Local UNE academic and prolific professional author Sophie Masson will launch her latest book at Café Patisserie in Armidale this Saturday 11 November. Her latest adult novel, written under the pen name Sophie Beaumont, is entitled The Paris Cooking School.
The book, which is already available for purchase nationally, is described by publishers Ultimo Press as “A delectable novel about love, hope and the consolations of the perfect strawberry tart, The Paris Cooking School is a treat for the soul.”
When asked what the main inspiration for her new novel is, Dr Masson says, “My French heritage played a very important part. I grew up between two countries, France and Australia, and two languages, French and English, and I’m still fully bilingual and frequently go to France.”
“Straddling two worlds is absolutely my experience, and that of my family. Because of my background and experiences, I was able to write The Paris Cooking School in a way that is both authentic to the French setting and culture yet not so ‘insider’ that it is baffling or intimidating to non-French readers.”
“Because I know and understand Australia too, I’m able to present my Australian characters in an authentic way as well. It’s the perfect vantage point if you want to write a novel like this one and I’m lucky to have it.”
She also says that French food culture provided another major inspiration for The Paris Cooking School.
“I grew up with French home cooking and I still very much cook like this at home now… French food is central to their culture in a very natural way. I loved creating the kind of lessons that Sylvie the owner of the Paris cooking School in the book, might have given her students, to immerse them in that French food culture,” says Dr Masson.
Her personal experiences of France and Paris as a destination also play strongly in the novel with Dr Masson already including a list of locations that feature in the book on her blog.
“I was last in Paris in April 2022 so quite a bit of the springtime details in the book are from then–it was an absolutely glorious spring that year, soft air, flowers everywhere, utterly magical,’ she says.
Dr Masson’s writing work to date has spanned across a broad range of genres. When asked if she has a favourite she says it is too hard to pick.
“I love being able to skip around genres and not being locked into one. I also love writing across reader age ranges: from picture books for the very young, right on to middle-grade and teen novels, and on to adult novels. Being able to be flexible and write across those ages and genres keeps my writing fresh.”
This ability to write across genres is also why Dr Masson sometimes chooses to write under a pen name, as she has done with The Paris Cooking School.
“For me it’s about distinguishing books from the body of your work. With this one, the decision was that it was better to use a pen name to make sure it was firmly categorised as adult fiction and booksellers and librarians would not confuse it with my children’s books,” she says.
Dr Masson has also written young adult romance thrillers under the name of Isabelle Merlin, and middle grade/young adult romance comedies under the name Jenna Austen.
The opportunity to launch a book in her hometown always has a special appeal, and Dr Masson is keenly looking forward to the event at Café Patisserie this weekend.
“Book lovers are the same everywhere! But it is extra nice when the launch is in your hometown,” she says.
When asked if she has any advice for aspiring authors she says, “Keep writing–and reading! It’s really important to read widely and regularly–that’s how you build up a storehouse of treasures in your head, how you get to understand at a deep level how stories function. Plus it’s fun!”
“The other important bit of advice is–don’t take rejection (of your work, I mean) personally. And don’t give up because of it. I can’t tell you how many rejections I had before one day an editor wrote to me and said, ‘Hey, we really like what you sent us..’”
Not one to stop working at the things she loves, Dr Masson is already hard at work on what she describes as “a companion volume” to The Paris Cooking School, as well as a middle grade historical novel about bushranger Ben Hall and a couple of children’s picture books.
The Paris Cooking School book launch will commence at 2pm this Saturday 11 November at Café Patisserie. Entry is free and includes refreshments and French-style finger food. To attend please RSVP to Reader’s Companion Bookshop Armidale by the 9th of November by calling 02 6771 2544 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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