We welcome author Linda Kovic-Skow into the Sunday Spotlight! French Illusions tells how Linda told a lie to secure a job as an au pair with an aristocratic French family.
Linda hails from the US, so she’ll be appearing later today. Ask away, and she’ll catch up when she arrives.
Cherry Gregory Hi, Linda. Great to see you on the Sunday Spotlight. French Illusions is the next book on my reading list, so this is very timely!
Cherry Gregory I think I’ll be out by the time America wakes up, so I’m leaving my question for you now. What was it that prompted you to write your memoir?
Alan Parks Morning Linda
Anne Hello Linda – my question is – after living in France – home of some beautiful wines, do you prefer Wine or Champagne?
Jennifer Haven’t read your book yet, but according to the summary, this story took place in 1979. What made you decide to write now, and not before?
Woofie Let’s cut to the chase here! Which do you think are better – Napa or Sonoma Valley vinos or French wines?
Bambi I’m off to work soon, but I’m dying to know if you stayed in touch with the family or not? Are you and Madame best buddies these days? lol
Judi What do you miss most about France?
Lynn I’m really curious if you heard anymore about the family.
Frank My word, Linda, you’re going to wake up to a lot of questions!. My one to you is: what is your favourite book and why?
Jacky Hi Linda, I haven’t read your book yet – but it is on my list as I love all things France! My question is, do you have plans to write a sequel?
Judi Read this book a couple of months ago–great stuff!!
Sue Hi Linda! Good to see you in the Sunday Spotlight Would you ever like to live in France again, or any other European country, for that matter? Or are you happy to stay where you are?
Linda Kovic-Scow Hello Everyone. I have a hot cup of coffee in front of me and I’m ready to roll. Thank you so much Victoria Twead for asking me to participate as the Sunday Spotlight.
Linda Kovic-Skow Going down the list, I’ll answer Cherry and Jennifer questions first. The inspiration behind my book comes from ….. a mid-life crisis. About four years ago, after my husband and I dropped our youngest daughter off at college, I felt sad and confused about the future. I missed being a mom and I wondered how I would fill the void. At the time, I had my part-time bookkeeping business, but it consumed only a few hours a day and it wasn’t interesting any more. I wanted to find something I could do that was more fulfilling. This prompted me to review what I like to call my “mid-life list.” This list, similar to a “bucket list,” led me to hunt down my diary from my au pair adventure in France and compose my memoir.
Linda Kovic-Skow Anne I prefer a dry white wine over a red, and Champagne makes me sick to my stomach. My husband claims that’s because I only drink it on New Year’s eve and end up drinking too much, lol. When I worked as an au pair at the chateau, I tasted some great wines and recorded many of them in my diary. Woofie Wotsit I actually prefer Australian wines over French or Californian wines.
Linda Kovic-Skow Bambi, no, I didn’t stay in touch with the family (as you might have guessed since you read the book:) Madame and I didn’t part on good terms for good reasons. I definitely shouldn’t have lied about speaking French to acquire the job, AND she shouldn’t have allowed me to stay if she wasn’t going to forgive me for my deception. I tried very hard to make amends. Oh, I just remembered something…Madame wrote my parents a letter (in French) after I left the chateau, telling them how horrible their daughter was. Funny thing was, my parents didn’t speak French either, so they had no idea what it said.
Linda Kovic-Skow Judi I miss the baked goods in France the most. I gained fifteen pounds during my stay! I’m Gluten-intolerant now so I couldn’t eat the fresh baked croissants now anyway!
Linda Kovic-Skow Lynn I think I answered your question above, but I did want to add something else. When I decided to write my memoir, I searched the family’s name on the internet and couldn’t find anything on them or their chateau. Even so, I changed the names of everyone, including the name of the town to protect their identity.
Linda Kovic-Skow Frank Kusy My favorite book of all time is Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. It’s such an incredible story filled with vivid descriptions and well-developed characters. The first time I read it, we were on a vacation cruise to Mexico and I just couldn’t put the darn thing down. My husband kept scolding me for missing out on events because all I wanted to do was read in our stateroom.
