SP: Hey Kristy! So glad to have you here on the Spinning Pen. 😊 Before we get started, we want to hear about YOU and your writing journey! What made you want to write and what’s a fun fact you don’t mind sharing?
Ciao— (to say Hello from working on my current novel, set in WW2 Rome. . .) Thanks for inviting me to stop by!
Is it okay to say that becoming an author wasn’t on my radar? While that was a dream job I’d never considered chasing at the time, I DID love visual storytelling in childhood and still do.
When we were young, our mom took my sister and me to the library every week in the summers. I have vivid memories of sitting on the floor in the book aisles, thumbing through thick volumes of Disney animation and art history books. That was when I truly fell in love with stories. But not being gifted in art enough to paint or sculpt or draw as a profession. . . I thought that meant I couldn’t create. It wasn’t until I went to school for art history that I realized a storyteller can (and does!) paint, but we do it with words.
SP: Let’s talk publishing for a second. What was your path to publication like?
I can answer that by saying “Let’s talk life plans!” and then we’ll all laugh. Because plans rarely work out the way we initially want or expect.
My plan was to become an art history professor. But at graduation, that plan was flipped on end when it was impressed upon my heart to begin writing fiction and to go for publication—when I knew almost nothing about the writing craft, the industry, or publishing. I went to my first writing conference through ACFW later that year, where I pitched my work to six agents and editors. I signed with an agent a month later, still not sure exactly what that meant. And after. . . it was not smooth sailing. Our family lovingly calls the next two years the “crash and burn” years, because it was all about submissions, rejections, learning, submitting again, rejections again, learning more. . .
We took each “No” from a publisher instead as a “Not yet” or “Not here” and kept going.
I’d love to say it was easy. Or handed to us. Or not incredibly humbling to have to keep trying through failure. But all of those things made the dream-chase that much more beautiful when we finally heard that first ‘Yes’.
SP: Now, for the exciting stuff. Congratulations on the release of THE PARIS DRESSMAKER, which came out with Harper Collins on February 16th, 2021!! We want all the deets! How did this beautiful story come about?
I love this question! As an author, I’m asked often where story ideas come from. And truly, the answer is: “They come from life!”
The story behind THE PARIS DRESSMAKER began with what I look to frame in all of my novels. . . writing from a space of some of the darkest places in history—like WW2 or the Holocaust—to find where light pierces through. My editor and I had both heard a podcast about how the women of WW2 Paris defied the Nazis with fashion, and I was completely enthralled with the idea of that light vs. dark scenario, and exploring how haute couture in occupied Paris could work as a conduit for light to overcome. The story started with French fashion and just took off from there!
“. . . a riveting novel with twists and turns you won’t see coming!” —Cosmopolitan
Paris, 1939. Maison Chanel has closed, thrusting haute couture dressmaker Lila de Laurent out of the world of high fashion as Nazi soldiers invade the streets and the City of Lights slips into darkness. Lila’s life is now a series of rations, brutal restrictions, and carefully controlled propaganda while Paris is cut off from the rest of the world. Yet in hidden corners of the city, the faithful pledge to resist. Lila is drawn to La Resistance and is soon using her skills as a dressmaker to infiltrate the Nazi elite. She takes their measurements and designs masterpieces, all while collecting secrets in the glamorous Hôtel Ritz—the heart of the Nazis’ Parisian headquarters. But when dashing René Touliard suddenly reenters her world, Lila finds her heart tangled between determination to help save his Jewish family and bolstering the fight for liberation.
Paris, 1943. Sandrine Paquet’s job is to catalog the priceless works of art bound for the Führer’s Berlin, masterpieces stolen from prominent Jewish families. But behind closed doors, she secretly forages for information from the underground resistance. Beneath her compliant façade lies a woman bent on uncovering the fate of her missing husband . . . but at what cost? As Hitler’s regime crumbles, Sandrine is drawn in deeper when she uncrates an exquisite blush Chanel gown concealing a cryptic message that may reveal the fate of a dressmaker who vanished from within the fashion elite.
Told across the span of the Nazi occupation, The Paris Dressmaker highlights the brave women who used everything in their power to resist darkness and restore light to their world.
SP: Paris, World War Two, Fashion…Wow. So many layers. What was the most challenging part of writing this story? Did you have to do a lot of research?
