Jennifer Dupee - THE LITTLE FRENCH BRIDAL SHOP

Jennifer Dupee - THE LITTLE FRENCH BRIDAL SHOP

Jennifer and I discuss her debut The Little French Bridal Shop, the inspiration for both her story and the bridal shop in the book, how small falsehoods can easily turn into a web of lies, how she balances her day job and writing, reading recommendations, and more.


Jennifer and I discuss her debut The Little French Bridal Shop, the inspiration for both her story and the bridal shop in the book, how small falsehoods can easily turn into a web of lies, how she balances her day job and writing, reading recommendations, and more.

The Little French Bridal Shop can be purchased at Murder by the Book or the CFAP Bookshop storefront. 

Jennifer’s 3 recommended reads are:

  1. Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
  2. The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller
  3. Your Corner Dark by Desmond Hall
Support the podcast here. For more information about sponsoring an episode, click here.
 
I appreciate your sharing it with anyone who might be interested.  Have a great weekend.

If you enjoy reading contemporary fiction and want to listen to more podcast episodes like this one, try Nancy Johnson, Julie Carrick Dalton, Madeleine Henry, Lauren Ho, and Lainey Cameron.

Transcript

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

book, bridal shop, writing, house, read, French, Boston, north shore, embarked, Jen, small town, Jennifer, thinking, wallpaper, funny, vision, story, Jamaica, late bloomers, job

SPEAKERS

Cindy Burnett, Jen Dupee

 

Cindy Burnett  00:07

This is the Thoughts from a Page Podcast where I interview authors about their latest works. My name is Cindy Burnett, and I love to talk about books. For more book recommendations, check out my website thoughtsfromapage.com and follow me on Facebook and Instagram at @thoughtsfromapage and on Twitter at burn55555. Today I am interviewing Jen Dupee about The Little French Bridal Shop. Jennifer is the eldest of a set of fraternal triplets, and she grew up seeking any quiet corner of the house so that she could read, write or work on puzzles. Jennifer is a graduate of Brown University where she received her Honors in Creative Writing. She's an active member of the Grubstreet Writing community in Boston and has published in the Feminist Press. Jennifer lives in a historic house just outside of Boston with her family and is currently working on her next two novels. I hope you enjoy our conversation. Welcome, Jen. How are you today?

 

Jen Dupee  00:58

I'm doing great. Thanks.

 

Cindy Burnett  00:59

Good. Well, I'm so glad you're here to talk about The Little French Bridal Shop. Well, why don't we start out by you talking just a little bit about the book. Give me kind of a quick synopsis.

 

Jen Dupee  01:07

Sure. First, let me say thanks so much for having me. I'm just really honored to be here with you today. And I'm so excited to share The Little French Bridal Shop with you and your listeners.

 

Cindy Burnett  01:17

Well, thank you. Well, I'm so glad you're here to talk with me about it. Anything that has Paris or France or French or anything in the title I'm gonna read.

 

Jen Dupee  01:27

Let me tell you about the book. The book is set in motion when Larisa Pearl, my protagonist, returns to her small seaside hometown upon the death of her great aunt Ursula. She's in a bit of a bind because she's just lost her job, and she's recently broke up with her boyfriend, and she's struggling with her mother's failing health. And on a whim she wanders into the local little downtown into the local bridal shop and buys a dress even though she has no grew. Soon word spreads all over town that she's getting married. And rather than dispel that rumor, she perpetuates it.

 

Cindy Burnett  01:58

Well and that's the hard part about a small town. You spur the moment feel like you're caught and you answer in a way that you wouldn't normally and then all of a sudden everything has broken loose and you know poor woman she's stuck in this story.

 

Jen Dupee  02:12

Exactly. And that's exactly what happens. She wanders into the shop. And she's recognized by the shopkeeper and this sort of almost busy body but lovely woman assumes she's getting married because she has a ring on her finger. And she's just returned home and she's walked into the shop. And she kind of lets this little lie of omission go. But soon it snowballs into kind of one lie after the other.

 

Cindy Burnett  02:34

And then that just gets harder and harder. Like the more stories you build on, then you're thinking, well, I can't unwind it now.

 

Jen Dupee  02:41

Exactly. And she keeps sort of thinking like, you know, it's just one small, little, little ruse, you know, no one's really gonna fixate on it. But it's a small town and they do.

 

Cindy Burnett  02:53

You know, small towns are so great, because everybody knows everybody, and there's such a sense of community. But when something like this goes wrong, you're thinking maybe I wish I weren't in a small town.

