June 15, 2012
Today I’m welcoming David LeRoy to my series of author interviews. David is the author of The Siren of Paris.
A: The Siren of Paris is a story of survival of World War Two, told primarily in the point of view of a young French born, American male who returns to Paris to study art in 1939. World War Two broke out on Sept 1st, 1939. What many do not know is that at that time there were over 30,000 Americans in Paris alone. After Sept 3rd, they would have a terribly tough time getting home, because the Germans sank a British Passenger ship, the RMS Athenia, killing 98 passengers, and 19 crewmen. Nearly all trans Atlantic service stopped after the sinking which trapped many Americans in Europe during the war, including this young student.
Q: Sarah’s Key, I believe is during the same time period. Is Marc Jewish? Is that how he ended up in Buchenwald in the story?
A: Sarah’s Key is during the same time period, but unlike the young girl Sarah, who is Jewish and caught in the round up during 1942, Marc is Catholic. You would think that this would be something of a protection, but that is not the case. Marc ended up in Buchenwald because he was caught up in the arrest of a ring of various Paris underground resistance members in the spring of 1944. The Gestapo and Milice had hired thousands of plain-clothes undercover agents to smoke out the Paris underground, and tragically they were immensely successful. Paris was liberated in the summer of 1944, but at the same time, members of the resistance were being shipped east to concentration camps. The program was called “the fog and the night,” meaning that anyone who resisted the Nazis were sent someplace where they simply disappeared.
Q: How much historical fact is woven into your novel?
A: The Siren of Paris is packed with historical figures and facts of the time period. Better-known figures are Ambassador William Bullitt, Under Secretary Sumner Wells, Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare and Company, and Jacques Lusseyran. There are also lesser-known individuals such as Joan Rodes, know as the Angel of Saint-Nazaire, and Drue Tartiere, another American woman who helped with the underground. The unfortunate victims of the RMS Lancastria sinking on June 17th, 1940 are also within this story. Researching for this book was incredibly challenging. I have books in English, French and even a few in German. One book I have told me district by district in Paris of Nazi collaborative activities, and buildings taken over by the Germans. I tried to incorporate the real events of the time, whenever possible without the text feeling like a history book instead of a dramatic story.
Q: What is the RMS Lancastria? How did Marc get on that ship?
A: The fall of France was a terrifying event. About 10 million people evacuated from the North to the South of France as the German Army swept over the country. Nearly all the roads became clogged with abandoned cars that had run out of petrol, and refugees feeling on foot. Marc became swept up in this hoard of refugees and he boards the ship with a group he was traveling with. He was trying to get back over to England so he could go up to Ireland and catch an American ship home. At the time, American ships would only leave from neutral countries, which made the task of getting home even more difficult. Most of the passengers were from the British Expeditionary Force, but the ship took on civilians along with soldiers. It is estimated the ship took, in all, about 9,000 refugees. Most people do not know of the sinking because the British Government suppressed it during the war. To date, it is the single largest loss of life of any British Ocean liner and still one of the few war wrecks that is not recognized formally by the British Government.
Q: You chose to self-publish your novel as an e-book. Can you tell us how you came to that decision?
A: When I started writing, I had every intention of publishing it through a traditional publisher. It seems like the entire world of publishing is changing daily. The success of many authors in 2011 with self-publishing changed my opinion, and I began to consider self-publishing over a traditional publisher. It is still a lot of work. The most recent events with the DOJ have convinced me that I honestly do not want to sign a contract at this time with an agent or publisher. I can’t imagine signing a long-term contract now with all of the uncertainty out there in the market. Self-Publishing has evolved to the point that it has become a particularly attractive option. Honestly, five years ago I would never have considered Self Publishing, and the way things are going, in five more years this will not even be a question.
Q: So, who is the Siren?
A: You will have to read the book. Do not be so sure you know who the Siren is too early.
Q: Enough of your book—tell us about yourself.
A: I have a day job in the world of communications. My other passion is art. It was the reason I went to Europe back in 2010, and discovered the facts around this story. I was studying the artwork of various European modern artists. For the longest time, I was into large format black and white photography. Then one day, it just was not enough anymore, so I took up drawing and painting.
We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:
Coffee or tea? I drink too much coffee and should drink tea.
Ocean or mountain? Ocean, but my friends love the mountains.
Hiking or shopping? Urban Hikes, through malls, or REI, where I can make believe I am hiking as I shop.
Violin or piano? I am in recovery from a classical Piano background.
Mystery or fantasy? There is a difference? I didn’t know.
Hester Prynne or Scarlet O’Hara? Hester Prynne, as a secret lover to Scarlet O’Hara.
Love scene or death scene? Love leads to death, and death of self, leads to love. They are the one and the same.