Laura Florand’s real life is the stuff romance novels are made of, which is a good thing since her debut novel “Blame It on Paris” was just that – a semiautobiographical accounting of her odyssey into love and marriage. Four marriages to be exact, or rather four weddings, all to the same man. Add two overflowing septic tanks and a French minister who turned to the groom and said, “‘Love is kind.’ So no matter how much your wife deserves a beating from time to time, young Sebastien, you should try to be generous and restrain yourself,” and readers should get the idea Laura’s life journey is anything but ordinary. Oh, and chocolate. Add lots of chocolate. Read the book and you’ll understand.
Her next published appearance was in “Kiss the Bride,” an anthology of three romantic stories. Laura’s contribution – no surprise here – was titled “All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate.” This month “The Chocolate Thief” (see the continuing thread yet?) will be released.
“The Chocolate Thief” is the story of a young American woman at romantic odds with a French chocolatier both for his secrets and her heart. Laura’s wonderful sense of humor and attention to detail shine in this story and combine laughter with heart-pounding romance amidst a Parisian setting. “The Chocolate Thief” is romance at its finest, bordering on modern day fairytale, and a story readers will enjoy again and again.
We could end this here, but that wouldn’t touch the other passion in Laura’s life (besides her husband) – education.
As a Fulbright scholar, this Georgia native studied Polynesian culture in Tahiti. Her interest in varying lifestyles has carried her around the world, which is how she met her future husband in France. With a Master’s in French, she now teaches the language, but isn’t content to adhere to standard expectations and those limitations. Her work now includes the introduction of Francophone films to submerge students in the beauty and intricacy of language, the elegance of speech and tone, not just the means to impress friends over dinner.
That’s what truly caught my attention about this author. She is in love with life and sees beauty beyond the obvious, opting to share her joy in the classroom, and with us all via her books. I believe we will be blessed with many more wonderful stories from Laura Florand.
Q) On ratemyprofessors.com (a web site where students anonymously rate educators), students have repeatedly praised your work in the classroom. How does it feel knowing you have left such an indelible mark in their education?
A) I think they are sweethearts to say that. I have had many far more wonderful professors than I could possibly be. Mostly I just try to do as well by my students as I expect them to do by me and by the class, and I've been very lucky in regards to how much of themselves my students bring to the classroom. The energy, the enthusiasm, the interest in life and the world...it’s so much fun to work with them. Plus, I love travel and truly passionately believe that languages can expand your whole world into something wonderful--that's been my own experience in life--and so I try to pass this on. It’s my little way of saying, Have a wonderful life.
Q) While this question may seem hypothetical now, a number of authors have hit this crossroad. If forced to make the choice, teaching or writing?
A) I can't imagine being forced to make the choice. They're two careers that nourish each other very well, and my university is entirely supportive. I've written every day most of my life, since I was nine years old, but I also put a lot into my teaching, and find that there's something that really energizes me in teaching. While I love the introspection of writing, teaching brings out the extrovert in me. I get to directly engage with smart, curious people on a daily basis and encourage them to argue with me, which is one of my favorite things to do. Of course, I do make them argue in a foreign language, so that I have a hope of winning.
Seriously, I don't think I, voluntarily, would choose between teaching and writing; they're both essential to me in different ways, and I think the combination of them helps to bring out the best of me and to keep me balanced.
Q) You really do love chocolate and frequently send confectionary gifts as well as receiving them from readers. You aren’t heavy. I hate you. How do you not add the pounds?
A) Ha, ha. It’s kind of you to say that, as I try in vain to squeeze myself into last year’s jeans. Mostly, I picture my skinny French mother-in-law shaking her head in concern whenever I think about getting a snack. But—and I’m being perfectly serious here!—I really think dark chocolate is an important part of any healthy diet. Patrick Roger, one of the top chocolatiers in the world, has stated that he eats at least 100 of his chocolates a day, and he's as skinny as can be. Granted, he probably burns through about five thousand calories a day, as intensely physical as the profession is, so I just divide by five and content myself with 20 or so.
Q) How much consulting did you do with your husband for “Blame It on Paris,” or did you ‘surprise’ him with his novel appearance?
He read it well ahead of time, starting with early versions. In fact, he would say, "Don't forget about this!" There are a lot of good memories for us in that book. It was a fun, crazy time.
Q) How many more stories can we count on facilitating your enjoyment of chocolate?
A) I like the way you phrase that. I alway say I'm writing these just so I can do the research. There are four loosely connected books scheduled, starting with "The Chocolate Thief" July 31, continuing with "The Chocolate Kiss" in December, and then two more out next year. Plus the novella "All's Fair in Love and Chocolate" that came out in "Kiss the Bride" in May. After that, I have a trilogy that--gasp!--is not about chocolate that I would like to do, but I also have at least 2 more characters from the chocolatier series that are just begging for their own books, so at this rate, the end of chocolate might never be in sight. (My sigh of relief here.) Every time I step into a workshop or kitchen to do research for one book, I get more ideas for future books. It's quite a fascinating world, the world of top Parisian chocolatiers-pâtissiers. And of course, I also love the interplay between French and American cultures that comes with this kind of story.
Q) Any parting comments those who haven’t read your work yet?
A) I have some recommendations for top chocolatiers on my website, just in case you get hungry!
DA Kentner is an author and journalist. www.kevad.net