Antoine Laurain is the author of The President’s Hat (Gallic Books). Laurain was born in Paris and began his career as a screenwriter and director of short films. He later became an assistant to an antiques dealer. The President’s Hat is his first novel published in English; he is the author of three previous novels published in French.
François Mitterrand was a controversial politician. What inspired you to set your book during his presidency and to focus on his hat in particular?
Antoine Laurain: François Mitterrand wasn’t so controversial … he had been reelected in 1988 with 54.2 percent of the vote for the presidency of France for a new seven-year term. Trust me, he was rather popular. I wanted to go back to the ’80s, to write about a world without the Internet, cell phones, Facebook, or rap. At this time the president was Mitterrand, and he used to always be dressed the same way, with a red scarf, a black coat, and, of course, a black hat! It’s an iconic picture, so the question is: What could happen if he forgot his hat one day? That’s the beginning of the story.
What do you hope readers take away from The President’s Hat?
A.L.: The fairytale. And a self-confidence in themselves. The idea that life can be better, even because of a hat.
Were books an important part of your childhood? If so, what book had the greatest impact on you as a child?
A.L.: A very important part. Books were so much more interesting than school. Many books were important to me. For example, do you know Babar the Elephant?
When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career as a writer?
A.L.: When my first book was published. And when my banker asked me: “Well, Mr. Laurain, do you have another one in mind?”
Are you working on anything now?
A.L.: I have finished my next novel, and it will be published in France in March.
When you travel, do you stop at bookstores? Have any particular indies made a lasting impression on you?
A.L.: Always. In France and in others countries. I traveled a lot in the U.S. for The President’s Hat doing a reading tour. I have seen many indies. I’ll remember their kindness, friendship, their love for literature … and some beautiful windows especially made for my book! More seriously, there is a very special link between independent booksellers and readers, and we must keep this link!
Have you ever bought a book because of its cover?
A.L.: Sometimes … usually the most important for me is the back cover, where you can read the “pitch.” What is the story about, that’s important! But a good cover is also important. And you have some very good ones in the U.S.
What titles would we find on your nightstand right now?
A.L.: The “How to get a green card when you’re a French author who doesn’t speak very good English.”
If you could invite three authors (from the past or present) to a dinner party, who would they be? What do you think would be the topic of conversation?
A.L.: I would have Edgar Allen Poe, Billy Wilder, and Vladimir Nabokov. The topic? Well… let’s start with a very good bottle of wine from California and we will see!
Antione Laurain, The President’s Hat (Gallic Books, Hardcover, 9781908313478) Publication Date: September 3, 2013
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Learn more about Antoine Laurain at antoinelaurain.blogspot.fr/