Wednesday is All Write: 7 Questions with Jamie Cat Callan, author of Ooh La La

I was lucky to receive an advanced reader copy of Jamie Cat Callan's delightful book Ooh La La: French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Everyday. Part memoir, part self-improvement guide, Jamie's charming voice sings off the page. Seriously, it's like reading a book written by your best friend-- one you go to advice for. From sex to lingerie to finding the perfect perfume, Jamie is honest and open, no subject taboo. While it's clear Jamie certainly has an affinity for all things French, and we meet so many wonderful people on Jamie's quest to capture her Ooh La La, what I really like about her book is it's all about self-empowerment, how we women all have our own Ooh La La no matter what country we come from, no matter our size, no matter our age. Even better- you don't need to take a trip to Paris to find your Ooh La La;it rests within you.

ABOUT OOH LA LA: French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Everday:
French women are not born more attractive than anyone else. They simply learn at a very young age how to feel beautiful, confident, and sexy, inside and out. It's an allure that outlasts youth--in fact, some of France's most celebrated women are femmes d'un certain âge. Experience only makes them more irresistible.

Growing up, Jamie Cat Callan had a French grand-mère to instruct her on style, grooming, and genuinely liking her reflection in the mirror. Now she shares that wisdom along with advice from other French women on fragrance, image consulting, makeup, and more, and shows you how to:

Discover the power of perfume

Find mentors who will help hone your personal style

Begin at the ends--hands, feet, and hair

Choose lingerie that makes you feel

Get an internal makeover and nourish your soul

Embrace your age gracefully and gorgeously

Bid au revoir to Botox, fad diets, and agonizing over every imperfection, and say hello to the truly timeless beauty that comes with making the most of your own unique je-ne-sais-quoi.

With that said, I'd like to thank Jamie for taking the time to answer a few questions. Honestly, I had a lot of fun with this interview and j'adore her responses!

1) In Ooh La La you stress the importance of taking time to relax and, more importantly, to do things that make you feel good about yourself, like getting a massage or facial, finding the right perfume for your own bodily chemistry, or simply buying a piece of lingerie that makes you feel pretty or sexy. Self-confidence aside, which is important, how has everything you’ve learned from the elusive creatures we call French women affected your relationship with your husband? And, is he on the search for his own Ooh La La?

When we first married (only seven years ago—this is a second marriage for both of us), I found myself trying to do everything right and I was terribly afraid of engaging in any sort of heated argument and so I was always very “nice” and agreeable. However, when I interviewed French women, I learned that they actually keep their relationships, romances and marriages spicy by not always being completely easy to get along with. And so, our marriage actually became a lot more fun after I started going back and forth to France. Plus my new French lingerie certainly brought plenty of ooh la la to our marriage!
And yes, my husband is on his own search for ooh la la!  He’s been to France with me a number of times.  He adores French cuisine and has re-discovered the joys of gardening and fishing and cooking.

2) We know your French grandmother has influenced you, but what really made you fall in love with France and the French culture? Was there a defining “ah-ha” moment?

This is such an interesting question, because I’m not sure if I had one defining “ah-ha” moment.  It’s as if this love of France and French culture was always with me, from the time I was a little girl and would visit my French grandmother. But, for years it lay dormant. I was so busy with life, married, then divorced, a single mom working very hard—teaching writing and never making much money.  The idea of returning to France (I had been there during college in the 1970’s) seemed impossible.  My grandmother passed away in the 1980’s.  Years and years went by and I didn’t really think much about France.  However, I do remember reading about a new book in the New York Times Sunday Styles section. It was Mireille Guiliano’s “French Women Don’t Get Fat,” and while I never do this—I actually called my local bookstore and pre-ordered the book. I think that might have been my ah ha moment. Not too long after this, I married again and my husband and we went to Paris for our honeymoon.  I remember spending the entire honeymoon in a highly emotional state.  Yes, there was the fact that I was in love and had just married. But, I was also 50 years old and I was back in Paris after a 30 year absence. Paris was different, of course, but also the same and I kept feeling as if I was running into the ghost of my younger self in every café and street corner, in the Tuileries, the Jardin du Luxembourg, and  the Boulevard St. Germain. One day, we walked past the Alliance Francaise, and so many memories rushed through me, that I burst out in tears!

3) Let’s talk a little bit about les femmes d’un certain âge and how most French women are content to age gracefully. Do you think the American culture disregards the beauty of older woman? Is our country too focused on being better, faster, stronger, thinner…and younger? Do you think Americans are being programmed to aim for unrealistic perfection?

