Q&A with Kelly Bowen, Author of The Paris Apartment

by Heather Caliendo
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Kelly Bowen is the author of The Paris Apartment, which will publish on April 20th.

Kelly Bowen grew up in Manitoba, Canada, and attended the University of Manitoba, where she earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in veterinary studies. She worked as a research scientist before realizing her dream to be a writer of historical fiction. 

Here’s the synopsis for The Paris Apartment:

2017, London: When Aurelia Leclaire inherits an opulent Paris apartment, she is shocked to discover her grandmother’s hidden secrets—including a treasure trove of famous art and couture gowns. One obscure painting leads her to Gabriel Seymour, a highly respected art restorer with his own mysterious past. Together they attempt to uncover the truths concealed within the apartment’s walls.

Paris, 1942: The Germans may occupy the City of Lights, but glamorous Estelle Allard flourishes in a world separate from the hardships of war. Yet when the Nazis come for her friends, Estelle doesn’t hesitate to help those she holds dear, no matter the cost. As she works against the forces intent on destroying her loved ones, she can’t know that her actions will have ramifications for generations to come.

Set seventy-five years apart, against a perilous and a prosperous Paris, both Estelle and Lia must unearth hidden courage as they navigate the dangers of a changing world, altering history—and their family’s futures—forever.

Let’s get to know Kelly as she talks favorite novels, writing historical fiction, her TBR and much more!

What are some of your favorite novels?

These are always the toughest questions because there are so many incredible novels to choose from! But I’ll give it a go here, and try to limit myself to five, in no particular order:

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley—I love all of her books, but this is the first one of hers I ever read and remains my favorite.

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell—there is so much history, adventure, and action in all of his novels. I tore through all of his series but the Warrior Chronicles, starting with The Last Kingdom, is my favorite.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn—Kate has been one of my favorite authors since I first read her Borgia Chronicles. The Alice Network stayed with me for a long time after I finished it.

Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson—this story is set in WW2 Italy and was an incredibly moving story of love and courage prevailing against hate.

The Wild Irish by Robin Maxwell—I’ve always been fascinated by women who have gone to sea throughout history and Grace O’Malley’s story is powerful.

When did you know you wanted to become an author?

I’ve enjoyed writing since I was little, but the desire to become an author didn’t come until much later on in my life. I spent many happy years in a career as a veterinary research scientist and it wasn’t until I left that job after the birth of my first child that I turned serious attention to writing a novel. I started by writing four novels, the first two that will never see the light of day again given their dismal position on the learning curve, and the second pair that I might one day try to salvage. The fifth novel that I wrote ended up being my first published book and started me down this amazing path.

What do you like best about writing historical fiction?

The absolute best part about writing historical fiction is finding and using pieces of the past that have, quite often, been lost or overlooked in the history books. Whether I’m writing historical romance or historical fiction, I draw upon real-life heroes and heroines who did extraordinary things for inspiration. History read out of the pages of a text book can be reduced to dry lists of dates and places, easily dismissed or forgotten. History, brought to life in a story, has the ability to make people, places, and events both memorable and understood. And the more we understand the history that we are all a product of, the better we are for it.

What inspired you to write The Paris Apartment?

My great uncle, who was KIA during WWI, kept a war diary detailing his thoughts, his fears, and his experiences. It is one of my most valued possessions. My grandfathers would later both serve during WW2 and did not keep any sort of diary, nor did they ever speak of their experiences. The history of the Second World War has always been a passion of mine and I’ve sought out many memoirs written by those who lived it, including women such as Pearl Witherington Cornioley, Virginia Hall, Christine Granville, Nancy Wake, Josephine Baker, and Andrée de Jongh.

After reading those memoirs, and thinking of my own family members, I was left with the questions: What makes people choose to either share or keep private an experience that so drastically impacts their life? Is it better to share such an experience in detail with those left behind the way my great-uncle did in his diary? Or is it better to leave the past in the past, and all the secrets with it? For me, writing The Paris Apartment was an exploration of the choices individuals make and the reasons for them.

How do you balance fact and fiction when you write for the genre?

I try to keep actual dates and places and real people from history as accurate as possible and then work within that framework. I also try to keep everyday details and the etymology of the words being used in the text or dialogue as period accurate as possible (the Online Etymology Dictionary is often my best friend!) However, I am aware that I am writing historical fiction for a modern audience so there is certainly a gray area in how information or conversation is presented. I’d like to think that the fictional part of the story that is wholly a product of my imagination is relatable to modern-day readers while at the same time entirely plausible in an historical context.

What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list?

I am currently reading Julia Kelly’s The Last Garden in England (which I’d highly recommend!). On my TBR list (again, I’ll limit myself to five so this doesn’t become a novel in itself): Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham; The Rose Code by Kate Quinn; The Last Night in London by Karen White; The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck and The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follet.

Click here to order The Paris Apartment on Amazon.

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