Nicole Melanson ~
Tessa Lunney is a novelist, poet, and occasional academic. In 2016 she won the prestigious Griffith University Josephine Ulrick Prize for Literature for “Chess and Dragonflies” and the A Room Of Her Own Foundation Orlando Prize for Fiction for her story “Those Ebola Burners Them”. She was also the recipient of a Varuna Fellowship.
In 2013, Tessa graduated from Western Sydney University with a Doctorate of Creative Arts that explored silence in Australian war fiction. In 2014 she was awarded an Australia Council ArtStart grant for literature.
Her poetry, short fiction, and reviews have been published in Best Australian Poems 2014, Southerly, Cordite, Griffith Review, and the Australian Book Review, among others.
For all things Kiki Button on Instagram: @misskikibutton
What’s your book about, Tessa?
It’s 1921, and after two years at home in Australia, Katherine King Button has had enough. Her rich parents have ordered her to get married, but after serving as a nurse during the horrors of the Great War, she has vowed never to take orders again. She flees her parents and the prison of their expectations for the place of friendship and freedom: Paris.
Paris in 1921 is the city of dreams, the place where she can remake herself as Kiki Button, gossip columnist extraordinaire, partying with the rich and famous, the bohemian and bold, the suspicious and strange.
But on the modelling dais, Picasso gives her a job: to find his wife’s portrait, which has gone mysteriously missing. That same night, her old spymaster from the war contacts her – she has to find a double agent or face jail. Through parties, whisky and informants, Kiki has to use every ounce of her determination, her wit and her wiles to save herself, the man she adores, and the life she has come to love – in just one week.
What’s your idea of the perfect day in Paris?
I wake up in the little flat by Père Lachaise where I stayed in April. I go down to the local boulangerie and buy bread and croissants, then I bring them home and eat them with jam, cheese and butter and a huge pot of coffee with my husband and daughter, listening to the birds in the park outside our window.
We head out into the sunshine, at a leisurely pace, to a museum with paintings I have known all my life but have only ever seen in photos. We lunch simply and deliciously in a park and people-watch for a long time as my daughter runs around. In the late afternoon, we go to Angelina’s for tea and cake and champagne.
I go out for dinner with just my husband and we drink and eat and talk about our dreams as jazz plays in the background. We walk off our enormous meal, ending up at the Eiffel Tower, before we go dancing to wild and crazy music (swing dancing for preference, in Paris’s excellent lindy hop scene). In the early hours, now sober and sweaty, we come back to the flat, thank the babysitter, kiss our daughter and snuggle down into the bed – ready to do it all again tomorrow.
What’s your best Paris-on-a-budget tip?
Buy cheese at the supermarket and bread at your local boulangerie for lunch – you’ll pay student prices to eat like a king. Walk everywhere and get to know all parts of the city. If it’s a sunny day – as it was when I was there – stroll the gardens and parks and people-watch.
What would you suggest for a splurge?
Cake at Angelina’s followed by cocktails at Bar Hemingway in the Ritz. And splurge on a hotel room with a full view of the Eiffel Tower, so you can sit and sip coffee in the morning and wine at night and gaze – it’s every tourist’s Parisian dream come true.
Any hidden gems you’ve never seen in a guidebook?
For me, the hidden gems are the things you discover for yourself. The café round the corner from your hotel that is missed by the other tourists that still serves delicious coffee – the local park with its blooming flowers, full of children after school – a bookshop, a newspaper stand that you visit every day and so you feel part of the life of the city. These are the things that will make Paris part of your heart. My recommendation is not to listen to me, or to anyone else – explore.
Which books would you recommend to a Francophile reader?
Colette is a must. Books I loved reading for research were Paris was a Woman by Andrea Weiss, Paris was Yesterday by Janet Flanner, Flappers by Judith Mackrell, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, and When Paris Sizzled by Mary McAuley. I must also mention Among the Bohemians by Virginia Nicholson, which started my journey to bohemian Paris of the 1920s. And Paris Dreaming by Katrina Lawrence, of course!
If you could have anything from France at this very moment, what would it be?
Lastly, where can we buy your book?
For the US version, please head to Pegasus
April in Paris, 1921 is also available on Kindle
Thank you, Tessa Lunney!
Stay tuned for Katrina Lawrence’s take on Paris next!
– Nicole Melanson