I Loved Writing this Book: An Exclusive Guest Post from Jane Smiley, Author of Perestroika in Paris

Is there anything Jane Smiley cannot doThe Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling author of A Thousand Acres returns with an unexpected and brilliantly imaginative story of three extraordinary animals and a young boy whose lives are forever changed when they meet in Paris. This charming tale of friendship, curiosity and true love in all its forms is the perfect sweet retreat — full of wonder, whimsy and most importantly, hope. Here, Jane Smiley discusses the inspiration for her latest novel and writing fantasy for the first time. 

I have a horse, soon to be sixteen, that I bred. Her name is Perestroika, and she has always been a smarty pants and an oddball. When I still had faith in racing, I sent her to the track. She ran three times, came last twice, then second to last. I think she felt the racetrack was beneath her. When I brought her home to turn her into a riding horse, she was friendly but wild. She was decent to ride, but she loved to leap into the air and kick both legs out, race around the arena at top speed and come to a screeching halt. She was beautiful, and one of my other horses couldn’t take his eyes off her. When I was first riding her, I happened to go to Paris, to spend time on the west side, to have a bowl of soupe à l’oignon gratinée at a cafe in the Place du Trocadero. The soupe was delicious and the area fascinated me. It was also not far from Auteuil Racecourse, and the wheels began to turn. What if …

I’d never written a fantasy before, but I was always in the habit of attributing feelings and ideas to my horses, especially Paras. She was evidently curious — always looking here and there, opening the lid of a mounting block to see what was inside, following me to see where I was going. She was also kind but skittish — complex from day one and in every way. As soon as I concocted her escape from Auteuil, I couldn’t stop. Who would she meet? What would she see? What would she think about it? And I did a lot of research, because, you know, research in Paris is very exacting. At any rate, I loved writing this book. I’ve spent much of my career writing about politics, large and small. Perestroika in Paris was a happy relief for me in these fraught times. I hope it is for the reader, too.

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