Laura Resau, the author of The Notebook Series, dishes about the trip to France that helped her plot her latest book THE RUBY NOTEBOOK. It is the second in The Notebook Series, "a companion to The Indigo Notebook. [In it] Zeeta continues her adventures in the southern French town of Aix-en-Provence, where she encounters captivating street performers, age-old secrets, and mysteries of love."
"A complex and satisfying novel that is both a mystery and a tender, wise meditation on love and self-identity." - Kirkus, starred review
The Ruby Notebook: Behind-the-Scenes Scribbling and Wandering in France
I just came back from a school visit, where someone asked one of the most common questionsI hear: Where do you get your ideas for books? I explained that for my first four books, I happened to stumble across fascinating people and stories and adventures, and wrote about them in my trusty notebook. Then, years later, they found their way into my novels.
But the idea-finding process for my latest release, The Ruby Notebook, was different. The book was under contract before I even knew exactly what it would be about. All I knew for sure was that it would take place in southern France, where I lived for a year during college. I was in love with the setting-- the ancient, narrow, maze-like streets of Aix-en-Provence, the Celtic ruins in the surrounding hills, the mysterious Mediterranean islands off the coast of Marseille. What I wasn't sure of were the plotlines and supporting characters… which made for a perfect excuse to return to France!
So I took a month-long trip to Aix, where I rented out a three-centuries-old apartment and stayed with my toddler and mom (who generously helped with childcare.) To gather ideas, I decided to do what Zeeta, the main character in the Notebooks series, does on her travels. I found a central location—a café on the Place de la Mairie—opened my notebook (mine was actually gold, not ruby-red), and looked around carefully for something or someone inspiring.
My initial notes looked something like this:
Old man in beret surrounded by pigeons, standing on edge of fountain and sipping water from a tin cup.
Old lady sitting in second story window, gazing outside, every day, all day.
Dazzling young street performers—musicians, dancers, incredible energy.
A disconcerting mime.
After a few hours on the square, I would pay for my café au lait, stand up and stretch, and wander the narrow streets, letting myself get deliciously lost. Whenever I passed an intriguing passageway to a mysterious-looking courtyard or shop, I always went inside (notebook in hand, of course).
That's how I ended up having tea with an artist who let me peruse his boxes of ancient maps and yellowing poetry books, who told me about networks of springs beneath the city, and showed me a centuries-old well in his hidden courtyard. And that's how I ended up spending hours in a musty little antique shop among oil paintings and chipped statues, talking with an eccentric art dealer full of fantastical imaginings. As I listened to these men and jotted down notes, part of my mind was already creating the plot threads that would soon be woven into my story.
I took some excursions outside of town, too-- hopped a bus to the Celtic ruins on the hill, sat under a tree, scribbling in my notebook, imagining how it would have felt to be there 2000 years ago. Another day I took a ferry to the Chateau d'If – the Count of Monte Cristo's castle prison on an island, where I crouched in a cold, dank cell, taking notes in my notebook in a patch of sunlight through a tiny window in the meter-thick stone walls.
In addition to being loads of fun, all of these wanderings and scribblings led to characters and plotlines in The Ruby Notebook. I discovered that inspiration will strike anywhere if you're looking for it. All you must do is let yourself linger and wander, keep your eyes and ears open, follow mysterious passageways, and always, always, always carry a notebook.
About The Ruby Notebook:
Sixteen-year-old Zeeta and her flighty English-teaching mom, Layla, have traveled the world together, settling in a different country every year, making a whole new set of friends and adopting new customs. This year, they've chosen to live in Aix-en-Provence, France, an enchanting city full of fountains, creamy yellow light, and a fascinating group of scarlet-clad street performers.
Zeeta soon begins to receive mysterious notes and gifts from someone she calls her fantôme, or ghost. But she is expecting her boyfriend, Wendell - the love of her life, as her friends call him - to arrive in Aix for a summer program very soon. Zeeta brushes off her curiosity about her fantôme, and her simmering attraction to one of the street performers, Jean-Claude, until Wendell arrives and she begins to fear that her feelings for him have truly changed. Perhaps - like Layla - she's simply not made for long-term romance.
As Zeeta tries to draw away from Wendell, however, circumstances seem to force them together. Zeeta's friendship with a local antiques dealer and his reclusive artist friend leads to a dangerous adventure. When Zeeta and Wendell join forces to find a secret underground spring whose water is rumored to bring immortality, they are forced to reconsider their own desires, and their beliefs about true love. Yet as soon as Zeeta decides that her mind has cleared, she's confronted with the biggest shock of her life: the incredible true identity of her fantôme.
Vibrant, warmhearted, and evocative, The Ruby Notebook is a remarkable novel about learning to accept love in all of its wondrous and imperfect forms.
--- Laura Resau