Linda Kovic-Skow Jacky Yes, I’m writing the sequel, French Encore, right now. It should be out fall of 2014.
Linda Kovic-Skow Judi Thanks for your kind words. Authors love feedback like that!
Linda Kovic-Skow Sue That’s a great question. I’m hours away from both my girls now and I wouldn’t want to move far away. They are both in serious relationships, so I’m hoping there will be a marriage in a few years (and grandchildren):)
Linda Kovic-Skow I thought you all might enjoy a couple of pictures, so here goes. This first one is of me, shortly after I returned to the U.S. in 1980.
Alan Parks Linda what was the strangest thing you saw in France?
Sue Complete with French beret!
Paula Linda….really enjoyed your story and am looking forward to the sequels. I agree about Aussie white wines but then reach for Spanish reds…of course since my favorite is homemade sangria starting with a Spanish base. My question is have you ever heard from the other folks you met on your adventures in France. We all are tempted to make some poor choices when we are young….gives you something to smile and blush about when you are my age. Thanks
Linda Kovic-Skow I took very few photos while I lived in France and, even though I can’t post any of the “real” chateau, here is one of my bedroom inside.
Jacqueline So glad you are working on part two Linda as I feel you left us just as your real adventure was about to begin! I must away now to my laptop and get posting my review for French Illusions! Love the photos here though, that bedroom is gorgeous, even if it was cold!
Jacky Beautiful window!
Linda Kovic-Skow Paula , Another great question. No, I’m no longer corresponding with anyone in France from that time frame. For many years, I wrote French letters to my professor from the French Institute (you’ll meet him in Book 2). He would correct the letters and send them back, lol! Such a wonderful person. There are two people I wished I’d stayed in contact with, Lori and Evelyne. After I returned home, Evelyne mailed me a framed picture of one of the chateaux we visited in the Loire Valley. I came across it recently when I moved. It brought back some fond memories.
Victoria Twead I love the chateau on the cover of the book, is that really the one you stayed in?
Linda Kovic-Skow Jacqueline I’m looking forward to your review (gulp). I hope you have the newest version of my book. After I received numerous critical reviews about the ending being “too abrupt,” I enhanced and extended it and republished a second edition on September 21, 2013.
Linda Kovic-Skow Victoria Twead No, the building pictured on my book cover is an unnamed French chateau in the Loire Valley. Although it’s larger than the one I actually lived in, the architecture is very similar. During my stay, I took several pictures of both the interior and exterior of the actual home I lived in, but I couldn’t use any of these photographs because it was important to protect the family’s identity.
Along similar lines, I couldn’t use the real name of the chateau either. Since I knew this term would be repeated over and over again, it had to be just right. In my old hometown of Kirkland, there is an old apartment building just off of State Street. I never thought much about it, until one day, during a walk with my dog, I spotted it and something clicked. The name of the apartment building is “Mont Clare.” I loved the way Chateau de Mont Clare rolled off my tongue. During a rewrite, my editor convinced me to alter the spelling to Château de Montclair, but the pronunciation remained the same.
Linda Kovic-Skow Signing off for a little while, but I’ll be back later to answer any more questions that come in. Thanks to all – enjoy your Sunday:)
Micki Hi Linda! If you could travel anywhere in the world, what country would you most like to visit?
Jacqueline Linda, I won a copy on here so no idea whether I have the updated version, sorry. I have to say that was one of my comments, it did seem a little bit abrupt at the end! Maybe I need to re-read the end!!!
Jennifer Linda-Since it was such a long time from writing the diary to writing the book, did all the memories come flooding back or was it hard to remember certain details?
Linda Micki Stokoe I would love to travel to the South Pacific to visit Tahiti. Of course I’d have to pop over and see Australia too. Oh, and I loved to see the elephants in the wild in Africa. Wouldn’t that be something?
