Memoirs - A Complex Genre
By Linda Kovic-Skow
I have to admit writing French Illusions was a lot more complex than I initially imagined it would be. My diary offered a great outline, but I realized early on that I would have to change the names of people and places in my story to protect identities. This was especially true with regards to my host au pair family. Acquiring permission from them was out of the question. Totally out of the question. I mean it. Read my book and you'll understand. Additionally, over thirty years had passed since I spoke with anyone I'd met in France. I no longer had any contact information for them.
With this in mind, I researched common French names that might fit my characters. I tried them out and retained the ones that were a good match. A handful required more effort. Choosing a name for my main love interest, Adam, was difficult because it had to be plausible in both Morocco and France. Songais, the name I chose for the town had to sound French, but it couldn’t mimic any others in the region. My biggest challenge, was finding a name for the family's chateau in France. I knew this term would be repeated over and over again and it had to be perfect. In my hometown of Kirkland, there is an old apartment building called "Mont Clare" just off of State Street. I never thought about it much until one day, during a walk with the dog, I glanced at the building, and it clicked. That's it, I thought. I'll call it the Chateau de Mont Clare. I loved the way this name 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.
Other decisions haunted me during the writing process. From the beginning, I struggled with how much French to incorporate into the story and whether or not to include translations. My editors gave me guidance here. We decided to keep most of the French and bring in translations only when it was absolutely necessary to the story line. Another challenge was finding data from 1979 on the Loire Valley, the Loire River and the town of Tours. It took hundreds of internet searches and numerous travel books to supply this information. The most challenging dilemma of all 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.
As you can see, writing French Illusions was challenging on many levels. It took three years and incalculable hours to complete my memoir, but I'm pleased with the result. I hope my readers agree.
French Illusions, her debut memoir, is the culmination of a three-year project.
You can visit her website at www.lindakovicskow.com.