 

Jen Dupee  03:02

Yeah, no, exactly. In her case, she's thinking she's going to she's not going to stay there for very long and she's inherited this house and her goal is kind of to fix up the house and get out but she ends up getting mired in it.

 

Cindy Burnett  03:13

Well, how did you come up with the subject matter for this one?

 

Jen Dupee  03:16

Yeah, you know, writing for me often starts with an image. I'm just a very imagistic writer. I love writing descriptions. And I love settings. And so you'll see in this book, that setting is really vivid and important. And in this case, the book started with two images. I grew up on the North Shore of Boston, Massachusetts. My grandmother lived for many years in this seaside town of Beverly Farms, which is next to Manchester by the Sea of the movie fame. And it's just a setting that's deeply ingrained in my psyche. And one I really drew on as I created the fictional town and embarked on the opening pages of the book. I had this vision of this regal house kind of up on a hill, and I intuited that my main character Larisa had inherited the house. And so I had this house in my head and have a main character, but I needed to kind of figure out where the story would go. About a year later, I treated myself to a writing weekend also on the North Shore, to try to kind of uncover the story behind the house, and I had just finished eating breakfast in the dining room and was trying to settle into some meaningful writing, but I kept finding myself distracted by this ridiculous large-pattern wallpaper. It was this large repeating pattern of tan pheasants on this navy backdrop, and they had kind of this, each of them had sort of a startled look, you know, their beak kind of slightly open. And I couldn't stop laughing when I looked at them, and I couldn't stop looking at them. And so the story really began there, with my main character Larisa taking a crowbar to the house wallpaper in an effort to discover the source of an apparent leak. She's grappling with her mother's failing health, and as she rips into the wallpaper, she's kind of not thinking clearly and not quite herself. And this is something I really recognized. It was something I really felt deeply when I was grappling with my own mother's illness and then subsequent death from breast cancer when I was in my 20s. And as began to delve into the writing, I realized, you know, this was really at the core of the story for Larisa as well.

 

Cindy Burnett  05:11

Well, first, I'm sorry about your mother. And second you know, I think it's interesting listening to authors talk about being able to sort of incorporate some things from their personal lives. Kind of goes in line with that write what you know.

 

Jen Dupee  05:25

Yeah, I know exactly. It's interesting, because Larisa is certainly not me. I wanted to explore the feelings of loss of identity and disorientation and confusion that consumes a child, even an adult child who, who becomes a caretaker of an ailing parent. And so she really became the vehicle for that.

 

Cindy Burnett  05:43

And then how about the bridal salon? Did you have an inspiration for that?

 

Jen Dupee  05:47

I did, actually. So, you know, as I mentioned earlier, my grandmother lived for many years in this small seaside town. And when I was in high school, there was a French bridal shop on the main street in in Beverly Farms. And I think I actually shopped for my junior prom dress there. So I just I did I had this vision of this wedding shop, so it comes from real life.

 

Cindy Burnett  06:10

Well, Jen, did you have a highlight of writing the book?

 

Jen Dupee  06:13

You know I did. My husband and I first started dating when I embarked on this book. And I've always had a fascination with old houses and the stories that come with them. And I discovered his love for old houses as well. And we as we started dating, we often took neighborhood walks down a nearby road called Elmhurst Road so that we could admire a historic house there. Several years later, not long after we got married, the house went on the market, and we made a bid. And we were super excited because by this point, I'd started the novel and the house in the novel is named Elmhurst in tribute to this to this Elmhurst Road house. And so if you oh my god, we're gonna get the house, this is going to be fantastic. Well, guess what? We didn't get the house. Too many bidders. We were outbid. But during that time, we did find our own historic house nearby. Since then, I've also had a daughter. So my daughter's now almost seven. I feel like this book has has, even though it doesn't kind of cover that subject matter, it chronicles those years of sort of getting married, buying our house, having our family.

 

Cindy Burnett  07:19

You tie it in with those happy memories, that they kind of all progress together.

 

Jen Dupee  07:23

I do. I do. Yeah.

 

Cindy Burnett  07:25

Well, I'm a big title and cover person. And I would love to hear a little bit about how your title came about how your beautiful cover came together. All of that.

 

Jen Dupee  07:33

Yeah. So using the cover gorgeous.

 

Cindy Burnett  07:35

Yes, the cover's absolutely spectacular.

