118 Kristin Harmel, romance novelist, "The Art of French Kissing"

Released Thursday, 4th May 2017
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Today's Guest: Kristin Harmel, romance novelist, The Art of French Kissing. Novelist and University of Florida Gator Kristin Harmel (Photo: UF Communigator)   Order from Amazon.com by clicking the book cover above Kristin Harmel’s new novel, her fourth, in fact, is titled The Art of French Kissing. It’s a sweet, surprisingly gentle story of a young boy-band publicist, who’s a woman from Orlando, whose life there collapses, and she goes to Paris to escape and maybe find herself again. It’s chick-lit for sure, but I enjoyed it. It also made me think more fondly of Paris than I had since the one time that my wife and I visited there back in ’88. Maybe we’ll get into that later. KRISTIN HARMEL audio excerpt: "the novels I write are very connected to sort of my own life, and I would say sort of the experiences that myself and my friends are going through right now. I’m 28, almost 29. I’m still sort of going through the struggles that you do sort of in your twenties and thirties of finding yourself and of sort of finding where you fit in the world and among others, the funny, little adventures that I get to go on and like I said, the bad dates."  Kristin Harmel Website • Facebook • Twitter • Pinterest • Order The Art of French Kissing from Amazon.com BOB ANDELMAN/Mr. MEDIA: So tell us that you’re in some fabulous part of the country. KRISTIN HARMEL: I’m actually back home in Orlando, Florida right now. In the past week, we’ve been in Boston, New York, Atlanta, and now back in Orlando for launch parties. ANDELMAN: Oh, Orlando. Well, that’s okay. We’ll just pretend you’re in Monte Carlo or something. HARMEL: Exactly. Can I backtrack and revise that? I’m lying on a beach in Hawaii. ANDELMAN: C’mon, you’re in the fiction business. It’s all about theater of the mind. HARMEL: Exactly, my mistake. Sorry. ANDELMAN: You just released two books pretty simultaneously, The Art of French Kissing, and what I believe is a young adult novel, When You Wish. HARMEL: Yes, that’s correct. They’re both from different publishers, which I think accounts for the reason that they both came out around the same time. But, yes, When You Wish is my first novel for teenagers, basically for ages 12 and up, and it came out just a couple weeks ago. I’m really excited about that one, too. ANDELMAN: But tell the truth, Kristin, because everybody wants to know this. You actually outsource the writing of your books to India so you have time for fun stuff. HARMEL: I wish! I’m gonna have to start thinking about that. Thanks for the idea. ANDELMAN: I hear they do everything for less. HARMEL: There you go. Exactly. If I could do that or just find more hours in the day, I think we’d be all set. ANDELMAN: The Art of French Kissing, which is the book that I just finished reading, from what I’ve read, it seems to hug very close to certain details of your own life. That true? HARMEL: In some ways. It was basically inspired by the fact that I, myself, five years ago, went over to live in Paris sort of on a whim the same way that the main character of the novel does. And like the main character of my novel, I really didn’t speak much French when I went over, and I went over to live with a friend sort of at a time in my life when my own life was in a little bit of disarray. However, my path sort of parted from the main character of the novel when I went over there in that she actually had all these fabulous adventures of dealing with this crazy international rock star and whatever, and I would say my adventures were much more tame. So I had to use my imagination a little bit to create her world. ANDELMAN: Oh, I just feel so sad now. I was hoping to hear that you had to tamp down your own experiences to put them in the book. HARMEL: Well, I will have to say, a few of the things that poor Emma has to do in the book include hanging upside down from between a couple of buildings in Paris. So I’m happy that I didn’t have to do anything wacky like that, but I did have some crazy adventures. Paris is quite a place to go, I think, as a young person or goodness, as any person. I think it’s just such a wonderful city where you could just explore all sorts of different things. I did have quite a lot of adventures there, though. ANDELMAN: And I’m thinking anyone reading this book is gonna feel the way I did when it was over: “I gotta go to Paris.” But then I think back, and I can’t believe that I wrote down it was 1988. It has actually been 20 years. HARMEL: Oh, my. ANDELMAN: I wasn’t terribly impressed. The city is wonderful, but the people there, they kind of spoil it for you. HARMEL: I had always heard that before I went to Paris for the first time. I actually went to Paris for the first time the year before I lived there, and I had a great experience. But when I went back to live there for the summer, my experience was even better. And I think that maybe 20 or 30 years ago maybe Americans got a frostier reception from Parisians. I