Jessica Anya Blau was one of the first authors I connected with when I began this blog in 2013. She became an early supporter and has remained one of my champions. I met her on the book tour for her last book, The Trouble with Lexie, two summers ago, and she is just as energetic, fun, and charming as some of her characters. When she asked if she could interview her friend Jane Delury for a guest post, I suspected it would be a quintessential JAB conversation, and I was right. So, think of this not so much as an objective journalism-style interview but as two good friends having dinner and conversation. A votre sante!
Jane Delury’s first book, The Balcony, has entered the world to rave reviews. People Magazine picked it as one of their books of the week, and The New York Times called it a “shimmering debut.” Tonight, I’m sitting with Jane eating dinner and celebrating her birthday. She’s une femme d’un certain age and fine with that!
Jane, what an incredible year you’re having. Your book is getting great reviews, you’re engaged to be married, and hey, it’s your birthday! What do you have to have to say about all this good stuff coming your way?
I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so grateful or lucky in my (increasingly long) life. The day that Jean Garnett from Little, Brown called me about wanting to acquire the book, my daughter went out searching for a four-leaf clover in the grass, and she found one. The luck has held. [Jane knocks on the table.] I’m in the category of anxious people who have a hard time saying that life is going well, as this might instantly cause a lightning bolt to crash out of the sky. Still, after a few tough years, this has been a good one. I’m trying to enjoy that and not obsess about Goodreads or how bad I look in photos or whether I’m answering a question well. Am I?
I put that tablecloth out for you because it’s from France and your book takes place in France. Does it look like a tablecloth that might exist in the manor house in which all the dramas play out in your book?
The book covers many generations and different families that pass through the manor house, including a modern day au pair and a family during the Second World War. I think the modern day family would use this tablecloth, but in the kitchen, not in the dining room. By the way, this ice cream is amazing! [Jane switches to French and starts speaking to my husband, who doesn’t understand a word she’s saying. “Mon Dieu, David, c’est superbe les fraises et la glace!”]
I loved all the characters in the book, even the sneaky woman who loots the house during the war. Everyone you write is so clear to me, their flaws, their good points, their humanity, and their failures of humanity. Do you feel close to them? Do you feel that they’re versions of you?
I feel close to all of the characters, yes, even the difficult ones with whom I would never want to go on vacation. And I’m sure that they are all versions of me, even if I don’t realize it, or at least versions of parts of me or parts of me I wish I had. For instance, the character Hélène is such a sourpuss, but I love how she says what she thinks and doesn’t worry about the impression she makes. Although this doesn’t make her a very nice person, it does make her honest in a way I’d like to try out some time. Maybe after a few more birthdays…
Who’s your favorite character in your book?
I like all of them for different reasons. Hélène is definitely up there. I feel a lot of affection for Brigitte, who narrates the first chapter, because, like me, she’s an insider/outsider in France and is divorced from her children’s father. Her life struggles feel closer to mine than the struggles of, say, Jacques, Helene’s husband, who is trying to shake off the legacy of his domineering father, or Adèle, their thirteen-year-old granddaughter who is trying to fend off the advances of a child molester. But I feel close to all of the characters whose points-of-view I’ve tried on in the book, probably because—as you suggested—they reflect something about me that allows me to understand them.
You’ve been traveling, doing readings. Anything you want people to know before they rush out and read this book?
Yes. They should try cinnamon and strawberries on chocolate ice cream. Your husband is on to something.
Jane Delury grew up in Sacramento, California, and attended UC Santa Cruz. She spent her junior year abroad in Grenoble, France, and she returned to the University of Grenoble after UCSC to complete a master’s degree and to teach English. Following several years in France, she moved to Baltimore to study fiction in the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. Her short stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, The Southern Review, The Yale Review, Five Points, Narrative, and other publications. She has received a PEN/O. Henry Prize, a Pushcart Special Mention, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Story Award, a VCCA fellowship, and grants from the Maryland State Arts Council. She holds a BA in English and French literature from UCSC, a maîtrise from the University of Grenoble, and an MA from the Writing Seminars. She is an associate professor of creative writing and English at the University of Baltimore.
Jessica Anya Blau was born in Boston and raised in Southern California. Her four novels have been optioned for film and television and have been featured on The Today Show, CNN and NPR, and in Cosmo, Vanity Fair, Bust, Time Out, and other national publications. Jessica’s short stories and essays have been published in numerous magazines, journals, and anthologies. Her latest novel, The Trouble with Lexie,is currently on sale for the Fourth of July holiday. Go to www.jessicaanyablau.com or here: https://www.amazon.com/Trouble-Lexie-Jessica-Anya-Blau-ebook/dp/B015CYCILM/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1530639476&sr=8-1&keywords=the+trouble+with+lexie.