In writing his first novel, The Siren of Paris, David LeRoy drew upon his longtime interest in philosophy, the visual arts, myth, storytelling, psychology, and Ocean Liner travel. During a visit to France to study art in the fall of 2012, LeRoy became intrigued by the French Resistance, particularly when his research revealed the role of Americans in the Resistance, as well as the limited means of escape from Europe as the war escalated. LeRoy holds a bachelor of arts in philosophy and religion.
Tell us about your book:
Born in Paris and raised in the United States, 21-year-old Marc Tolbert enjoys the advantages of being born to a wealthy, well-connected family. Reaching a turning point in his life, he decides to abandon his plans of going to medical school and study art in Paris. In 1939, he boards a ship and heads to France, blissfully unaware that Europe — along with the rest of the world — is on the brink of an especially devastating war. He witnesses the fall of Paris and the departure of the French government. He sees the effects of the tightening vise of occupation, first-hand, as he tries to escape the country. He also participates in the French resistance, spends time in prison camps, and sees the liberation of the concentration camps. During his struggles, he is reunited with the woman he loves, Marie, who speaks passionately of working with the resistance. Is she working for freedom, or is she not to be trusted?
How long did it take to write the book?
Answer: The book took just about 18 months to complete. I had a rough draft done within six months, and the remaining year was spent on various drafts of the book. Many scenes in the book evolved over time. Research continued throughout writing the book.
What inspired you to write the book?
Answer: A statue in Antibes, France It is a modern marble statue of a man being crushed under the weight of oppression and is dedicated to members of the French Resistance who lost their lives during World War II. This sparked my interest in researching the French Resistance, and that uncovered much of what appears in The Siren of Paris.
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
Answer: Every single scene and chapter was listed in a large excel spreadsheet. I would work through each draft revision, chapter by chapter, marking off the date and the new word count. It would take about 25 days of continuous writing to complete one full draft of the book. Several versions of the book had significant pacing issues, which required re-organization of the storyline. But the process I have is very goal orientated. It is not organic or romantic in any sense. I have deadlines, goals, and dates, and each scene is rather micromanaged. Once a scene or chapter is completed, I would update the spreadsheet by shading in those cells. The vast majority of this writing is done in the evenings and weekends. A few times I’d leave home and go away to some resort to just write for the weekend.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
Answer: My greatest hope is that readers who have experienced betrayal, maybe holding themselves falsely to blame, would be inspired to forgive themselves. Although this is a historical novel, it has a spiritual message about betrayal, forgiveness and freedom. Several readers have picked up upon this message, as reflected in their reviews. I traveled to L.A. to listen to various survivors of the Holocaust, one of which was Mary Natan, author of Nightmare Smiles. Here is someone who has experienced betrayal on multiple levels. I asked her directly if survivors of the war would seek out personal revenge. From her point of view, the experience she lived through so transformed her heart and mind that she never wanted to become like the perpetrator of those crimes. I knew, from her response, how I had to end The Siren of Paris, because Marc would experience the same transformation. Today, we still live in highly polarized times with various voices calling upon an injured ego to seek revenge for some perceived slight. This shadow exists in all of us, but unless we own it, transformation is not possible. Extremism is always a threat, and it is born out of the victimhood of betrayal. Some choose to lash out at the betrayer, and others internalize their victimhood and choose to blame themselves, heaping guilt and shame upon their own consciences. Unless the cycle is somehow broken, the victim never escapes that Siren’s call.
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Excerpt from book:
It was early yet, and the men pouring into the airfield looked like a ragtag group of souls. Marc and Allen ended up walking back into the port and even taking in a movie to help the time pass. Air raid sirens made their calls and a plane dived in on the port, but nothing terribly serious happened that day. Throughout the night, sleeping out in the open with the other men of the BEF, Marc and Allen noticed the constant flow of new men arriving at all hours.
It was the afternoon of the following day that ships came into port. Marc and Allen rushed with the soldiers of the airfield down to the port, looking for the other members of their convoy from Paris. Long lines formed as boats took the men out to the ships. A hospital ship arrived and offered to take men aboard if they abandoned their gear, but they refused. “Should I go look for them?” Marc asked Allen.
“It really is not that important. They are going to catch a ship by the same dock we are on. It is not as if there are fifty ways to get out of here.
They might have got out to a ship even before we made our way down here,” Allen said, while waiting in the line.
“You’re right. I never thought about that,” Marc said. He watched more men pile into the lines down at the port. At ten that night, the port master shut down the line. “The lights will draw the planes! Shut off those lights!” he yelled as he passed the lines. It started to rain, and Marc and Allen crowded under the eave of a building with a group of soldiers. Several men ran over to the barrels, and used a tarp to create a small refuge from the soaking.
“Wherever Sister Clayton and the others found to stay, I sure hope it’s dry,” Allen complained to Marc. Marc pulled at Allen’s coat and pointed toward the wine barrels.
“Let’s get over by the wine. At least if they’re hit by a raid, we can get drunk as we die,” Marc joked. They made their way over to find a dry spot to sleep for the night.
“Boys, time to muster up to the dock,” the shouts came at four in the morning.
“Holy Mother of God, one bullet, Allen, and we’d be done for,” Marc said, amazed at just how stupid he’d been to not pay better attention. The barrels were not wine but paraffin. After joining a long line of soldiers, Marc and Allen finally boarded the fifth trawler to take the men out to one of the evacuation ships. Marc looked out to a single-stack liner as the small vessel took them out over the bay.