As Heather Stimmler-Hall states on her website “This isn’t your grandmother’s guide book” — she wasn’t kidding. NAUGHTY PARIS is by far one of the best guidebooks I’ve read and it exceeds expectations in the execution of the book. Not only is it informative, intelligent, and eloquently written, it gives you real insight on Paris, the City of Light. Sexy flows through the pages and confirms the idea that you can make your own romance if you dare to utilize her suggestions.
Since Heather is currently on a US tour, I had the pleasure of speaking with her while she was in NY. She has proven that perserverance, a lot of hard work and determination goes a long way. The proof is in the final product. Speaking to her made me want to return to Paris and brought me back to those years I had the pleasure of indulging. If I had the guidebook then, I would have taken advantage of exploring the city further. She stirred memories that will help me adequately describe in my current contemporary set in Paris.
If you have never owned a guidebook, you might want to consider picking this one up because it works well as both a guidebook and author’s reference book. I’m already looking forward to purchasing her future guidebooks to line my shelf
And now, the interview with Heather Stimmler-Hall….
I studied journalism and worked at magazines and newspapers while I was in college, so I have a pretty traditional background as a generalist. I didn’t specifically do travel writing until I was at ELLE.com.
How did you enjoy working for Elle.com as a travel editor?
The world of fashion is very different from the world of news, lol! I liked having the chance to write about travel for such a well known website, but at the same time I also realized right away that I didn’t like combining work and vacation; there’s really too much work involved in researching and writing good travel pieces to be able to relax and enjoy it on vacation. I only write about where I live now.
What propelled you to move to Paris and do private tours?
I moved to Paris as a student, about three years before I eventually worked at ELLE. I went freelance in 2000 and moved to the Riviera for almost four years. When I moved back to Paris in 2004 I felt like I needed a break from my writing and felt the need to connect with the people I was writing for so I got a job giving tours for other companies for about a year before doing my own thing. It seems that’s my professional path in life – work for someone else, decide I can do it better, and voila, I work for myself.
You lead private tours through the city, how are your clientele and their reaction to some of the locales you take them to? Are they specifically requested.
Not sure I get this question. I do custom tours, specifically planned for each client. So there is always an idea from them what they want to see and do. I really enjoy it when they tell me they feel like they never would have experienced the city in the same way on their own.
What made you want to write Naughty Paris? What gave you the inspiration to move ahead with this?
I had a lot of readers of my Secrets of Paris newsletter (which I’ve been writing since 1999) ask me about the naughtier side of Paris, and was convinced a book in English would find an audience. There is already a guide in French but it’s more hard core and written for men. I really wanted to have a female focused guide because I think women have a special relationship with Paris that men don’t. We are inspired by the history, the fashion, the beauty and atmosphere of the city. It’s not just about sex; it’s a city where women are encouraged to embrace their inherent sexiness.
How difficult was it for you to get this book launched? Did you encounter any pitfalls along the way?
It took over three years to do the guide. There were many false starts, changes in the tone and content of the book, a co-author who eventually backed out to work on her novel, and the ups and downs with finding an agent and looking for a good publishing deal. I eventually, as usual, thought I could do it better myself and started a small publishing company in Paris. It took awhile and more false starts, but eventually I got together the team that worked on the book with me, including the photographer (Kirsten Loop from Toronto), the designers (TheBookDesigners from San Francisco) and a team of editors. My friends volunteered to model for the guide, and many friends gave me the encouragement and advice I needed; I’m lucky to have many friends in publishing! Since I ended up doing all of the text in the end, it did take longer than I thought it would, often taking a backseat to my own travel writing and guiding work.
What demographic do you want to target in writing this travel guide since it’s not a typical one a traveler would find?
I wrote it for English-speaking women who love Paris, whether they go all of the time or just dream of it. The guide targets the “Sex & the City” generation of women – 35-55 years old – who are confident, independent, a little sassy, a little daring….women who want to have fun, but still remain ladies, lol!
Your book is amazing and insightful. It’s eloquently written. I noticed some of your venues are private clubs that are quite risqué. Did you do research in these places?
I visited every place before I put it in the guide. That’s a must in the travel industry. Some writers try to research online, but if you want your guide to be useful to your readers, you have to speak from experience. Having said that, “research” doesn’t mean “participating”.
Did you go to the clubs for the first time and what was the experience like? How did the regular clients view your attendance?
I had never visited these clubs before I started researching the guide, and you usually need to be in a couple to visit them. Luckily I found a couple of regulars who know the owners of these clubs, so they got me in and showed me around. People were very polite and respectful. I was often invited to participate – everyone spots the new girl quickly in these clubs – but no one pressures you if you prefer to watch.
Did you know about any of these venues in Paris or was it an interesting discovery through others?
I always knew these places existed. They are in every district in Paris and not at all hidden. I had simply never been inside.
I enjoyed the breakdowns and bits of history. It gives the book a very unique spin. Your observations on the French men are entertaining. What misconceptions would you like to clarify that most Americans might view the French?
I think the American view of flirting makes us assume that sex is the goal, but even though the French love to flirt, it’s not always because they want to sleep with you. Sometimes it’s just for fun, a form of polite flattery.
You are currently on a book tour, how are people receiving your travel guide?
I’ve been getting a lot of good feedback, but obviously most people were more focused on election day, lol! I have three more events in NY, Philly and DC, and there are already a lot of people who have RSVPd, so that’s promising. All of the parties (they’re in cocktail bars instead of bookstores) are listed on my website’s events page (www.naughtyparisguide.com).
I found this travel guide more than just a guide but a reference book. The information is very specific and your research can help bring a reality to the author’s story. As a romance writer, I found this book to be useful in guiding me to research online. What are your tips on how it may help a writer who is researching about Paris?
I would recommend not only visiting, but reading as many contemporary novels set in Paris as possible (unless you’re writing historic romances, of course). French magazines can be helpful, like ELLE and Vogue, if you read French. And if you’re going to mention specific streets and a character’s drive or walk along a certain route, check a map! Dan Brown got a lot of simple geography wrong in DaVinci Code, lol!
What are your plans for the future? Any more Naughty guides?
I’m still working on getting Naughty Paris out there, but I have started looking for writers for Naughty London and Naughty New York. I may also do a special collection of Naughty Paris stories contributed by women who have come to Paris and used the book…if there are any of you out there already, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Any advice for people who would like to do freelance writing? How can they get started?
I got into freelancing the old fashioned way, by working first as a staff writer and editor. You can’t work from home that way, but it gives you the legitimacy and the contacts that make freelancing so much easier. It never hurts to take some writing classes in the field you’re interested in as well, but stick with established schools with solid reputations and avoid at all costs any classes that try and sell you the “get paid to travel!” myth. It’s a real job, travel writing, and hobbyists who are just into it for the freebies never get very far.
Any last plugs for your readers?
If you’re in Paris, check the websites, both www.naughtyparisguide.com and www.secretsofparis.com for events. I usually host at least one ladies happy hour each month, and it’s a great way to meet a mix of locals and tourists.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Read, read, read lots of good writing. It can’t help but rub off on you.