really just didn’t have any problems with it. I found people there to be very friendly. I think it’s just a different type of mentality. Probably the best way I can describe it is that I think that, in general, and this is a big generality, but in general, I think that French people tend to warm up to strangers a little more slowly, whereas in the United States, particularly in the South, I think that you meet someone in a store, and within 30 seconds, you feel like they’re your new best friend. Everyone’s very friendly, everyone’s talkative, everyone smiled. In France, in general, I think people tend to be a little bit wary of strangers but not in any sort of negative way. In a way, they’re a little bit more genuine like they want to get to know you as a person a little bit before they make a judgment about whether or not to be ultra-friendly to you. So I found that when I realized that about the culture and that when I realized that a reception that wasn’t warm wasn’t necessarily a cold reception, I think I really sort of understood where they were coming from, and I realized that they were not actually being unfriendly. ANDELMAN: I’m sorry. I’m going back to my notes here. I just want to be sure. Are we talking about Paris? HARMEL: Yes, we are. But see, you’re saying you haven’t been there in 20 years, and my experience of having been there more recently is that the people there actually were very kind. And I also think that one of the problems that Americans encounter is going over there and expecting every French person to be able to speak English, and that’s not always the case. But generally, in the big cities like Paris, especially in the retail industry or if you go out to a meal or whatever, generally they speak at least basic English. So I feel like, as an American, if you either make an effort to speak a few words of French or if you just say I’m so sorry, I don’t speak French, they’ll usually warm right up to you. I think that sometimes Americans get a negative reception when they just sort of assume that their language will be spoken. You know what I mean? ANDELMAN: I’m dying for you to ask me what happened to me in Paris. HARMEL: Oh, I’m so sorry I missed my cue. What happened to you in Paris? ANDELMAN: Alright, the only story that I will share because it’s your time and not mine. HARMEL: No, no, I would like to hear it. ANDELMAN: I’m dying to tell this. So I’m there with my wife. It’s like middle of the afternoon. We’re starving. We go into a café, a patisserie, I don’t know. It was a place where there were tables for dining, there was a bar. It was the middle of the afternoon. There was no one there, but staff was hanging out at the bar. We walked in, we’re dying of thirst and hunger, and we sit down and we’ll wait, and we wait, and we wait, and no one waits on us. No one comes over, and I finally get up, and I walk over, and I say, “Excuse me.” Maybe I even said, “Excuse moi, pardon.” I tried. I had my University of Florida college French. HARMEL: Go Gators. ANDELMAN: So you know it had to be good French. I asked for a menu. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ll bring it to you. So I go and sit down, and we wait and we wait and still there’s only us and the staff. HARMEL: Oh no. ANDELMAN: So we wait and we wait, and finally, someone else comes into the restaurant, and it’s a man with a full-sized standard poodle. And he goes over to the bar, and they immediately give him a drink, they give him a croissant, and then the poodle puts its paws up on the bar, and the poodle gets a bowl of water. And this was when I knew that my impression of the French to that point was not far off. They made a real good show of how little they cared for us American people. HARMEL: Oh goodness. ANDELMAN: This is in central Paris. We weren’t out in the boondocks. That’s why I keep asking are we sure we’re talking about Paris? HARMEL: That’s a terrible story. I’m so sorry that that sort of shaped your opinion of Paris. I will say that I have found that, it seems like it wouldn’t be that logical, but I found that, sort of in the more touristy areas of Paris, they do tend to turn their nose up to tourists a little bit more, which is sort of a strange contradiction. But I think there’s another thing about the French that, for me, took a little bit of getting used to because I’m very kind of rush, rush, rush from one thing to the next, and I think sometimes, particularly when it comes to eating or situations in restaurants, they just do things much more slowly. So they were probably having a little coffee break in back or something and thought oh, he can wait. ANDELMAN: Yes, I think that may have been it. Well, now the reason I asked you this is that… I saw the segment you did on “Good Morning America.” First of all, eight minutes on “Good Morning America” is amazing. But you’re being called on, I think, I guess, more and more to be that American expert on Paris and the French. How do you feel about that part? HARMEL: I love it. It sounds silly, but the summer that

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