Yes!  We are absolutely too focused on better, faster, stronger, thinner, and younger. Femmes d’un certain age (women of a certain age) may not look young, but they can certainly look beautiful, stylish, intriguing, sexy and appealing.  In fact, I believe older women have a distinct advantage when it comes to beauty. First of all, we’ve been around long enough to understand what looks good on us, what colors bring out our unique beauty, how to accentuate our gifts and how to diminish any flaws. Oftentimes, we have more money when we get older, so we can spend our euros (or dollars) on skincare products and spa visits, that we might not have been able to afford when we were younger.  More than this, a femme d’un certain age has the power and the allure of a woman who has lived and learned, who has experience and self-knowledge. A femme d’un certain age has a lot more confidence and this can be very appealing.  No, we do not have the look of a fresh-faced ingénue, but we have the look of an elegant woman who has obviously been around for some time.  After all, we have lived and loved and survived.  This form of beauty can only be earned from years of living.  If we embrace the beauty that comes from wisdom and experience, we will find that the world will respond in kind, offering us respect and the give us the consideration we certainly deserve.

4) From all of your research, what are your personal top beauty secrets? What do you do now that you didn’t do before? 

Zumba!  And yoga and lots of walking, but seriously, I found that dancing several times per week made me look and feel great.  And it’s very French.  I learned that French Women love dancing because it’s artful and even intellectual.  Plus, it’s fun!

In addition this, here’s my top beauty secrets:
1.  Drink lots of water
2.  Moisturize.  Moisturize.  Moisturize
3.  Take your time with your bath and skin care.
4.  Take naps. Enjoy your “Secret Garden” time
5.  When it comes to makeup, less is more
6.  Make love often
7.  Read, go to galleries, concerts, films, get into lively intellectual discussions (the French believe that brains and beauty absolutely go together)

5) If you only had two days to spend in France, where would you go, and what would you do?

Oh dear, this is a difficult question!  Just two days!?  Okay, I believe I would go to Paris, because I’d want to see my friends, and because Paris is the center of fashion and style.  I would spend much of the day, sitting in a café and watching the world go by.  I would walk through the Tuileries, all the way from Concord to the Louvre.  I would walk along the Seine and cross the Pont des Arts, to see all the bicycle locks that the lovers have left.  Perhaps I’d even have a little picnic on the bridge.  Oh, but I’d want to walk along the Seine and up to Notre Dame.  And then I’d walk around the Left Bank and visit the places  Hemingway and Fitzgerald frequented—Café Deux Magots and Harry’s Bar on the Right Bank.  Oh, and speaking of the Right Bank, I would stop by Chanel and pay homage to the Grand Dame of modern fashion.  >From there, I would walk a few blocks to Ladurée and perhaps indulge in a macaron or two.  Later, I would go to the market in Belleville and buy some fresh flowers and do a bit of people-watching.  Finally, I would have dinner at Café de l’Homme, where I’d get a table on the terrace, so I could watch the Eiffel Tower lit up against the Paris sky and I would drink champagne! 

And for the writer crowd:

6) Now that you’ve found your Ooh La La, what can we expect from you next?

I am working on a novel called “Paris Changes Everything” about three American students who come to Paris for the first time and fall in love. Stay tuned!

7) Tell us a little bit about your publishing journey? What sorts of trials and tribulations have you faced as a writer? Any morsels of advice you want to share with aspiring authors?

This has been a long and circuitous journey for me.  I began publishing in the 1970’s (poetry, at first) and then my first young adult novel came out in 1982.  It was called “Over the Hill at Fourteen” and it was a big success. I wrote two more young adults, and then there was a big gap in my publishing career, during which I wrote screenplays—I went to UCLA film school and worked at Paramount Pictures for the actress Meg Ryan. I was also raising my daughter and teaching writing. After my daughter left for college, I began publishing again.  I created something called The Writers Toolbox, a box of writing games, and then I re-discovered my love of all things French and wrote French Women Don’t Sleep Alone.  I had no idea it would be so popular!

So, here’s my advice for aspiring writers.  There is no one way to do this.  Follow your heart. Put one foot in front of the other. Write what you love, what you tend to read. Write the book you would like to read.  Also, be willing to change and embrace new opportunities.  The world of publishing is constantly changing and shifting and there is room for everyone who wants to write and be read.  Be your own true self.  And finally, whatever you do--have fun.

Now for some fun: The random. 

1) Baguette or Bagel                          

2) Aubade or La Perla
  La Perla

3) New York or Paris 
Paris, bien sur!  (although I love New York)

4) Brigitte Bardot or Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe (I am, after all, American)

5) Camille Lacourt or Yoann Gourguff 
Camille Lacourt  (I had no idea who these two men were, and then I googled them and honestly, I got a bit flustered when looking at images of Camille Lacourt! Wow!

6) Floral or Musky Scents
Floral scents 

7) The Red Slip or The Blue Boa 
Oh my, difficult to decide, I guess the red silk slip, because it’s a bit more discreet than the blue feather boa

Where to Buy OOH LA LA: (Releases in the US on May 28th! Reserve your copy!)

Connect with Jamie Online

Jamie's Other Books

Okay, ladies (and gentleman), check out Jamie's books, then get off the computer, do something nice for yourself, and unleash your Ooh La La!


Je ne vous comprends pas

Sign Up For My Newsletter

* indicates required