Any genre of writing takes a generous amount of research. (Historical fiction, perhaps, some of the most grueling there is to get it right.) But the research isn’t as much of a challenge as it is an invitation to explore a character’s human experience—and that makes it my favorite part of the writing process! I delve into research from the point of inception on a story, all the way through the writing and editing, up until the very last page is inked. It’s taking a fact of a date or event—such as Elsie de Wolfe’s exclusive Circus Ball in July, 1939—and looking through a character’s lens to see their experience blossom out of it from beginning to end.
SP: The cover is gorgeous and it matches your IG perfectly (lol!). Did you have many choices? What was your first reaction to it?
This is where an author gets to celebrate the artists working around her! From cover design to editing, sales and marketing, and retail. . . the publishing experts around us make the process of crafting a novel so much sweeter! This cover was no exception. I’m fortunate to have a publishing family who, knowing my art school background and great love of aesthetics, invites me to collaborate on design. And they really nailed it with this one! If I’m allowed to say it, it might be my FAVORITE cover to date. 😊 (An elegant, Chanel-inspired gown set against the backdrop of iconic but warn-torn Paris. . . What’s not to love about that imagery?!)
SP: This is not your first novel, (you’ve got quite an impressive list!) So how was writing this book different to others?
The writing of every novel is different; it navigates the ebbs and flows of our own lives.
I’ve spoken about this with many other author friends, that the writing process for this novel just felt different in the age of COVID. And while I in no way can compare what we’ve been walking through to the horrific experiences of those in WW2, there were some jarring similarities to occupied Paris. (Such as empty store shelves. The closure of basic services, such as hair salons or shops. Curfews and social isolation. . .)
Creativity and artistic expression don’t happen in a vacuum. Any creator is human first. We think and feel and experience, and in many ways, what Lila and Sandrine went through in The Paris Dressmaker (just to survive) was me trying to work out in my own mind: “What would I do if. . . “ in the same gut-wrenching decision spaces as they?
SP: From what we can tell, you love historical fiction! What other genres do you love and which book has impacted you lately?
I do love Historical Fiction—it’s my go-to choice for a great story. But little known is that I adore stories off-genre too! Some of my favorites are in the YA, YA Fantasy, and Literary Classics space. In fact, recommend a great YA fairytale retelling to me—such as novels by Marissa Meyer, Melanie Dickerson, Sara Ella or Kara Swanson— and I’m swept away in a heartbeat!
SP: Last question before the lightning round! What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Two things: Don’t expect your author journey to follow anyone else’s path. And don’t give up.
If writing is on your heart. . . KEEP GOING. No matter what. You’ll never regret that you tried, and that you gave it your all.
SP: Lightning round time! Favorite or most interesting pet?
Embarrassing but true. . . We don’t have any pets! We have a plant I named Susie—who I bought on my first grocery store trip after getting married—and she’s as close to it as we have to a pet. 😊 She’s over twenty years old now and still going strong!
SP: Coffee or tea?
COFFEE. I’d pay rent at my favorite local coffee shop (i.e. novel-writing hideaway) if I had to. I’ve written my last 6 or 7 novels in the same spot—a little table tucked away in the back, under hanging kayaks—enjoying the best coffee in the world!
SP: Word you can never spell? This may be a trick question…
Sheesh. Definitely words in French, or for my current project. . . Italian. I’m lost there and always ask professional linguists for research help! 😊
SP: Trilogy or duology? Or Standalone?
Doesn’t matter. Just give me a great story with memorable characters and something close to an HEA (Happily Ever After). . . and I’m happy girl.
SP: Finally, where can we go to read more from you? Find you?
Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a joy to spend time with y’all today!
The Paris Dressmaker is available now at your favorite book retailers:
KRISTY CAMBRON is a vintage-inspired storyteller writing from the space where art, history, and faith intersect. She’s a Christy Award-winning author of historical fiction, including her bestselling debut, The Butterfly and the Violin, and nonfiction, including the Verse Mapping Series of Bibles and Bible studies. Her work has been named to Cosmopolitan’s Best Historical Fiction Novels of 2021, Publishers Weekly Religion & Spirituality TOP 10, Library Journal Reviews’ Best Books, RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, received multiple INSPY Award nominations, and a 2020 Christy Award for her novel, The Painted Castle. You can connect with her at: kristycambron.com