In the summer of 1979, twenty-one-year-old Linda Kovic contracts to become an au pair for an wealthy French family in the Loire Valley. To secure the position, she pretends to speak the language, fully aware her deception will be discovered once she arrives at her destination. Based on the author’s diary, French Illusions captures Linda’s fascinating and often challenging real-life story inside and outside the Château de Montclair. The over-bearing, Madame Dubois, her accommodating husband, Monsieur Dubois, and their two children are highlighted as Linda struggles to adapt to her new environment. Continually battling the language barrier, she signs up and attends classes at the local university in the nearby town of Tours, broadening her range of experiences. When she encounters, Adam, a handsome young student, her life with the Dubois family becomes more complicated, adding fuel to her internal battle for independence.
Tell us about Linda Kovic-Skow. Who are you when you’re not writing?
I’m a native of Washington State and I currently reside in Kirkland. I earned an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting in 1978 from North Seattle Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Seattle University in 1985. I’ve been married for 27 years and have two lovely daughters and a ten-year-old Sheltie, named Abby. I’m an enthusiastic traveler, but I also enjoy boating, gardening and socializing with friends. French Illusions, my debut memoir, is the culmination of a three-year project.
Do you have a day job as well?
Yes, I am self-employed as a bookkeeper.
Who is your favorite character to write about in your story?
While I worked my way through my diary, I particularly enjoyed recounting interactions with Antoine, my four-year-old ward at the Château de Montclair. He was such a sweet, goofy kid and he often voiced his affections for me with exuberant enthusiasm. Here is an example from my book:
At last, Madame asked me to serve the dessert, and we all
sang Antoine a French birthday song. He wolfed down one
helping and then another of the mousse before tearing into his
His most impressive present, an elaborate train set, came
from his grandparents, followed by books from Colette, and toy
cars and a sweater from Mummy and me. He beamed afterward,
overjoyed with all of the attention. Unexpectedly, he
twisted toward me and deposited a big wet kiss on my mouth.
“Mademoiselle Kovic et Colette sont toutes les deux belle ce soir!”
he exclaimed. Everyone at the table burst out laughing, including
me since I understood most of his comment. Antoine had
shouted out that both Colette and I looked lovely tonight.
Without a doubt, he considered his fête a success!
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
Yes. Choosing an editor for French Illusions was a difficult, arduous task. I searched the web for many months, pouring through blogs and editors guilds until I stumbled upon my first editor. She grew up in the Loire Valley and spoke fluent French. A match made in heaven, I thought. Actually, no. Admittedly, she helped me with translations and corrected several cultural issues, but let’s just say, she identified a little too closely with my antagonist. In the end, I asked her to return my manuscript knowing full well it would need additional line editing.
Disheartened, I chose a second editor who had provided me with a sample edit early on. She was a pleasure to work with, she ironed out some important kinks in my book and her positive feedback healed my wounds. Definitely, a match made in heaven this time. Almost.
After I received my fully-edited manuscript, I arranged a book tour with Dorothy Thompson at Pump up Your Book. Dorothy asked me to send her an excerpt from French Illusions and, to my dismay, she found a punctuation error in the first few sentences. I found a whole lot more on my own. Arghhh. I immediately asked Dorothy if she had a reference for a line editor and she referred me to my third editor. Thankfully, she corrected the remaining errors throughout my book. When I write my sequel, French Encore, I’ll have people I can trust from the very beginning.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Initially, I contracted with Steve Bennett at Authorbytes to help me create a fabulous interactive website which includes widgets linking my twitter account, my blog and my Facebook Fan Page. Once French Illusions was published, I mailed autographed copies of my book across the country to family and friends, and sent out a carefully crafted email announcement to everyone I’ve ever known. Recently, I’ve focused on sites like Goodreads, taking advantage of their author programs, including book giveaways. Hundreds of people entered to win an autographed copy of my book during my first giveaway.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Ahhh, my favorite chapters to write came in the last section of French Illusions. Throughout most of my memoir, I squelched my unhappiness at the Château de Montclair. Within these last pages, I finally had the opportunity to expose my true feelings in vivid scenes filled with passion and drama. It was a thrilling, rewarding experience.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
My stomach pitched the day I received a two-star review at Amazon. Hoping to gain some insight, I clicked on the reviewer’s name and saw that she gave only one star, to two other authors, on exactly the same day. This made me feel a little better until I read her explanation for rating them so poorly. During her trip to Mexico, she wasn’t able to download their books onto her Kindle. Somehow she obtained mine, but she certainly didn’t enjoy it. Ouch! I couldn’t check my reviews at Amazon for weeks after this, but time passed, and other positive reviews healed my heart.
My best compliment came from one of my editors. She had called my book a “seductive memoir” and when I asked her what she meant by this, she replied with the following:
“I remember from grad school reading a critic who described the novel as a seductive form. The reader is seduced into reading on. I don’t think all writers are effective seducers though. I got halfway through Moby Dick and just wanted to leave it forever! I did not feel that way about your book though. I kept reading on, and now I keep thinking of reasons why Madame thought her nanny was a flirt and why she seemed to resent her so much. So I ‘m still being seduced.”
Here’s a couple of quirky questions for you, Linda…
What’s your favorite movie?
The Sound of Music. It’s such a heartwarming story with a great message. Throw in music from Rogers and Hammerstein and you have a masterpiece that stands the test of time.
Cake with or without ice cream?
I’m gluten intolerant, so I can’t have cake. My favorite ice cream is dulce de leche – caramel ice cream swirled together with ribbons of caramel, hmmm. It’s Italian, not French, but it’s delicious.
Date night out, or date night in?
Both. It depends on my mood, hee-hee.
Thanksgiving or Christmas?
Christmas. I love everything about this joyful holiday, from the messages of peace and love to the celebrations with family and friends.
Physical copy of a book or eReader?
Both. I own several books in print (a few of them are autographed) and they’re precious to me. My Kindle comes in handy for everything else.
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Set in the beautiful Loire Valley, French Illusions, my remarkable true story, will remind readers what it was like to be young, adventurous and filled with dreams. It’s not too late to create your own memories so go out and explore the world. Life’s for living, after all.
About The Author:
Linda Kovic-Skow resides in Kirkland, Washington. She earned an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting in 1978 from North Seattle Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Seattle University in 1985. She has been married for 27 years and has two daughters. An enthusiastic traveler, Linda also enjoys boating, gardening and socializing with friends. French Illusions, her debut memoir, is the culmination of a three-year project.