When I started indie publishing, I never really expected I'd be able to do a book signing, honestly. All I wanted was to earn enough to write full-time (I achieved that in a year and a half, thanks to the success of The Ugly Stepsister). But then I got an agent and she managed to sell The Ugly Stepsister to a French publisher, MxM Bookmark, and to my surprise, they invited me to the Salon Livre (a national book fair) in Paris!
So, after doing lots of research (the Paris metro map is a labyrinth!) and convincing a friend who speaks French to come with me, I booked my flight for March 16~21.
I was lucky to board the Hello Kitty themed plane of Eva Airlines! It was some time since I took a long-distance flight and wow, things have upgraded ever since! Movies, music, and even the lights are all controlled by the touchscreen. Here's a picture of the on-flight meal; the delicious croissant seemed to foreshadow what to expect:
My excitement upon landing was immediately cut down by a strong blast of wind and heavy rain when we arrived in the city. It was FREEZING. People in Paris told me that I had picked a great time to come – it wasn't normal for Paris to be this cold in March! On the first day, we had rain (my shoes were soaked in an hour), snow (that fell fast and thick), and worst of all – strong winds that chilled to the bone. While I had experienced extremely cold weather in America before (like minus 20°C in winter), it makes a difference when you are a tourist and can't stay indoors with the heater on most of the day. I remember when visiting the Eiffel Tower, my hands were FROZEN but I had to use my cell phone to take pictures, so I kept switching my phone from one hand to the other, while keeping the free hand in my pocket.
Here is a picture of the snow covered scenery outside our cozy little Airbnb apartment. My friend, who had never seen snow in her whole life, was ecstatic; she was up before 6 AM, taking pictures, while I couldn't budge from my bed haha.
The book fair certainly is a prominent event! Here I am, posing in front of the poster in the subway, and another one in front of the arena, located in the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles
As an independent author who has only seen her POD-produced paperbacks on her own bookshelf at home, I was SO excited to see my books on public display. Because of the overnight flight I was super exhausted, but seeing my books energized me : )
Honored that they put up a large poster featuring my books in the booth! I signed for at least an hour for two days. Let me tell you--it was WONDERFUL to meet my readers in person. Some of them even brought a friend who was proficient in English, so we could communicate. It's amazing that despite the different cultural upbringing, my books have connected with these readers abroad.
But of course, I had to do some sightseeing as well – got to make the most of the trip! Here's me visiting the magnificent Palais Garnier, which was built in the nineteenth century. It's amazing how they preserved historic buildings in Europe; the opera house is still running ballet and opera performances. Imagine attending a show like the European aristocracy did a hundred years ago! Pity that due to time limits, I wasn't able to attend a show here, but I did see some actors and the orchestra rehearsing in the theater room. A random anecdote: I had difficulty unlocking the (antiquated) bathroom stall and almost thought I had to yell for help. Luckily I managed to open the door after at least a dozen tries :）
Below is me posing in front of a painting at the Musée d'Orsay. There are more famous ones of course, but those are obstructed by crowds. I was in a pretty good mood this day because the sun was finally out. In Taiwan I usually avoid the sun like it's toxic (it really is, especially in the summer), but in Paris I was craving for the sun. And a blue sky makes better pictures : )
Left: The Sacré-Cœur Basilica, where you can get a gorgeous view of the city.
Right: the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. When my friend and I approached it from a distance, both of us sucked in a breath of awe, it was that magnificent. And this is coming from someone who has seen plenty of cathedrals in Italy and Spain.
And here is one of the best, but also coldest time of the trip. We took a one-hour boat tour of the Seine, and despite the wind at night nipping our hands, it was absolutely worth it. Everyone was gasping when the Eiffel Tower started to sparkle and glitter when we passed.
But really, just walking in the streets of Paris and soaking up the historic atmosphere is just as mesmerizing as visiting the touristy spots.
Here are some final thoughts about the five-day trip in Paris:
1. You don't need a gym when there is the Paris subway. Because it's such an old subway system, you'll find yourself walking up and down numerous stairs so much, that it might as well be easier to walk it is only one stop.
2. The food in Paris really lives up to the reputation, even in touristy places. Everything tasted delicious, except for a cup of instant noodles my friend got. Which can be forgiven because ramen isn't French, haha. I ate at least a croissant a day. That being said, when it came to supermarkets, Marks & Spencer from Britain beats the local Monoprix and Franprix hands down (to be fair, M&S is more expensive.) I wish I had more room in my luggage to carry the apple cinnamon granola with yogurt pieces from M&S.
3.Parisians have a reputation of being unfriendly, but this time I honestly felt they were more welcoming and willing to speak English than when I visited ten years ago. The staff at the museums were super nice and smiling, some even joked with me.
4. Souvenirs in Paris actually don't look tacky. The pictures and patterns are so cute that I bought a few magnets and keychains, even though I vowed NOT to get anything apart from food, because souvenirs tend to gather dust on the shelves or left forgotten in the drawers.
5. Despite the warnings, I felt very safe when traveling in Paris. It may also helped that I stayed at a very safe area (the 15th arrondissement) and there were police everywhere at the tourist spots. I even had to get my bag checked at a Nespresso store!
Finally, as lovely as it was to visit the city, the BEST thing of all was meeting the readers. The landmarks are impressive, the croissants & hot chocolate divine, the streets full of atmosphere, but nothing beats seeing your books lined up on the shelves and listening to readers saying what they loved about your books.
This is the best thing about being a writer. There are benefits like flexible work hours, not having to answer to a boss, but really, it's most rewarding when you write a story that entertains yourself, and knowing that the characters and world you created has resonated with readers around the world.