Checking in with Dee Ernst...plus a book giveaway
Dee Ernst was born and raised in New Jersey, which may explain her attitude toward life. She moved around a bit, had a husband or two, a daughter or two, and settled back in New Jersey where she writes women's fiction, romance, and cozy mysteries. And a bit of YA and SFF.
She has self-published under the 235 Alexander Street imprint. She has been published by Montlake, Lake Union, and in 2021, released Maggie Finds Her Muse with St. Martin's Griffin.
Lucia Giannetti needs a fresh start. Once the hotel manager of a glamorous NYC hotel and intimately involved with the hotel’s owner, Lucy had her entire future planned out. But when the owner disappears, taking millions of dollars with him, Lucy's life as she knows it falls apart.
Two years later, forty-nine years old and unemployed, Lucy takes a job in Rennes, France to manage the Hotel Paradis. She pictures fur quilts and extravagant chandeliers, but what she finds is wildly different. Lucy is now in charge of turning the run-down, but charming hotel into a bustling tourist attraction.
How I went to France and wrote my heart out
Five years ago, my oldest daughter decided to move to France. Rennes, in Brittany, to be precise. She wanted to study at the University there and decided, on a previous visit, that Rennes was ‘her place.’ She worked, sold everything she owned, got the money she needed and, with literally all her possessions in a backpack and two suitcases, flew to Paris, then took a train to Rennes to start her new life.
As her mother, of course I had to go with her. After all, she needed somebody to claim that extra suitcase of belongings, right? And help her move into her new place?? And to see Paris???
We had an amazing time playing tourists; we stayed in fabulous apartments through VRBO, ate incredible food and saw all the sights. I was smitten. I thought that maybe France could be my place too. I returned to New Jersey desperate to write about what I had seen, heard, ate and drank.
I was fascinated with the country and its people. For one thing, everything there is so old. Yes, I know that we’re a younger country, and we don’t have buildings dating back to the 1300’s. But it’s not just the age of the buildings. Those buildings are not torn down and replaced with something new. Tommy Hilfiger shops are in 16th century storefronts. Cobblestone streets remain smooth and well-used. Timber framed houses lean and no one thinks to tear them down.
Are there cultural differences? You bet. You bag your own groceries, for example, in your own bags. No tipping. When you enter a shop, you’re expected to say hello. People in cafes talk to each other, not their phones. I wanted to write about all of it. In a casual conversation with my accountant – probably over wine (yes, she’s a friend) – she told me that if I wrote a book that took place in Paris, I could deduct the cost of the whole trip as research.
So, I wrote Maggie Finds Her Muse, about a romance writer who’s on deadline, is totally blocked, and goes to Paris for inspiration. And why not? After all, I’d been inspired. The book sold to St. Martin’s Press and came out in 2021 and readers loved the descriptions of the city, the people, and the food. Everything I had found so interesting about France went into Maggie Finds Her Muse and helped bring the story and country to life.
When I went back two years later — another research trip — I took notes. And pictures. My daughter, still living in Rennes, had just gotten married to a French musician, so we saw life through the eyes of a native, not a tourist, and what a difference! Then I went home to write my newest book, Lucy Checks In.
Lucy Checks In takes place mostly in Rennes, because it is such a beautiful city. Walking down its streets, you can easily imagine what life was like hundreds of years ago. I wanted my character, Lucy, to find a new life for herself in an unexpected place. I wanted a fish-out-of-water story, and I really wanted her to be in charge of a hotel that people would want to visit in real life. The Hotel Paradis is not real, but if it was, it could easily be in Rennes.
I can’t wait to go back to France. This time, I want to go to Avignon. And Lyon. And…well, anywhere would suit me just fine. And will I write another book? You bet. After all, why waste all that research!
Thanks to Dee for visiting with us and for sharing her book with our readers.