In Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau’s first English-English-language novel, Kisses and Croissants, Mia crosses the Atlantic to study dance for the summer and gets more than she bargained for when she falls in love not only with Paris (who wouldn’t?) but also with a handsome French boy. (Again, who wouldn’t?) After a year cooped up in our homes, this book is a godsend, taking us all over Paris on the back of a blue Vespa. For people who love love, who love ballet, or who just really want a decent croissant again, this book is exactly what your weekend needs.
I was delighted to speak with Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau about Kisses and Croissants for Dead Darlings.
This is your first book in English, which is not your native language. What challenges did that present, compared to your previous books?
I’ve always written in French, in one format or another, but it took me about fifteen years of intense dedication to be able to write in English at the level necessary to do it professionally. Learning a language is such a multi-layered process. As soon as you think you know something, you discover new grammar or punctuation rules, and it never ends! I sometimes joke that I have all this free time, now that I don’t spend hours every day working on perfecting my English. Instead, I just focus on my writing craft.
You recently became a citizen —congratulations! — how does it feel for your first English-language novel to be published at the same time that you become a citizen?
Thank you! 2020 was a pretty quiet year for me—for obvious reasons—so it’s strange that two major things are happening within three weeks of each other this year. I’ll have been in New York (and in the U.S.) ten years this summer, and it feels fitting that my U.S. and English-language debut novel comes out now. Writing and publishing is a very lengthy process and, in my case, this is about the fastest it could have happened.
You wrote this book from the point of view of someone who has never been to Paris. What did it take to write about Paris as if it was a foreign city, and did that deepen your relationship at all? Did your long history of traveling and living in new places help you to put yourself in Mia’s shoes?
It was a fun challenge to try to see Paris from the eyes of a foreigner. I spent a lot time thinking about the kinds of details that would surprise Mia. I think it did deepen my relationship with the city. Even though I grew up just outside and have been there many times, it’s remained a very special place in my mind. To me it’s the one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I infused my feelings about it into Mia’s experience.
As I was reading, I felt like I was in Paris and it made me miss both travel and my night at Palais Garnier, specifically. Do you ever get homesick for France, and did writing this book make you miss Paris at all?
I miss a lot of things about France, but I don’t get homesick, per se. I chose to live in a few different places, and it has made my life so much richer. Writing this book did make me miss Paris though, and I always wish I could spend more time there. I haven’t been since 2018—life, and then the pandemic, got in the way—which is the longest I’ve gone without visiting Paris. I can’t wait to go back!
Obviously, ballet is a big part of this book. How much research did you have to do to write those scenes? Do you have a background or interest in dance?
I don’t have a background in dance, but I love all kinds of arts, including performing arts. For research, I spoke to dancers, watched ballet documentaries and movies, read nonfiction books, and browsed through endless videos on YouTube, both of dance sequences and testimonies of dancers. I was also lucky that a couple of people on my editor’s team were ballet dancers. They helped with getting the descriptions right and shared fascinating details.
What draws you to writing romance novels? What do you most enjoy about them?
It sounds corny but I love love. As a reader, I enjoy books even more if there’s a love story, though it doesn’t have to be the main plot. Generally, I love to write about deep feelings—which I experience from my desk, along with my characters—and there’s something really special about first loves.
As I was reading this book, I felt like I could see Louis being played by a Harry Styles type in a movie. Have you given any consideration to your ideal cast if it were to become a film?
I can totally see that! I have daydreamed about who I would picture in each of the roles, but I’ll keep the names to myself. I want readers to have their own vision in mind plus, if it does become a movie one day—fingers crossed! —I think I’ll really enjoy the surprise of finding out who gets cast.
What would surprise us most about the way this book has changed between first draft and publication? What, if anything, did you cut from the book that you really wish you could have kept?
I can’t say too much about that but the original ending was quite different. Mia’s story ended in another place, literally 🙂
When writing do you find that you begin with the story, a character, or a visual? Who came first: Mia or Odile?
It completely depends on the story. Sometimes it’s a mood, a theme, or a plot point. In this one, Mia came before Odile.
Have you considered translating your French novels? I need them. Please say that there is another installment coming for Mia and Louis.
Thank you! I have thought about it, but I think it’s unlikely. I prefer writing new stories and I’m not a trained translator. I’m sorry to say that there are no planned sequels for Kisses and Croissants at this stage. It feels like a fully realized novel to me, but I would never say never.
If you were to write about any of the other characters, who would you be most interested in exploring on a deeper level?
It’s hard to pick one, but I have a fondness for Audrey. It would be interesting to see where her own journey takes her. I don’t want to include any spoilers but I’m also curious about Louis’s passion and where it will lead him. I’m sure he could show us even more fun places around Paris!
My last question: what is the one thing no one ever asks you but that you wish they would?
That is a great question and I’m stumped right now! Actually, the first question in this interview kind of sums it up. Being able to write and publish in two languages is so important to me, but it rarely registers with people. So I always like when people ask me about that.
Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau is a bilingual French author of young adult fiction and nonfiction. Her books have been translated into seven languages. Kisses and Croissants (Delacorte Press, 2021) is her U.S. debut. After graduating university in France, she moved to Amsterdam to begin a career in advertising. She then spent a few years in Melbourne before settling in New York City, where she lives with her Australian husband and their American cat.
Sixteen-year-old Mia, an American girl at an elite summer ballet program, has six weeks to achieve her dreams: to snag an audition with one of the world’s best ballet companies. But there’s more to Paris than ballet—especially when a charming French boy, Louis, wants to be her tour guide—and the pair discover the city has a few mysteries up its sleeve.
In the vein of romances like Love and Gelato, this is the perfect summer adventure for anyone looking to get swept away in the City of Love.