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Q&A with Aimie K. Runyan - A Bakery in Paris

A Bakery in Paris

By Eva Frederiksen

We are happy to welcome Aimie K. Runyan to The Reading Corner to talk about her new release A Bakery in Paris released on the 1st of August 2023.

1870: The Prussians are at the city gates, intent to starve Paris into submission. Lisette Vigneau—headstrong, willful, and often ignored by her wealthy parents—awaits the outcome of the war from her parents’ grand home in the Place Royale in the very heart of the city. When an excursion throws her into the path of a revolutionary National Guardsman, Théodore Fournier, her destiny is forever changed. She gives up her life of luxury to join in the fight for a Paris of the People. She opens a small bakery with the hopes of being a vital boon to the impoverished neighborhood in its hour of need. When the city falls into famine, and then rebellion, her resolve to give up the comforts of her past life is sorely tested.

1946: Nineteen-year-old Micheline Chartier is coping with the loss of her father and the disappearance of her mother during the war. In their absence, she is charged with the raising of her two younger sisters. At the hand of a well-meaning neighbor, Micheline finds herself enrolled in a prestigious baking academy with her entire life mapped out for her. Feeling trapped and desperately unequal to the task of raising two young girls, she becomes obsessed with finding her mother. Her classmate at the academy, Laurent Tanet, may be the only one capable of helping Micheline move on from the past and begin creating a future for herself.

Both women must grapple with loss, learn to accept love, and face impossible choices armed with little more than their courage and a belief that a bit of flour, yeast, sugar, and love can bring about a revolution of their own.

A Bakery in Paris

Your novels so far, including A Bakery in Paris, centre women at a number of pivotal moments in history. I’m curious to know more about your process. As an author of historical fiction who writes such compelling female protagonists, where do you begin? Does setting inspire story, or vice versa?

Typically, I begin with the historical setting. I will come across an article or research book about something like the Paris Commune, female telephone operators in WWI, or the all-woman Russian squadron of fighter pilots in WWII and the characters will spring forth from those moments in time. What sort of woman can show the reader the realities of the Paris Commune, for example? To truly portray the story, she’d have to know the plight of the poor and understand the concerns of the wealthy, so I created a character who gave up a life of comfort to follow her ideals: enter, Lisette. For Micheline, I wanted to show a different aspect of war: how it robs so many of their life choices and puts them in roles they wouldn’t otherwise be forced into.

Lisette and Micheline, the protagonists of A Bakery in Paris, have a kindred strength about them. At the same time, they – and the women whose lives touch theirs – each exemplify the remarkably different shapes courage can take. Are there any characters in A Bakery in Paris that you feel a particular kinship with?

I honestly love them all. I feel like Lisette is high minded shares a bright vision for the future of Paris with her Théo, and that vision comes to evolve as she ages and learns the ways of the world. Micheline was quite special. Part of the craft of writing is determining what the character wants, and Micheline’s entire journey was simply trying to figure out what she wanted from life. Her arc can be described very succinctly as the quest for agency over her own life.

The little bakery’s story brings to life the simple staples and finer delights of French cuisine. Do you share your protagonists’ passion for baking?

I do! Though I haven’t mastered the art of the macaron yet (my dessert Everest) likely due to living at high elevation, I find a lot of solace in the kitchen. When everything is growing wrong, there is something soothing in making something beautiful and delicious out of simple ingredients. When things are going well, it’s all the sweeter with some cheesecake.

I’m always in awe of writing that manages to effortlessly draw the reader into a complex, unfamiliar setting. In A Bakery in Paris, you introduce the unsettled worlds of Paris in 1870 and 1946 in such a way that they feel rich with historical specificity and yet intimately familiar from the first page. With this in mind, how do you approach the task of weaving the factual with the fictional?

Because I created my own characters for A Bakery in Paris, I had a lot of liberty with specific details of their lives. I was constrained mostly by the timeline of historical events from the days before the Siege of Paris in 1870 through the tragic end of the Paris Commune in mid 1871. The timeline isn’t so much a constraint as it is a framework around which to build the story. I felt like I had a lot more license with the 1946 timeline because it IS more familiar to the reader and requires a bit less handholding on my end. There were also fewer important timeline considerations, as the story centers around the aftermath of major historical events and not the thick of them. Knowing the history and knowing Paris well were keys to making it feel more effortless… and I am so glad it read that way for you!

Since I’m often caught up in science fiction and fantasy, A Bakery in Paris happens to be one of the first works of historical fiction I’ve read. I absolutely loved it! What would you say to anyone who might not have considered this genre before?

I’ve always considered it a cousin genre to fantasy and Sci Fi because they both require setting the reader up in an unfamiliar place and time. Whether it’s the court of Louis XIV or several centuries into the future in a galaxy far, far away, the author is taking the reader out of the world they know and taking them to someplace completely out of the context they know. It’s a very different process from writing a contemporary novel set in Manhattan, for example, which is a place we all know in the context of popular movies and TV where the reader comes to the work with a decent amount of context already.

Your love of French shines through your writing in A Bakery in Paris. What role has your knowledge of the language played in your journey as an author?

I have my Master’s in French, and the language has been a massive part of my journey as an author. The topics of my books have been hugely influenced by my study of French, and I love any excuse to linger in France, even if it’s in my own pages. Including A Bakery in Paris, my next four projects take place in France, so clearly I left a good bit of my heart there. Of course, my knowledge of French was indispensable for the research in many of my titles, especially my first two French-Canadian colonials, A Bakery in Paris, and most of all perhaps my upcoming Mademoiselle Eiffel, which required a lot of archival work.

What books have made the deepest mark on you as a writer or as an individual? Are there any you would recommend to readers of A Bakery in Paris?

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and Pillars of the Earth are two that come to mind. Both are books that linger with me, and helped shape my reading habits, my writing goals, and my world outlook.

Lastly, where can we pick up a copy of A Bakery in Paris?

Anywhere books are sold! If your local independent bookseller doesn’t have it in stock, they’d likely be thrilled to order it for you. I am a huge fan of if you prefer to shop online.

A Bakery in Paris

Aimie writes fiction, both historical and contemporary, that celebrates the spirit of strong women. In addition to her writing, she is active as a speaker and educator in the writing community. She lives in Colorado with her amazing husband, kids, cats, and pet dragon.

Aimie's Instagram: @bookishaimie


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