Paris calling – Leah Marie Brown

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By Leah Marie Brown

Artists flock to Paris like polyester-clad octogenarians to all-you-can-eat smorgasbords. They arrive starving for creative stimulation. They arrive in search of what Puccini called, La Vie de Boheme, The Bohemian Life. A gypsy-like existence fueled by the relentless need for soul-stirring, consciousness-arousing experiences. It might be a mezzo-soprano singing a Mozart aria in the Bastille Opera Metro station, her flawless voice echoing through the corridors, a chance encounter with a kindred spirit in a smoke-filled cafe, or a moonlight stroll along the mercury bathed Seine.

The list of creative types who have dragged their withering carcasses to Paris for edification reads like a fabulous dinner party guest list. Pablo Picasso. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Oscar Wilde. Henry James. Mary Cassatt. John Singer Sargent. James Whistler. James Joyce. Amadeo Modigliani. Ernest Hemingway.

Fresh from World War I’s killing fields, tall, handsome, hungry to make his mark in the world Hemingway arrived in Paris with a new bride and a belief that “the most interesting people in the world lived” in France’s capital. Hemingway arrived in search of La Vie de Boheme.

Did he find it?

The answer can be found in A Moveable Feast, his delicious ode to Paris. Sketches from his life in 1920s Paris include a rainy road trip with his booze-fueled bro, F. Scott Fitzgerald, dining on crusty bread and cheap wine with his new wife, Hadley, and borrowing books from Sylvia Beach’s library cum bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. His period in Paris was his most prolific, personally and professionally. He forged lifelong friendships, wrote dozens of political and lifestyle articles, and soaked in enough of La Vie de Bohème to inspire several novels.

Hemingway wrote, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

Knowing all of this, it seemed only fitting to send Laney, the creatively-starved, bohemian heroine of Owning It, my fourth It Girls novel, to Paris.

Delaney Lavender Brooks needs to grow up. At least, according to her parents. After getting evicted from her apartment and wrecking her car, Laney is almost ready to trade in her paintbrushes and surrender to a more sensible 9-to-5 existence. Almost. Until she’s awarded an internship at a prestigious art gallery in Paris. What else can the free-spirited artist do but follow her dreams? Once in the city of lights, Laney is almost undone by the glaring truth: maybe she isn’t sophisticated or talented enough to make it as an artist—or an independent woman, for that matter.

Fortunately, Laney, like so many artists before her, finds the sustenance her creative soul craves in Paris’ gardens and galleries. With the help of a colorful cast of BoBos (Parisian slang for Bourgeois-Bohemians) and a super seductive Frenchman, Laney finds the courage to live the life—and love—of her dreams…

Laney’s tale is meant to immerse the reader in her life. Each chapter starts out with an amuse-bouche, a bite-sized hors d’oeuvre meant to tantalize. Since Laney is also a musician, each chapter starts with her Playlist, a carefully cultivated selection of songs that capture her state-of-mind and melodically illustrate what is happening in her life at that point in the book. You can savor each amuse-bouche and listen to Laney’s Playlist by visiting Laney’s World.

Owning It is my homage to Ernest Hemingway and A Moveable Feast. It is my humble contribution to the potluck of Parisian-inspired literature. Bon Appétit, treasured reader! I hope you enjoy Laney’s adventure in the City of Lights.

Leah Marie Brown has worked as a journalist and photographer. An avid traveler, she has had adventures and mishaps from Paris to Tokyo. Her new novel, Owning It, is out now.


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