Passionate about both Europe and history, local author Margo Lestz writes mostly about the French Riviera and France.
American author Margo Lestz has written two books, French Holidays & Traditions and Curious Histories of Nice, France, full of engaging stories and fun facts about the place we call home.
To help you get to know Margo and her work better, she very kindly agreed to sit down with us and answer a few questions.
First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I always say I’m a perpetual student because throughout my life, I’ve had the desire to go to school. Sometimes just for a course or two, and sometimes for degrees. My university years started at the age of 17 and ended when I was in my 50s – that is, if they have, indeed, ended … I have a degree in liberal studies because I could never decide on just one subject to study.
What brought you to France, and Nice in particular?
My husband and I are American by birth, and we moved to London in 2003 and took British citizenship. London is a fantastic city and I love it, but because of health issues, I needed a warmer winter climate. The south of France seemed like a good choice, since I had studied a little bit of French, and Nice was the most practical location because of the airport being close to the city centre. So, Nice was really a practical choice, but right away, we fell in love with the city.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I know many writers say they have written stories all their life, but not me. I never even thought about writing until 2003 when I took a creative writing course. I was trying to finish up a degree before I left the US and my advisor said this creative writing course would fit in with my requirements. I took it and to my surprise, I found that I really enjoyed writing.
Your first book was about French Holidays and traditions. What is your favourite tradition?
Well, I really like the story behind May 1st and the lily-of-the-valley flower. It seems the tradition started in 1561 when Charles IX took the throne. He was a pretty unlucky king and had all kinds of tragedies during his reign. Once on May 1st, when his kingdom was in a mess and his people were starving, he tried to cheer them up by having his soldiers pass out lily-of-the-valley flowers in Paris. This was supposed to be a symbol of good luck, but because everyone was hungry, they ate the flowers (which are poisonous) and Charles ended up killing many of his loyal subjects. However, the lily-of-the-valley’s reputation as a good luck symbol remained intact.
Your second book was about curious histories of Nice. Any unknown/fun facts you can share with us?
Many people don’t know that when Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden that a band of angels felt sorry for them and led them across a beautiful bay to a land just as magnificent as their former garden. Of course, that land was Nice … at least according to the legend. This is one story to explain where the name Baie des Anges or Bay of Angels came from. For those who might not believe this legend, the proof is that Adam and Eve’s house is still standing in the Old Town – of course, there’s a good chance that it might not be the original.
Have you any new projects in the pipeline at the moment?
I’m currently working on a book similar to Curious Histories of Nice, France, but with stories about Provence. Maybe it will be called Curious Histories of Provence – we’ll have to wait and see.
Typically, how long does it take to research your books? Where do you find your background information?
I don’t really get in a hurry; I think it took about two years to have enough information for the first two books. One reason it takes me a while to write a book is that I don’t always stick to one subject: I tend to work on multiple projects at the same time.
I really like researching and I use internet sources as well as books and periodicals. I prefer to research in French because there is more information and sometimes there is a bit of a different perspective.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
For me, the hardest part of writing is physical. If I’m really into something, I just forget to stop, and I can end up sitting in front of my computer for many hours. My neck and shoulders get stiff, then when I get up … ouch!
And the most rewarding?
The most rewarding part of writing is when other people appreciate my stories. Even if I like something I have written, there are still little doubts about whether it’s any good. When someone I don’t know says they enjoy it, it’s a good feeling.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
The best advice for an aspiring writer is to write. The more you write, the better you become and the more your style develops. I think it’s important to push through your first draft – don’t try to make everything perfect, just get it down. After all your ideas are down, then you can start to refine it.
Finally, what do you like so much about Nice and the French Riviera?
I like that Nice is big enough to have lots of activities going on all the time, but small enough to walk wherever you need to go. Being by the sea is a big bonus – even though I don’t swim, it’s still beautiful and calming to look at. I also find that most of the people here are very friendly and helpful and no one gets in much of a hurry about anything.
Many thanks to Margo for taking the time to talk to us. We are already looking forward to read her upcoming book! To find out more about Margo’s work, you can visit her website, The Curious Rambler.
All images courtesy Margo Lestz