 

Jen Dupee  07:39

Thank you. So really all credit is due to my editor Leslie Gelvin at St. Martin's. She had a vision for this book from them from the very beginning. And she came up with the title, but it was based on this bridal shop that I had planted into the book early on, that I already talked about and but she had the vision of the dress in the window for the moment she bought the book. And she really worked on that vision with Michael Storrings, the artistic director from St. Martin's, and, you know, they got it right, really right away. So I couldn't be more pleased.

 

Cindy Burnett  08:12

They really did and I even just love the chairs and the table with the flowers. And then that, I guess it's a plant, it looks like ivy on the side of the building. The whole thing is just beautiful.

 

Jen Dupee  08:22

Yeah, it's gorgeous. I'm really lucky.

 

Cindy Burnett  08:24

Well, how long did it take you? It sounds like a little while, from what we were just talking about, but how long did it take you to write The Little French Bridal Shop?

 

Jen Dupee  08:31

I'd say about three and a half, four years, somewhere in there. You know, it's always hard to chronicle the exact time given that I'm working and doing other things. But roughly that amount of time?

 

Cindy Burnett  08:41

Do you have a set writing schedule? Like what does that look like for you?

 

Jen Dupee  08:44

Yeah, I do, you know, I find that it varies from, you know, given the time of the year, but I try to carve out some time on Saturday morning. So you know, Saturday from sort of, you know, nine to noon. And then also I'll try to get up early during my work week and carve out an hour or so there in the morning.

 

Cindy Burnett  09:05

What do you do for your everyday job?

 

Jen Dupee  09:07

I work for an operations manager at a biotech company in Boston, or outside of Boston, really, but totally different than my writing job. But when I was when I knew I really wanted to pursue my writing career, I wanted a job that had a certain amount of kind of stability and practicality to it that would allow me to explore my creative life outside of work.

 

Cindy Burnett  09:31

Well and it is nice, because those must be true opposites in terms of what you do during the day and then try and do the writing. So neither one is kind of infringing on the other.

 

Jen Dupee  09:40

Exactly. And that's exactly what I was seeking for when I was looking for this job.

 

Cindy Burnett  09:44

Well, I know this book is just coming out into the world, but everybody always wants to know, are you working on anything new at the moment that you would like to share with me?

 

Jen Dupee  09:52

I am, and I'd love to share. So I have two projects in the works at the moment. One of them is really still gestating, and so I won't talk too much about it yet, but it's probably along the lines of The Little French Bridal Shop. The other is is fairly different. It's a first person narration told from from the perspective of a seven-year-old girl. Her mother is pregnant. But the story is really set in motion when a strange man arrives at the foot of their driveway and claims that that baby could be his so.

 

Cindy Burnett  10:21

Oh, that sounds good. I mean, they both sound good. But that sounds very intriguing.

 

Jen Dupee  10:26

It is. It's a book I you know, it's really different than The Little French Bridal Shop. But, you know, as I mentioned in the beginning, I really love descriptive writing so there's lots of description. I don't know if you're familiar with Neil Gaiman, in his work, but some of his shorter works as kind of that fairy tale feel. And that's what I'm going for.

 

Cindy Burnett  10:46

My middle daughter loves his books, and I'm trying to think of is it The Good Omen Is that the one that was then made into a TV show?

 

Jen Dupee  10:52

There are several but yeah.

 

Cindy Burnett  10:55

She's read that one, and then watched the show and then read it again. I was thinking of The Snow Child when you were talking about kind of a fairy tale feeling. I love that book. And it's like that.

 

Jen Dupee  11:04

Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely.

 

Cindy Burnett  11:07

Well, what do you like to do when you're not writing or reading or working?

 

Jen Dupee  11:12

Well, spending time with family. So I have I mentioned my seven year old daughter, but I also have my amazing husband and three stepchildren who are with us for part of the time. So I have a stepdaughter who's 20, and two boys who are 18 and 16. And so we get out and spend a lot of time together. I love to play tennis. Lately that's one of those things that I've been doing in COVID because I feel like it's something you can do in a big space that's relatively safe. And, you know, lastly, I love to travel, but haven't done that lately. But looking forward to the time at which I can.

 

Cindy Burnett  11:48

Me too. That's actually one of my favorite things to do. And that has been one of the hardest parts, I think, is just not being able to do that. But I mean, I know we're all in the same boat. And there are way bigger problems. But I look forward to when we will be able to travel again.

