Author Spotlight no.96 – Thirza Vallois

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the ninety-sixth, is of travel writer Thirza Vallois.

Thirza Vallois is an expert on all things Parisian and lectures worldwide on Paris and France. She has lived in Paris most of her life and holds several post-graduate degrees from the Sorbonne, including the most prestigious agrégation. She is the author of the internationally acclaimed Around and About Paris series, Romantic Paris Aveyron, and A Bridge to French Arcadia, as well as the Paris entry of the Encarta Encyclopaedia. Thirza Vallois has appeared on PBS, BBC, the Travel Channel, the French Cultural Channel, Discovery and CNN, has spoken on radio in the UK, the US and France, and has worked as a consultant for the BBC. She contributes stories regularly to the international press.  Her award-winning Three Perfect Days in Paris story was published in United Airlines’ Hemispheres and aired on their international flights. (Photo of Thirza by Theodore D Robinson)

And now from the author herself:

I never planned to become a writer.  I did write a lot as child, even a play, aged 10, that was put up at school.   But then, children are naturally creative and often do wonders that later peter out. Besides, I have no idea if my play had any merit other than the fact that our teacher chose to present it to the public.

On my first trip to the US (decades ago), I had the luxury of the entire summer and got to the most remote places. At a time when not many people were travelling overseas, I shared what was then an exceptionally adventurous experience   in long-drawn letters (people weren’t text messaging or emailing either in those days). Although I recall in particular being awed by the American West, I must have been inspired by Chicago too, judging by my sister’s response to my 8-page long letter devoted to that city — “Oh, you’re a born travel writer!” I forgot all about her comment until my first book was warmly welcomed by reviewers, which brought it back to my mind.

I think it is the need to share with others things I care about that prompts me to write: there is something therapeutic about writing. But I also love the pure beauty of a language, words and grammar, the melody of a phrase. I love hearing Shakespeare spoken out, crafting a sentence, painting with words.

It turned out to be Paris, because that’s where life had placed me. Under different circumstances, I might have written different books.  Unlike many expat wannabe writers, who are drawn to a Paris embellished by myths, I experienced everyday Paris, which was not necessarily all hunky dory.  I was fascinated by the gap between the mystique surrounding Paris and the reality, by the overwhelming contradictions of the French, and my own contradictory feelings towards them, a mix of exasperation and attraction.  I felt the urge to explore every bit of them in order to plunge into their psyche. I also sensed that I had the needed “eye” and “flair”, combined with a wide knowledge of history, literature and art that would lead me into every bit of Paris, put two and two together, and ultimately reveal it to my readers.

I worked like an archeologist, patiently uncovering the layers of history lying under the city’s cobblestones, before putting together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, or weaving the threads of the story into the fabric if you like. Shuttling back and forth between past and present, I sought to bring alive all this past and place it on the stage of contemporary Paris, a task that took me fifteen solid years to more or less complete (you never do). I spent seven of them also looking for an introductory quote. Thank goodness, Victor Hugo, came to my rescue with the following comment: “He who looks into the depths of Paris grows dizzy.” This is how I feel every time I look back on those fifteen years.

You can find more about Thirza and her writing via her website:, on Google and the other search engines, by typing her name, on (which is her first seller outside France), on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Merci, Thirza! 🙂

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with fantasy short story and children’s author, and memoirist Mollie Carson-Vollath – the four hundred and seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

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