crimes and mysteries that Genevieve and her team needs to solve and/or prevent.
When you visited France, which location did you prefer? Why?
Ooh, this is a really difficult question to answer. France has so many different faces – the magical beauty of Paris, the quaintness of the smaller towns/villages, the breathtaking views of the countryside. Paris would be an obvious choice to feed my love for museums, art and history, but there are many other cities that offer just as inspirational visits into the past. For a peaceful brain-holiday, the countryside (and the good food!) is a must.
What gave you the greatest cultural shock when in France?
The price of croissants in Paris. Really!! I was horrified to pay so much for a puff-pastry. But I must admit it was worth it – especially sitting in a little cafe in the Montmarte neighbourhood, sipping coffee and eating my overpriced croissant.
Which part of the French archetype did you discover to be wrong?
French people are elitist, snobbish and rude towards tourists. That was not my experience at all! I found people friendly and willing to answer my many questions about customs I found strange/interesting. I know that there is a class system in France, but the people I met were either not part of the system or were indeed in the higher classes, but open and friendly towards strangers. My general impression of the French people are very favourable – I was made to feel very welcome.
What do you think would be the greatest cultural shock for a Frenchman who visited your home town?
If a French person visited South Africa, especially the countryside areas where I grew up, their shock would come from the lack of cultural activities. I need to qualify this by saying that we have many (amazing) cultural activities in South Africa, but fine arts and classical music are sadly not high on the list. Most people outside the major cities in South Africa have never seen an opera or a philharmonic orchestra performance on stage. That and seeing lions in their natural habitat. And possibly seeing a snake. Yup, that would be a shock!
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