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3Q with Bridget Asher — WIN THIS BOOK!

You know I am a sucker for a great first line. THE PROVENCE CURE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED has one of the best first lines in the history of first lines. Are you ready? Here it comes:

Here is one way to say it: Grief is a love story told backwards.

That KILLS me. It’s such a true thing, and it is so beautifully and simply said. That rings in my head and flat, flat KILLS me every time. And it’s a wonderful intro to a wonderful book; you already know I’ve been a Bridget Asher fan since MY HUSBAND’S SWEETHEARTS, but don’t trust just me:

People magazine says, “”Fans of Under the Tuscan Sun will adore this impossibly romantic read,” and Kirkus says, “Asher’s book is a real charmer about a Provencal house that casts spells over the lovelorn.” Also, the FOOD writing in it will make you want to eat France.

Bridget’s publicist is letting me give away three copies here—YOU WANT ONE. If you lose, go buy this book immediately. If you win, go buy this book and give one copy to your mom or your best friend or that one snotty cousin you have who always seems to have a knot in her intestines; this book might help untwist ‘em.

I will keep this drawing open until midnight EST Friday. As usual, you can enter up to FOUR times.
Way One: Leave a comment here. Easy peasy chicken squeezy.
Way Two: Post a link to this contest on your facebook page. Then post a SEPARATE COMMENT here saying you have done so.
Way Three: TWEET a link to this contest. Then post a SEPARATE COMMENT here saying you have done so.
Way Four: Post a link to this contest on your Blog. Then post a SEPARATE COMMENT here linking back saying you have done so.

Now the fun stuff!

JJ: How important is location to you as a writer, or, a better way to say that might be, could THE PROVENCE CURE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED have been set anywhere else?

BA: At twenty or so, I fell in love with France – first via falling in love with a Frenchman and then with the country in general. Three summers ago, I talked my husband – not the Frenchman, instead a sweet New Hampshire boy – into scrambling together all of our money, renting an extremely ancient (cheap) house in a tiny village in Provence, and taking all of our four kids (plus a niece) there for over a month. Oh, and my parents, I wanted them to bop in too.

It was an insane idea; the youngest was only a year old. I’m not sure what struck me except that I felt like if we didn’t do it, we might never do anything ever again.

It was crazy. We got robbed. We tried to save an injured swallow. We petted warthogs and one of the kids ran into a plexiglass shield protecting the sarcophagus of Mary Magdalene. We swam in the Mediterranean, studied Cezanne’s Mont Sainte Victiore. And we ate. We ate and ate and ate.

I didn’t write while there. In fact I couldn’t. My laptop had been stolen. And so instead, I jotted. I filled up with a deep longing for the place, for this time in my family’s life, for these moments – from one to the next – and I came home and wrote THE PROVENCE CURE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED out of all of that longing.

No, this novel had to be set in this little village, nowhere else.

JJ: How did you research the foodie aspect of this novel? Books and google? or did you have to experience real Provencal cooking to be able to write about it?

BA: Oh, and here’s the eating part! While we holed up in this tiny ancient house, my parents stayed in a Bed and Breakfast where you could also join for dinner. We joined. A lot. This house, set against the background of this enormous beautiful mountain, surrounded by vineyards and a Gallo-Roman archeological dig became crucial to the novel – as well as the food we ate there.

My main character, Heidi, is a pastry chef who’s living in Florida at the start of the novel. She’s suffered a great loss. The first line of the novel is “Grief is a love story told backwards,” and in telling that story over the course of the novel, she’s brought back to her senses – one of which is taste. In the novel, food is art and family and history and love. In large part, it revives her.

My editor and I actually decided that it was cruel to publish the novel without recipes included in the back. Make sure you check out the Provencal chicken in cream sauce, a recipe that’s been in this one family for generations.

JJ: I know you aren’t an “organic writer,” (someone who writes their way into a book instead of working from an outline), but, for this novel, your process was different. Can you talk a little bit about your process and what you thought the book would be versus what it became?

BA: I knew the first half of the novel, which is set in Tallahassee, Florida, and I knew all of the details that I wanted to use for the second half of the novel which is set in France. But I didn’t know what was going to happen once my characters arrived there, and I had no idea about one of the really big secrets that one of the characters in the novel was holding onto until someone else in the novel spilled it.

It stunned me, and yet it made perfect sense. I went back and traced the little details. It was there all along. Overall, I didn’t know how to connect the experiences – all of my madly jotted notes – with the characters’ emotional growth.

I did know, however, many of the epiphanies that I wanted Heidi to come to. And so, one morning, I wrote down all of the details – the glowing paper lanterns of Bastille Day, the injured swallow’s release, the robbery, certain exquisite meals, the plexiglass incident, the warthogs … — and all of the realizations that I wanted Heidi to have and certain secrets that needed to be revealed (the novel held many secrets that I did know about, in addition to the ones surprised me) on little pieces of paper. I spent the day moving the pieces this way and that – connecting event with emotional realization. And then I tried to arrange them in order of impact so that they would build.

And then I walked away from the little slips of paper altogether, pretending that orchestration hadn’t ever happened. The notes were there, still shuffling around on their own in my head, and I wrote.

The second half of the novel was a real joy to write because I was watching a character come back to herself. For all my fiddling, it felt completely organic and natural. Things found their own way into the novel and out. I trusted my main character to see me through to the end. And she did.
(And I hope she does the same for you!)

Julianna Baggott is the author of seventeen books, most recently THE PROVENCE CURE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED under her pen name Bridget Asher, as well as THE PRETEND WIFE and MY HUSBAND’S SWEETHEARTS. She’s the bestselling author of GIRL TALK and, as N.E. Bode, THE ANYBODIES TRILOGY for younger readers. Her essays have appeared widely in such publications as The New York Times Modern Love column, Washington Post, NPR.org, and Real Simple. You can visit her on her blog or her website or ask her to be friends with you on facebook.

Psst, Best Beloveds? She will. She is nice like that.

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