Aurora: What was your inspiration behind this novel?
Mamta: Clearly, it was Paris, and everything we associate with it—beauty, romance, music. But the City of Light has a long shadow of anti-Semitism as well. And that was what I grappled with, how one can love a place and yet feel betrayed by it.
What character do you most relate to and why?
Surprisingly, it’s Julien. I’ve never forgotten a fine piece of writing advice I got years ago: make sure your character is different from you in some important way so that you can remain objective. Julien is different from me in every respect—I’m not French, not Jewish, neither man nor ghost. He is a psychiatrist, and just as he excavates the buried layers of memory we all carry within us, I dig deeper into the city, to contrast the bright side with the dark.
Why do you feel thriller/mystery
books are so popular and have such a voice right now?
The times we live in are so filled with ambiguity and irresolution that we crave moral clarity. And the mystery in my book centers around a quest for a missing child, the courage to speak up, and the importance of remembering. As George Santayana put it: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.
In 1989, when Paris is preparing to celebrate the bicentennial of the French Revolution, Sylvie mourns the loss of her lover Julien. When she discovers a letter hidden in his desk, she sets off on a quest for his niece, who had vanished during the dark days of the Nazi occupation.
Haunting Paris a love story, but it’s not a romance; it’s a ghost story, but the specter is not the least bit frightening; it’s a mystery, but the detective is a pianist deeply in love with an older man; it’s a story about WWII but there are no battles. So it’s clearly a novel that’s hard to pigeonhole, but readers of literary and historical fiction who love Paris will be drawn into Julien and Sylvie’s unlikely love story and the links that bind them beyond life itself.
What’s next for you in the book world?
For starters, I’ll be doing a book tour for Haunting Paris—so far, events in Miami, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Atlanta are on the horizon, but stay tuned. And I’m simultaneously working on my next book. As a reader and a writer, I’m always looking for stories that take me to unexpected places. And that’s what the new novel is about: a woman alone in a mountain cottage, whose imagination summons the gods to keep her company.
Who is your favorite writer right now and why?
Virginia Woolf, whom I blame for years of penniless and thankless striving as a writer. The dinner scene in To The Lighthouse so gripped my imagination that I wanted to write one myself. And now, with Haunting Paris, I have.