My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley
Author: Linda Kovic-Skow
Narrator: Lucy Floyd
Length: 8 hours 57 minutes
Series: French Illusions, Book 1
Publisher: Dreamland Press, LLC
Released: Oct. 26, 2016
French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley is the first of two books based on my diaries from 1979 and 1980. Twenty-one-year-old Linda Kovic needs to learn a language fast in order to fulfill her dream of becoming a flight attendant, so she contracts to become an au pair for a wealthy family in the Loire Valley. In order to secure the nanny position, she lies on her application and pretends to speak French, confident she’ll be forgiven once she arrives at her destination. This book captures Linda’s real-life story inside and outside the Chateau de Montclair, detailing her challenges and triumphs as she tries to adjust to her new life with the hard-to-please Madame Dubois, her husband, and their two incomprehensible children. When Linda attends language classes at a local university, she encounters, Adam, a handsome young student, and her life with the family becomes more complicated, adding fuel to her internal battle for independence. Join Linda on her adventure of discovery and romance in an extraordinary part of the world.
Originally from Seattle, Linda Kovic-Skow currently resides in Saint Petersburg, Florida. She has been married for 35 years and has two daughters and two grandsons. An enthusiastic traveler, Linda also enjoys hiking, boating, gardening and socializing with friends. “French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley,” was her debut memoir. The sequel, “French Illusions: From Tours to Paris,” recounts the rest of her adventure in France.
Q&A with Author Linda Kovic-Skow
- Can you give us a short description of your memoir, French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley?
- An impulsive young American pretends to speak French to acquire an au pair job in the Loire Valley and her unforgiving employer’s demands escalate to the breaking point when she attends classes and discovers romance in a nearby town.
- Can you tell us about some of the difficulties you experienced writing your memoir?
- I have to admit writing my memoir was more complex than I initially imagined it would be. My diary offered a great outline, but I realized early on that I would have to change the names of people and places in my story to protect identities. This was especially true with regard to my host au pair family. Acquiring permission from them was out of the question. If you read my book or listen to my audiobook, you’ll understand. Other decisions haunted me along the way. How would I deal with the French sprinkled throughout the book? Should I translate the French along the way? Oh, and I really struggled with how much detail to include in my own love scenes. Wiping the sweat off my brow, I wrote and then rewrote these parts until I could read them aloud without squirming in my seat.
- Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
- My memoir is based on my diaries from 1979, when I was twenty-one-years-old, and I knew that I could not narrate my own audiobook. I needed a younger voice. I also needed someone who could speak French fluently and mimic French accents. Quite a challenge, I’ll admit. ACX was the perfect marketplace to connect with narrators who could fulfill my requirements. After placing my project up at ACX, several women swooped in and asked for auditions. One of the women sounded like a Disney Princess and another one could speak French, but the accent was off. When I heard Lucy Floyd’s audition (The Voice Maven), with her perfect French and authentic accent, I knew I had found my narrator.
- Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format?
- Yes, I believe books filled with compelling dialog and action scenes will make the best audiobooks. When I wrote my memoir, I avoided long, drawn-out descriptions of scenes and feelings. I wanted my audience to get to know the characters in my book through conversations and interactions. I also tried to compliment the dialog with cues, such as “eyes widening” or “stomach clenching,” so that the audience understood the emotional state of the characters without me stating the obvious.
- How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process?
- Lucy Floyd and I spoke often during the recording process. Especially in the beginning. She sent me her recordings and I would critique her performance, pointing out areas for improvement, such as asking her to speed up or slow down the recording. She was so intuitive, so easy to work with. She retained her French accent even with the male voices in my book! The only accent she had trouble with, was my mother’s Croation accent. I sent Lucy some video of my mother and this helped her master this accent as well.
- What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
- Hire a professional editor. I mean it. You can’t edit your own book. You won’t see the mistakes because you are too close to the writing. It will cost you a few hundred dollars for a line editor, a bit more if you need some in-depth editing, but it’s the best money you will ever spend. I cringe every time I read a negative review where the main complaint is formatting, spelling or punctuation. You want readers to judge you solely on the content of your story.
- Do you have a favorite chapter in French Illusions?
- Yes! My memoir is divided into four distinct parts – The Dubois Family, Venturing Out of Songais, Romance and Escape. My favorite chapters to write came in the last part of my memoir. Throughout most of my story, circumstances required me to internalize my discontent and unhappiness with my life at the chateau. Within these last chapters in my book, I finally had the opportunity to expose my true feelings in vivid scenes filled with passion and drama. It was a thrilling, rewarding experience.
- If you were to describe yourself as a particular fruit or vegetable, what would it be?
- I think I would be a Kiwi fruit. Not an everyday fruit, a little exotic, both sweet and tart.
- I understand there’s a sequel: French Illusions: From Tours to Paris.
- Yes, my coming-of-age adventure in France broke into two distinct parts. The first book, as I’ve discussed, is about my time as an au pair in the Loire Valley. The second book, also based on my diaries from 1979 and 1980, recounts the rest of my story after I left the Château de Montclair. This second book is more personal and a bit more gritty. Oh… the things we do for love.
- Does your book have a hidden message for readers?
- The most important thing I hope people take away from my French Illusions Series, is to take some risks in life even though there may be consequences. My experience when I was twenty-one shaped me into the person I am today. I learned some hard lessons about love, life and the importance of honesty. It’s not too late to create your own memories, so go out and explore the world. Life’s for living, after all.
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