The Race For Paris – Author Interview

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 Meg Waite ClaytonNew books, cool authors.

Meg Waite Clayton’s The Race for Paris hit the San Francisco Chronicle/NCIBA bestseller list in its 1st week out. Very cool of course, but considering she spent ten years researching and writing this almost non-fiction novel, the success is well deserved.

I did a tremendous amount of research on real journalists like Lee Miller, who reported and photographed for Vogue, Martha Gellhorn, Lee Carson, and Sonia Tomara, the great photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White (who never was accredited to Normandy, as she was seen as too temperamental), and Dickey Chappelle, who photographed in the Pacific.

I chose to draw on their real lives but fictionalize them, as that allowed me to gather a wide range of experiences and load them into a couple characters, which allowed me to build the challenges the real women faced into a story with a more classic story arc and narrative drive that might not always be there in real life but helps carry the reader along. But the scene in the operating room in the opening chapter, for example, was inspired by an experience Bourke-White had in Italy. A much later scene is inspired by a moment Martha Gellhorn had in France. I drew heavily from the writings of Lee Miller, the letters of Martha Gellhorn, and the extensive interviews with the women correspondents which the Women’s Press Corps had the brilliant idea to record while these extraordinary women were still alive.

I came across the term, the Race for Paris in Andy Rooney’s memoir. He wrote for the Stars and Stripes during the war, and he described the “race for Paris” as a spirited competition among the journalists in Normandy about who would be the first to report the liberation of Paris. I imagine them trash-talking each other, but always with the understanding that to be the first to report the liberation would be a huge coup.

Most of the journalists were male, of course, but there were women vying to be first, too, and some made it to cover the liberation, and even had claims to be first. Lee Carson, who reported for INS, rode in on a jeep with Bob Reuben of Reuters, who joked that Carson claimed to be first and was not sharing the honor even with her jeep mates, as they were in the back while she had very particularly chosen the front seat!

The Race for Paris is bright and entertaining. I had just visited Normandy and loved the details and following along the character’s routes with the information and maps I bought while at Omaha Beach.

For more on Meg and her book

For the full interview – check out WNBA’s blog

For the interview on Newbie Writers Podcast – Episode #194

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