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The Paris Affair a perfect summer book club read

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Maureen Marshall — Photo by Michael Parkyn
Maureen Marshall — Photo by Michael Parkyn

History has shown that living openly as a member of the LGBTQ+ community can be one of the bravest things a person can do. Author Maureen Marshall knows a thing or two about bravery and Queer history. For the last ten years, she wrote steamy LGBTQ+ historical fiction under a pen name, but this year she decided to add her real one to the cover of her latest novel, The Paris Affair.

"I was just fully embracing everything and it just felt like, 'Dammit I'm going to do everything under my name,' and just be me. It took long enough," Marshall said in an interview with the SGN.

A former high school teacher in Virginia, Marshall was wary of sharing her work, and her identity as a Queer person, with her community. After her 50th birthday, though, she had a change of heart. The Paris Affair includes a personal essay at the book's end as Marshall's way of formally coming out.

Marshall had worked hard on all her historical novels, and she was finally ready to share them with the people she loved most. After she published the book, she shared it with her parents, who at first did not take it well. Despite their reactions, most of her friends and community were proud of all her writing accomplishments, including the most important people.

"My kids knew [I was Queer] long before there was a book in the making," she said. "I thought, 'Well, if I have my kids, then I have enough people who do love me.'"

Accuracy and connection
As a former history teacher, ensuring her books are accurate was essential. "I love to research, I am a big research fiend!" she said.

Before she even started writing The Paris Affair, Marshall cracked open French history books to learn everything she could about the inception of the famed Eiffel Tower. While she could easily fill a book with excerpts from the many primary sources she relied on, the difficulty in writing historical fiction is creating an intriguing plot and not oversaturating the readers with too many facts.

"With historical fiction, you just drop in enough nuggets so it's interesting without beating anybody over the head with all the details," she explained.

Writing Queer historical fiction can also be tricky, as many LGBTQ+ people could not live their lives openly, so there are fewer records of what their experiences were like. Some authors rely on their imagination to fill in the gaps history leaves, but Marshall wanted to do her research to make sure that the Queer characters she brought to life were accurate to their period. "I did a lot of research on... Queer history, night clubs, and laws, and stuff like that. It was a mishmash of little pieces here or there," she said.

Grand Central  

Marshall's favorite part about history is finding the throughlines that connect the past to the present. She hopes The Paris Affair will help her readers make those connections. "I love how even though that was so long ago and everything was so different in the world, human nature is not different," she explained. "I like to show the parallels of modern life compared to 1886 — as human history goes, it's not that long ago. There were a lot of laws that were very different, but also there's a lot that's understandable and relatable. I want those parallels to be apparent."

"The characters took over"
The Paris Affair is inspired, in part, by an old family legend. "I'm a writer, so I made it bigger and more interesting. I just ran with it," Marshall said.

While her real family is from England, Marshall has always been interested in Paris, so she set her story there. "I took lots of little pieces and put them in a [metaphorical] Yahtzee cup and threw it out to see what would happen. The characters took over most of it," she said.

Marshall hopes her nail-biting tome will be a popular choice for summer book clubs and is even willing to connect with reading groups if they'd like to discuss the story with her. With the book club demographic in mind, she hopes readers who discover her novel walk away from it with the understanding that Queer people — of all periods — are just like anybody else.

"I want them to see that the characters could be their neighbors now. It's just the situations are slightly different, but people are people," she said.

The Paris Affair is available now and can be found at Elliott Bay Book Company and Third Place Books. Marshall's next book, a 1920s Hollywood reimagining of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, and Catherine of Aragon, is anticipated to come out sometime next year.