In the run up to Christmas, the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency will be posting an entry from one of our authors each day, offering anything from writing tips and their inspiration, to Christmas memories and their wishes for the year to come.


Carrie Duffy

Christmas in Paris

It was Christmas Day 1998, and I spent it away from home, away from my family, in a foreign country. I worked from 8am until 6pm (and my lunatic boss made me clean all the shop windows, inside and out), then trudged back to my tiny studio flat where, not being the world’s greatest cook, I made myself a plate of pasta for Christmas dinner. Sounds miserable, right?

Well it was, sort of, until you consider that I was 18 years old and lucky enough to be living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world – Paris. On the Champs Elysees, fairy lights twinkled in the trees along the entire length of the avenue; the Christmas tree in Galeries Lafayette (my all-time favourite store) was bigger than any I’d ever seen; and a few weeks earlier, I’d done my Christmas shopping in the famous food shop Fauchon, buying handmade chocolates and brightly coloured macaroons for friends and family. So it wasn’t all bad.

Having needed to come back to England at the start of December for a university interview, I’d effectively forfeited my Christmas holiday at the Bureau de Change where I was working during my gap year (for a mad man who didn’t see the need to close on Christmas Day…) And that was how I came to be spending the festive season on my own and far from home.

Whilst it didn’t feel like much fun at the time, they say that, for a writer, no experience is wasted, and my time in Paris heavily inspired my second novel, DIVA. The early scenes in the book (before the women turn into fully fledged glamazons with high-flying careers), are very much based upon my own experiences of doing unfulfilling jobs by day, partying by night, and fervently wishing that the future would bring everything I was hoping for.

New Year’s Eve of that year was so much better than my Christmas had been, with a friend coming out from home to join me and my new Parisian friends. We spent the night (as you should) stumbling in and out of bars before ending up in a nightclub next door to Crazy Horse on the Avenue George V. Happy days.

Despite my less-than-magical Christmas, I headed into the New Year full of optimism for the future, and feeling that there were so many opportunities ahead of me. I was full of hopes and dreams, and some – like my ambition to become a published author – eventually came true. Every Christmas, I still get swept up in that same sense of optimism, and this year I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.

Carrie Duffy‘s latest book DIVA, about two girls who move to Paris to break into the world of fashion, is out now.

DIVA by Carrie Duffy