Interview with Expat author - Andrea Bouchaud
Bonjour à tous! I’m Andrea Bouchaud - your favorite Paris study abroad expert. A New Jersey native but I moved to Dallas 2 years ago (it’s awesome!).
1. Why did you move abroad?
My paternal grandfather is natively French but by the time I was born, he was completely Americanized. I always wanted to know what it meant to be French besides having a last name that no one could spell or pronounce. I knew the only way to find out was to go to France. The opportunity to live there came during college. I was a French major at Rutgers University but its French department didn’t offer advanced level courses every semester. To graduate on time, I needed to study abroad in France for a year. It was a win-win situation as I was able to finish my major’s credits and learn about French culture hands-on. I ultimately chose Paris as I had a great-aunt living there who offered me an apartment to stay in rent-free. This was a financial relief as well as a great opportunity to connect with my long, lost French family.
2. How do you make a living? Are you a fulltime writer?
I’d like to be a full time writer! As I’m still new in the writing field, I have a full time job as my main source of income. I found a job with a French company in Dallas doing lots of translating and helping French expats acclimate to American work and personal life. As someone who did the expat relocation in reverse, I can really understand what they’re going through and what questions they’ll have about immersing into a new culture and language. It’s a great atmosphere to constantly practice and improve my French language skills and knowledge of French culture.
3. How did you start the process of writing a book and get it published? Did you go to a publisher? Self-publish?
I started writing when I was abroad. At that time it was just a journal to help keep me grounded during all the transitions that come with living in a foreign land. It wasn’t until I met other students in my 2nd semester in Paris that I got the idea to write a book about the study abroad experience.
As soon as I returned to the USA, I started writing. I looked into traditional publishing and felt that self-publishing with Amazon was the best choice. Traditional publishing has changed so much in recent years. It used to be writers only had to write and show up to interviews or book signings. Now, publishing houses are requiring authors to get involved in social media and their own marketing. I went with self-publishing because it’s super easy, cost effective, and I’m able to reach more people.
4. What was the hardest part of taking your writing to a book format? Did you blog before writing your book?
The hardest part is maintaining your motivation. It’s so easy to get distracted with everyday life or get bored with working on the same project and constant editing. It’s important to always keep your goal in mind and understand why you’re writing to stay motivated. I didn’t start blogging before writing but I did start it before I published my first book Twenty in Paris: A Young American Perspective of Studying Abroad in Paris. I started out with a blog on tumblr then decided to create my website with a blog at twentyinparis.net
5. What is your perception of the expat book market? Or is there a niche you consider your book to be part of?
I didn’t know of any expat books before studying abroad except for 1 that was about moving to Paris. It was meant for someone who is permanently relocating with plans to get married, have kids, work full-time. It wasn’t much use to a student. Twenty in Paris and The Paris Diaries: The Study Abroad Experience Uncensored books are definitely part of a niche- the study abroad book niche. There are only a few in our genre but their importance is only growing as more American students go abroad unfamiliar with the experience of being an expat.
6. What is your favorite part of the book?
My readers and I enjoy the candid portrayal of the experience of being young and in Paris. Many people (including 20 year old me) see the experience of living in Paris through rose-colored glasses. But have you heard of the Paris Syndrome? It’s when people think only about Paris’ beauty just to be disappointed with the average city life that comes with it. I have met many students who experienced the Paris Syndrome because they weren’t prepared to immerse into French culture, be treated as a foreigner, or to handle the rewarding challenges and changes that come with a move abroad. The typical book about Paris shows the good things like sitting on the Champs de Mars at sunset, eating a baguette while admiring the Eiffel Tower. Not many are willing to show the difficult side of living and studying in the City of Light.
7. What was the most difficult part to write?
The most difficult part was writing about the challenges students face abroad. Too many students are not prepared for the expat experience. As a result, they’re going abroad with unrealistic dreams of what it’s like to live in another country. There are so many wonderful and magical experience s about being a student in Paris that I didn’t want to downplay in the books but I also wanted to show the challenges to help future students to not have the tough 1st semester I had in Paris.
8. Besides your book, what book should everyone read?
Stephen King’s 11/22/63- it’s a new take on the infamous JFK assassination via a modern man going back in time to try to stop it so that the present becomes a better world. It kept me on the edge of my seat and I couldn’t put it down. I don’t believe that there is any 1 book that every writer should read. As long as you enjoy it, that’s what counts. For recommendations on other expat books- read them all! You can never over-prepare for a new life abroad.
9. What advice would you give to other expats that want to write a book?
Start writing today! Chronicle your story in any format that inspires you (blogging, writing in a journal, photo journaling…) about any aspect of expat life that interests you.
10. What are you working on now? Do you have plans to publish another book?
I’m working on my 3rd book called Your Paris Study Abroad Checklist. This book will be a quick “cheat sheet” of checklists for students on every aspect of studying abroad in Paris like exactly what to pack and how much of it, what documents and steps needed to get a work visa abroad and much, much more! This book will be a checklist format for easy reference at any stage of the process.
Find out more about Andrea Bouchaud on her site, twentyinparis.net and follow her at @TwentyinParis, on theofficialparisdiaries.tumblr.com and on google+. Buy her books, Twenty in Paris and The Paris Diaries, on Amazon.