Ann Mah returns with JACQUELINE IN PARIS

Today I’m sharing a special request from Writer Unboxed:

Tuesday is a special day in the world of traditional publishing, because it’s the day that a whole lot of books are released into the world for the first time. These books represent a mammoth effort for those authors, as we who write story understand, as well as the publishing house that releases that book. Every book has an ideal plan — a unique collaboration involving the author, the publicist and marketing team, and important peripheral groups, from stores to clubs, that sign on early as a book’s champion.

But ideals rarely go off without a hitch, because reality brings chaos and chaos can be catastrophic. Especially when the author herself can no longer participate in a book’s release.

Such is the case this month–today–with longtime friend, supporter, and guest of Writer Unboxed, author Ann Mah.

Ann’s story in her husband’s words:

My wife, Ann Mah, always fights hard against what writers call dull thud day — that day when their new books hit stores and sites with little fanfare, an anticlimax. She pushes for her own books, of course, but also for books by authors like her who must do so much on their own to promote their work. Ann’s new novel, “Jacqueline in Paris,” comes out September 27. Because of a serious sudden illness, she can’t make the case for it, not online or in person. It is a great book. I would be deeply grateful if you faithful unboxed writers could help me spread the word.

“Jacqueline in Paris” tells the story of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis’ junior year abroad in Paris in 1949-50 — a year she described as the happiest in her life. Ann immerses us in Jackie’s feelings and thinking as she encounters France’s postwar awakenings and reckonings. Her experiences unfold against the backdrop of Paris, which Ann depicts vividly and from the viewpoint of an attuned resident — the scents of fir trees and coal smoke on the street before Christmas; the dusty Roman amphitheater tucked behind a bus stop. Ann also captures the intellectual and geopolitical ferment that made life in Paris and other European capitals so intense in the immediate postwar period.

The book grew from a travel story Ann wrote for The New York Times about Jackie’s time in Paris as a student — but she knew there was more to explore. Ann researched the novel with the energy and rigor of a historian, going horseback riding in the Bois de Boulogne as Jackie did, enjoying tea with Jackie’s 90-something host sister, visiting Dachau as Jackie did. The result is a book that is as transporting as it is absorbing.  

Writing “Jacqueline in Paris” struck a personal chord for Ann. Like Jackie, Ann took chances and moved far from home at a young age (in Ann’s case, to Boston and then New York from Orange County, California), defying family expectations. Like Jackie, Ann felt her time living in Paris transformed her, made her bolder and more confident. The sexism Jackie faced resonates even 70-plus years later and animates Ann’s (and my own) efforts to make a positive difference in our work. Ann also wound up marrying a public servant (me), although our style is more home-a-lot than Camelot.

Ann loathes self-promotion, like so many writers I’ve met during my lifetime, so I am unsure how successful she would be getting the word out about “Jacqueline in Paris.” My hope is that the quality and integrity of this work will generate the high level of interest it merits. But I love Ann too much to leave it to chance. I hope you will help me defeat the dull thud and create a shooting star instead.   

– Chris Klein, Ann Mah’s husband 

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