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Book Review: French Kisses

I wasn’t sure what to expect from French Kisses. It’s somewhat vague title and collage of iconic photos on the cover told me it would be about French life, but it wasn’t until I opened it that I discovered the fascinating lives of 12 fictional expats. Their stories, sometimes sordid, often eccentric, but always elegantly engaging, are easy to fall into like Alice down an international rabbit hole.

American author and longtime French resident, David R. Poe introduces you to a Nebraskan escaping a scandal, the “Little America” basketball team, a translator contemplating an affair… but more than anything you get to know France on an intimate level.

The book’s bio reveals how the author has been able to establish such familiarity with life abroad: time. Originally from Buffalo, Poe has been in France for thirty years, spending time in both Paris and Normandy with his wife and son. He explains how he got here in his interview,

“My girlfriend – now my wife – and I had taken a trip to Paris, my first time. I absolutely fell in love with the city. I told her “You have to get a job here.” Sure enough, two years later, we were in Paris, she working at an international organization and I doing the “writer in Paris” thing. I wrote plays at first. No luck. Then I tried short stories and published my first one, “Frederico’s Wife.” Beginner’s luck. After that, it became much more difficult.”

Despite the difficulty, he found the inspiration to write French Kisses, finding that “… there is not much fiction about average Americans in France.”

I finally decided to put a collection together of twelve short stories about Americans in France and an auto-biographical piece, which they now call “creative non-fiction.” I’ve written a lot of other stories but French Kisses represents my best work. My stories are always inspired by characters in some sort of conflict. The characters are an amalgamation of different people I’ve met or known and the stories reflect some of my own experiences here. I never write about any single real-life person, per se… the joy of creating characters, breathing life into them, and then watching them work out their conflicts – that is my favorite part of writing.

Once the stories were down on paper, the real difficulty began.

The hardest part of writing is no doubt the fear of rejection, the fear that you will end up being the tree falling in the forest that nobody hears.

Readers are lucky that he persevered. French Kisses immediately wraps you up in each of the character’s complicated lives. With names like Wild Bill (“French with a Texas accent”) and the long-term expat bemoaning an upcoming transfer from Paris to Tokyo, readers may recognize these flamboyant personalities in their own lives. The backdrop of France frequently comes to the forefront as another personality, a constant in the ever-changing landscape of the short stories.

Think you may want to try your hand at life and travel abroad? David offers his best advice,

Dive in! Don’t worry about making mistakes with the language or picking the wrong thing on the menu or getting lost. Just explore, explore, explore — from the cuisine to the lesser known places and the roads less travelled. It’s all an adventure.

If you need further reading inspiration, David says classics like Hemingway’s Moveable Feast and Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night are a must. Or you could just wait for his next piece of work.

I am working on another collection about American characters in France. My characters are from different parts of America and different walks of life. Also, I wonder what happens to a few of the characters in French Kisses, like Manda in “Aubade.” An American on a French stage – the possibilities are endlessly fascinating!

Interview by Insider Erin . Read French Kisses (https://www.amazon.com/French-Kisses-David-R-Po...) and get to know Poe’s France now.

Published January 17th by ErinAbroad
Posted to Expat Blog

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