 

Jen Dupee  12:01

No, absolutely. And you know, I feel incredibly lucky to have my home, my family, my job, my health. And so while COVID has been very challenging, I know that many others have been impacted much more greatly so.

 

Cindy Burnett  12:15

Me too. And that's what I was saying. Like when I'm saying I'd love to travel, I do realize that we have been very lucky. But it will be nice for everyone when all of this is over and we can get back to some of the things we'd all like to do.

 

Jen Dupee  12:26

Oh, absolutely. It's funny, because every now and then, you know, I take a jaunt out to the North Shore of Boston, which is 30 minutes away and just the drive, just driving somewhere different feels incredibly illuminating and spectacular.

 

Cindy Burnett  12:41

So funny that you say that because I you know normally spend a lot of time in my car. Houston's a driving city and, but I haven't at all during the pandemic. So every once in a while when I do have to go get in the car and drive somewhere for like 30 minutes, I just I'm so excited to have the radio on and just in my car peacefully driving, and I was like, who knew I'd actually ever look forward to this, you know, so it's one of those things just silver linings.

 

Jen Dupee  13:04

Yeah, I couldn't agree more. It's funny how our perspective really has to do with the pandemic. it you know, it's really interesting.

 

Cindy Burnett  13:12

It is interesting, and there's definitely been some positives. I think the slowing down of life and you know, spending more time with family. So there definitely have been some very positive things and hopefully that will sort of reshuffle priorities and things like that when we come out on the other side of it. Well, Jen, before we wrap up, I would love to hear what you've read recently that you really liked and would recommend.

 

Jen Dupee  13:32

Yeah, you know, I have a bunch of books on my list. So I recently read Mary Beth Keane Ask Again, Yes. I thought it was fascinating. It was a dive into a family, two families who are struggling with mental illness and kind of the repercussions of that. And it's something I might embark on one of my projects. And I sought it out for that reason, but you know, I just really took my time with it and enjoyed it. And then another one that I read just before Christmas, Louise Miller, The Late Bloomers' Club. She's a local Boston author. And it's just heartwarming and funny and well-crafted and clever. And so it's a lighter read, but just a really great read to kind of perk you up. And then lastly, Desmond Hall, who is another local writer, but with roots from Jamaica, so he was born in Jamaica. So one that was a totally different read for me, but also fantastic. It's called Your Corner Dark. It just debuted. And it's about a high schooler who's looking to gain a scholarship to the United States. And then he gets sucked into this kind of gang world in Jamaica, and he's got to make some decisions to figure out whether he'll be able to take that scholarship or not.

 

Cindy Burnett  14:48

Oh, that sounds really interesting. I'm not familiar with that one. I'm gonna have to look it up.

 

Jen Dupee  14:51

Yeah, yeah. And he's a great guy.

 

Cindy Burnett  14:54

I've read Louise's first book, which I really liked, and I have the galley still, I know it's been out for a while, for her second one. I just haven't gotten to it yet. But she's delightful when I've interacted with her on social media, and I really like her writing.

 

Jen Dupee  15:07

She is delightful. So you know, I know her. She's a friend of mine; she gave me a blurb for my book. And The Late Bloomers' Club is very similar to her first book, but I will say, you know, her Twitter account, for instance, follow her Twitter account people because she just, I look for it, when I'm kind of having a down day. She just has really great observations and musings on life. And you know, she's watching the birds out her window, and it's so heartwarming. She's just, she's so genuine and so real. And, you know, I couldn't say enough good things about her.

 

Cindy Burnett  15:42

Well, good. Well, that will prompt me to move that one up the list.

 

Jen Dupee  15:46

Absolutely.

 

Cindy Burnett  15:48

Well, Jen, thank you so much for your time. And for joining me on the Thoughts from a Page Podcast. I really enjoyed speaking with you.

 

Jen Dupee  15:54

Cindy, thank you so much. It was a great way to spend half hour, and I really appreciate your time and looking forward to sharing the book with the world.

 

Cindy Burnett  16:06

Thank you so much for listening to my podcast. If you liked this episode, and I hope you did, please follow me on Instagram and Pinterest at @thoughtsfromapage, tell all of your friends about the podcast, and rate it wherever you listen to your podcasts. I would really appreciate it. Jennifer's book can be purchased at Murder by the Book where I work part time or on the Conversations from a Page Bookshop storefront. The link for both is in the show notes. Thanks to K. P. Regan for the sound editing, and I hope you'll tune in next time.