Please join me in welcoming author Chris Pavone to Socrates' Book Review Blog. He has written The Expats and agreed to give us a Q&A. Thanks to Danielle at Crown & Hogarth, I am also able to offer a book giveaway. So, read to the end and find out how you can win your own hardcover copy of The Expats!
About the book (from Fantastic Fiction):
Kate Moore is an expat mom living the expat life. In the cobblestoned streets of Luxembourg, her days are filled with play-dates and coffee mornings, her weekends spent in Paris and skiing in the Alps. Kate is also guarding a tremendous, life-defining secret - one that's become so unbearable that it begins to unravel her neat little expat life. She suspects that another American couple are not who they claim to be; plus her husband is acting suspiciously; and as she travels around Europe, she finds herself looking over her shoulder, increasingly terrified that her own past is catching up with her. As Kate begins to dig, to uncover the secrets of the people around her, she finds herself buried in layers of deceit so thick they threaten her family, her marriage, and her life.
Intricate, riveting, and surprising, The Expats is a debut thriller of the highest caliber.
Q) Chapter 1 of your debut novel The Expats is a dialogue between husband and wife, about the possibility of moving from Washington, D.C., to Luxembourg. Did this conversation happen in your household?
A) Yes! Four years ago, my wife was considering a position at Amazon—launching the Kindle in Europe—that had to be in Luxembourg. I had recently left behind a career as a book editor and was ghostwriting and book-doctoring, the types of things that ex-editors do. So my work was interruptable, and our four-year-old twin sons were portable. We realized that we could do this, so we did: we left New York and moved to Europe, with no specific plans to return.
Q) Did that setting influence or jump-start your decision to write a novel?
A) The whole expat life is a treasure trove of material, I think, for many different genres. And in fact I started writing a completely different type of manuscript, a quieter, more domestic novel about a marriage under the strain of this unusual circumstance. That too was called The Expats, and it was set in Luxembourg. But the story began to bore me, while at the same time I became intrigued by the more sinister, more fascinating possibilities in such a land of reinvention—everyone was reinventing themselves there, in some fashion or another; anybody could become anything, attempting to outrun any secret. And I found myself wondering, Who is this woman sitting next to me at the playground, so reluctant to reveal her past? She could’ve been a spy! So I reworked the project into an espionage thriller.
Q) Is your protagonist, Kate Moore, based on a real person you knew in Luxembourg? Is she a version of your wife?
A) Absolutely not my wife! If Kate Moore is anyone real, she’s much more me than Madeline. Although I was never a spy, and of course I’m not a woman, my protagonist and I share many of the same life-defining experiences. We both left behind careers we no longer really wanted to follow our spouses’ opportunities to Luxembourg. We both initially found ourselves alone and lonely, friendless in a foreign land. We both struggled with the unrelenting demands of small children and housekeeping and setting up a whole new life abroad. And we both struggled with how to define ourselves after we’d given up nearly everything that had defined us.
Q) Is that a uniquely expat predicament?
A) Not at all. And so The Expats isn’t merely a peek into expat life, but rather it’s a peek into the life of anyone who gives up his or her career and the process of self-definition one goes through while living in the foreign land of stay-at-home parenting. What looks like a fundamental but short-term question—to work or to raise children, today?—has far-reaching, permanent consequences. Who are you when you spend your days cooking and cleaning and raising children; spending money that you didn’t earn via a paycheck and possibly resenting a spouse whose days are filled with grown-up conversation and absolutely no laundry folding? And what will you do when the children are grown? Who will you become then, after not having had a paying job in perhaps two decades? And these questions take on even more significance for people who’ve just moved abroad, leaving behind everything, and everyone, they knew. Whether they want to or not, they have to reinvent themselves.
Q) This is a challenge that many women face. Did it feel unusual to face it as a man?
A) Extremely. I think it would have felt more natural at home in New York, where there are a lot of men who choose to be the parents who go to drop-off and afterschool activities, who buy the groceries and the toilet paper, who do the laundry and plan the birthday parties. Although it’s certainly not parity in New York, there are definitely a lot of other men at school pickup with me. In Luxembourg, on the other hand, it was 1 in 100. At best.
In many ways Europe appears to be more progressive than America—universal health care, mandatory maternity leave, ironclad social safety nets, etc.—but the reality of what we witnessed was extremely traditional. In the Luxembourg expat life, it was the mothers who stayed home with the children, while the fathers put on suits and went to banking offices (and practically no one entrusted child care to babysitters or nannies). I was a lone man in a world filled with expat stay-at-home women.
Q) Why didn’t you write The Expats from this unusual point of view?
A) I was afraid that if I wrote the book with a male protagonist, it would be the male aspect that defined the book for readers—a man in a woman’s world, an odd-duck story, an extraordinary circumstance. This was the opposite of what I wanted to communicate, which was the universality, the everydayness, of this aspect of being/becoming an adult.
Now for the giveaway...
1) Entrants must leave a valid email address.
2) US residents only.
3) For an extra entry - follow this blog either through GFC or subscribe through email.
4) For an extra 2 entries blog about this contest on your blog.
Just fill out the form below to enter! Giveaway ends on March 13th.
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The winner will be emailed and must respond within three days to claim their prize!
Good luck everyone!