Linda Kovic-Skow Jacqueline you must have the newest version if you won it here. As I state in the Author’s Note, “Is there more to the story? The simple answer is, yes. Too much for one book…” When I first outlined my diary, I wasn’t sure there was enough for even one book, and then I realized I’d have to write two!
Linda Kovic-Skow Jennifer Ziton Bendriss Yes, some of the memories came flooding back, but others didn’t. Honestly, I couldn’t have wrote this book without my diary. Many of my entries actually surprised me after so many years. Below is the very first entry in my diary dated August 22, 1979. I’m not sure who or what prompted me to keep a diary during my trip to France, but I’m sure glad that I did!
“Since a person does not take a trip to Europe every day, I have decided to keep track of the time I spend in this foreign land. I have written not only feelings, experiences, and hopes; but informational data that many someday be useful upon my return to the U.S.A. This journal shall surely be a reminder of the good times along with the bad.”
Janet Givens Hi Linda, I wondered where you were. This shows up under Pinned Post for some reason. So, you’ve written a memoir of a specific period of time, as I have. And i also wrote from journals and emails, so lots of details at hand. Did you find it more difficult to decide what to leave out or what to put in?
Linda Kovic-Skow Hi Janet Givens. I’m not sure what you mean about the pinned post, but I’m glad you found your way here. Your question is interesting. It sounds like you have more material than I had. My diary offered a great outline, but I had to research and fill in hard-to-find data on the Loire Valley, the Loire River and the town of Tours. The internet helped and travel books supplied the rest. From the beginning, difficult questions emerged, such as how much French to include in my book. Fortunately, I found a French editor to help with this. My biggest struggle was how much detail to include in my own love scenes. Wiping the sweat off my brow, I wrote and then rewrote these scenes until I could read them without squirming in my seat.
Frank Kusy Thank you Linda, and ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ is indeed a great book. My wife started reading it to me during a particularly boring car drive and when we got home I didn’t even unpack the car, I marched her in the house and made her keep reading!
Cherry Gregory Thanks for answering my question right at the beginning (What prompted you to start writing your memoir.) Good answer and one I can empathize with. From your dates I see you are the same age as me and I started writing a book (not a memoir) at about the same time for similar reasons!
Linda Kovic-Skow Cherry Gregory how interesting. I’m sorry if I missed it, but have you published your book? What’s it called?
Cherry Gregory Yes, it was published in August and is called “The Girl from Ithaca”. It’s historical fiction, set in the Trojan War…it was hard work, but I loved writing it. I wonder if you’ve thought of writing fiction.
Linda Kovic-Skow Alan Parks I’m sorry, I think I missed your question. I’m not sure if this is the strangest thing I saw in France back in 1979, but one incident comes to mind and I described it in my book. Here’s the excerpt. “With nothing left to accomplish in Tours, I wandered along some back streets in the general direction of the train station, recapping my day in my mind. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a lone motorcycle in the road up ahead. I thought nothing of it until he veered onto the sidewalk, heading straight for me. Adrenaline surged through my veins as I tried to wrap my brain around what he planned to accomplish. What’s with this guy? Is he trying to run me over?
Sudden realization sank in: He wanted to snatch my purse as he drove by. Twisting and hugging my bag close, I braced myself for his assault. He managed to grab the strap, but I clenched my teeth and held steady. With an angry grunt, he released his hold, recovered his wobbly bike, and drove on.”
Alan Parks I was hoping for something funny Linda Not frightening.
Linda Kovic-Skow Cherry Gregory your book is intriguing (I just downloaded a copy to my Kindle). I’m not planning to write fiction at the moment, but I won’t say never. Right now, I’m trying to stay focused on French Encore!
Frank Kusy You’ll love Cherry’s book, Linda, and I just d/loaded yours, look forward to reading!
Linda Kovic-Skow Sorry Alan Parks, you’ll find lots of drama in French Illusions, but other than a few humorous interactions with the children, my story was not amusing (especially to me at the time, sigh).
