By Laia Feliu.
We are very happy to welcome Dee Ernst to The Reading Corner to discuss her upcoming romance “Lucy Checks In”, out August 16th!
Lucia Giannetti needs a fresh start. Once the hotel manager of a glamorous NYC hotel and intimately involved with the hotel’s owner, Lucy had her entire future planned out. But when the owner disappears, taking millions of dollars with him, Lucy’s life as she knows it falls apart.
Two years later, forty-nine years old and unemployed, Lucy takes a job in Rennes, France to manage the Hotel Paradis. She pictures fur quilts and extravagant chandeliers, but what she finds is wildly different. Lucy is now in charge of turning the run-down, but charming hotel into a bustling tourist attraction. Between painting rooms, building a website, and getting to know Bing, the irritatingly attractive artist, Lucy finds an unexpected home. But can she succeed in bringing the Hotel Paradis to its former glory?
Witty and heartfelt, Lucy Checks In is an inspiring and feel-good novel about reclaiming your life, finding love, and creating a home in places you never thought possible.
Hi Dee! Firstly, thank you so much for your time. “Lucy Checks In” had me checking flights to Rennes so I could eat the food and walk down the market! Your characters were so beautifully created and had such different personalities, I loved all of them (not Eliot).
“Lucy Checks In” tells the story of a woman who is trying to reinvent herself after a terrible experience in both her love life and her career. What drew you to write about Lucy’s life?
I am drawn to women and their ‘Second Act’, as I didn’t start writing until after 50! I am not a big fan of angst, although I understand it’s value in storytelling. I instead like to focus on the positives of rebuilding yourself, and most of my books are about women rising up and finding themselves stronger for it. The challenge – and fun – is putting women in different situations and watching them climb back to the top.
One of my favourite things about your book was the variety of characters and their personalities, how every one of them brought something to the story and to Lucy’s life. What was the process of creating so many characters like? Where did the inspiration come from?
For me, secondary characters are as much fun to write as primary characters, and I am lucky to be working in an environment rich in personalities. I like perople, and am endlessly amused by their interactions. Most of my characters and combinations of real-life folks I’ve met, although I can say that Vera is very much based on a co-worker, and she was thrilled with the idea.
Your descriptions of Rennes, its people, and especially its gastronomy, were so accurate and beautifully done. Have you spent time there doing research? Why France and not another country?
My daughter has lived in Rennes for five years, and I’ve been over to visit her twice. My third trip was planned just before Covid, so I won’t be going back there until possibly this fall. It’s a beautiful old city, and I really fell in love with it.
Although Lucy and Bing’s love story was fantastic, I felt very compelled to Philippe and Marie Claude’s relationship. Have you ever considered writing about their love story? If so, would you focus on their lives before the breakup or when they find each other again?
Philippe and Marie Claude was difficult for me to write, because I was breaking up a marriage. But I wanted a secondary love story that was very different from Lucy and Bing, and that young, impulsive, extreme was a perfect contrast to the long. slow burn of Lucy and Bing. Their love story would be full of angst and heartbreak, and that’s usually not the kind of story I’m drawn to.
Your book explores the topic of ageism and how it is very possible to build your life from the ground up later in life. Was the decision to touch on this topic conscious, or did it happen when you started creating the plot?
Later in life experience is a familiar theme in my books, because the first book I wrote kept getting rejected because the heroine was “too old”. That started a career of writing about women ‘of a certain age’ and I have found my audience. And as my agent told me early in my career, write what you know. At 66, I can’t imagine knowing what a 20-something is even thinking about, so I’ll be writing about the glories of middle age and beyond forever!
Lucy’s trauma from her last experience makes it difficult for her to trust her instincts and open up to the other guests in the hotel, especially Bing. Was it important to you that the reason Lucy and Bing’s relationship was slow to develop was due to the trauma, or did it just make sense in the process of drafting the characters?
I wanted a slow burn for Lucy and Bing, and it did make sense because of her betrayal for her to be distrustful of him, and of everyone. I wanted to make it clear that all the belief and confidence she had once had in herself was shaken, and simple lust wasn’t about to change that. I think it also made sense for the age of the characters, that although they may be old enough to know when something is real, they are also wise enough not to rush into anything.
I often wonder what happens to the characters after I finish a book I really enjoyed. What do you think the future holds in store for Lucy and Bing, but also for the rest of the residents at Hotel Paradis?
I hope they all live happily ever after as one big family. I think I set it up that way, as this group of folks have become a family and Lucy and her girls are accepted with love.
What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
That it’s never too late to find your passion and your happy place. That family is what you make, not just what you’re born into. And that love is grand at any age.
Are there any books within the genre or with similar messages to “Lucy Checks In” you could recommend?
There’s a Seasoned Romance group within RWA with loads of talented authors writing happy endings for women over forty. You can find them on Facebook, and there’s always suggestions and conversations about great books.
And finally, where can everyone get their hands on this beautiful story?
Here’s the main buy link – https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250844583/lucy-checks-in
Dee Ernst was born and raised in New Jersey, which may explain her attitude toward life. She moved around a bit, had a husband or two, a daughter or two, and settled back in New Jersey where she writes women’s fiction, romance, and cozy mysteries. And a bit of YA and SFF.
She has self-published under the 235 Alexander Street imprint. She has been published by Montlake, Lake Union, and in 2021, released Maggie Finds Her Muse with St. Martin’s Griffin. Her next book, Lucy Checks In, comes out August 16, 2022.
Dee’s Instagram: @dee.ernst.7
Dee’s Website: http://www.deeernst.com
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