Linda Kovic-Skow Thanks Frank, but I have to warn you, my biggest audience is women. A few men have reviewed it favorably too, however:)
Linda Kovic-Skow Off again to talk a walk with the hubby. I’ll check back in a few hours:)
Cherry Gregory Thanks for downloading my book, Linda. I hope you enjoy it. I’m looking forward to reading yours.
Frank Kusy I’m fine with women Linda, didn’t know who boys were till I was three. First one I met, I tried to hug him and he punched my face!
Jacky Rolls Come to France Frank, lots of male hugging and kissing here
Frank Kusy Hahaha
Victoria Twead Linda, do you have a favorite chapter in your book? If so why that one?
Janet Givens Linda, I am sorry to say I haven’t read your book (yet) so I won’t ask about something I’ll discover by reading. BUT, and this us about backstory Did you struggle with how to pull in backstory or not? What parts (if any) did you struggle with most?
Linda Kovic-Skow Hi all, I’m back. Ahhh Victoria Twead, my favorite chapters to write came in the last section of my memoir. Throughout most of the story, circumstances required me to internalize my unhappiness with my life at the Château de Montclair. Within these last pages, I finally had the opportunity to expose my true feelings and stand up to Madame Dubois. It was a thrilling, rewarding experience.
Linda Kovic-Skow Janet Givens I did struggle with how much backstory to include in French Illusions. Early on I asked friends and family to give me input and they convinced to me to stick to the story line, sprinkling in bits of backstory about myself and my family here and there, when needed. In the end, a few of my reviewers think I should have added more. With my sequel, French Encore, I’m adding some personal backstory about my dad because readers won’t understand his actions otherwise. It’s a bit sensitive, so I’ll have to write about it carefully. I’ll probably include a bit more backstory about my romantic relationships in the second book as well because it’s pertinent to the story. Hmmm, I’m not sure I answered your question. I hope I did, at least partially.
Janet Givens You did indeed. Thank you Linda. It’s actually helpful for me to know you also struggled with backstory. I’m looking forward to reading your memoir and your sequel.
Linda Kovic-Skow I apologize in advance to those of you who are already in bed, but the first two people who respond will win a free download of French Illusions!
Janet Givens Respond to what? Like this?
Linda Kovic-Skow Yes, Janet Givens If you don’t have my book, would you like a download?
Janet Givens Turns out, I don’t have it. Kindle please. Thanks so much.
Lynn I read the book and really enjoyed it. Boy I hated Madame Dubois! I was glad to see you stand up to her, but sad that you had to leave so fast and leave so many of your things behind. I look forward to reading part 2. A good friend of my daughter went to be a nanny and was shocked to see how bad nannies were treated by some people. She had a very rough time of it as a nanny.
Linda Kovic-Skow Great Janet Givens, I’ll tell Victoria:)
Linda Kovic-Skow Thanks so much Lynn for your kind words. They made my heart sing! Yes, I’m shocked at how many people tell me they were mistreated as nanny’s and au pairs. It’s too bad, because many of these girls are “stuck” once they arrive at their destinations, especially if they’ve traveled a great distance.
Peggy Hi Linda great reading all your replies.
Started reading your Book – brilliant so far.
You have a good evening and good night from me.
Take care. x
Linda Thank you Peggy Penn It’s so nice to hear that you are enjoying my book. Have a lovely evening:)
Frank Kusy Nite, nite, Linda, hope you enjoyed your Sunday in the Spotlight!
Linda Kovic-Skow Thank you Frank. Yes, it was a lot of fun. Sleep tight!
Bambi Linda, I was hoping (against hope) that Madame came to her senses and reached out to you in some way, or that you at least got to sneak in a meeting with those poor kids who had that beast for a mother. Alas, guess not.
Victoria Twead Linda Kovic-Skow – HUGE thanks for agreeing to be in the spotlight! Good luck with Book 2. It’s been a fascinating thread, thank you!
Anne Thanks for your time – I feel we all know you better now. I am loving these Sunday spotlights.
Woofie I am sooo impressed that you have a superior palate and appreciate real vino, Linda
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