Cassis recommendation + Une Tuerie: a popular slang term often used by foodies and bon vivants
Les Gens are the secret to a long life + faire d'une pierre deux coups

From Red Cross most read Frenchman in the world. The inspiring story of Marc Levy

Author Marc Levy
In the decade since he began writing, Marc Levy become most-read French author in the world. To all who dare to follow their dream... may today's interview give you wings!

un entretien (ontr-tee-en)

        1) an interview 

       2) management/service (a car check-up, etc...)

Audio File: Listen to our daughter, Jackie, read the following sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file
Aujourd'hui, lisez mon entretien avec l'écrivain Marc Levy.
Today, read my interview with the writer Marc Levy. 


by Kristi Espinasse

Do you find it enormously reassuring to learn that someone's remarkable success happened later in life? Does it fill you with hope to discover that the respected novelist or chess player or... started out as a first-aid worker—unaware of a nascent talent within him? 

As a lifelong student of writing, nothing motivates me like another's bumpy or unlikely journey to literary success. It makes me believe that it's not too late to pen The Classic and Universal Story... the one that could be enjoyed by all generations till the end of time!

Reading about French author Marc Levy, and how he changed professions several times before happening upon his calling as a writer, I am encouraged to plumb the depths of my own vocational well. Could it be that in this mad pursuit of writing, chess is really my calling?

One thing's sure, French will open doors either way. So it's a safe bet to continue pursuing language! I think even Mr. Levy would agree. Enjoy his words, below, about France, culture, and writing.  

...And, after reading the interview, take time to consider: the dream job you are so passionately pursuing (or currently practicing) may be, after all, but a means to an even more stimulating and meaningful métier--the one your heart is diligently fine-tuning, while you are busy chasing your dream!


1. Why did you choose to leave France and make a home for yourself in the States?

Believe it or not, I originally left France to go to England, which makes me a terrible Frenchman. (There is a rivalry between England and France that dates back several centuries.) I had fallen in love with London and the British sense of humor, and I lived quite happily there for ten years.  I then moved to the States because I also harbored a deep love for New York City.  My son had also decided to study in the U.S., so my longstanding desire to be in New York provided the perfect pretext for me to follow him and play the overprotective parent!  But in all seriousness, I was attracted to the multicultural, multiethnic aspect of New York.  163 different communities and ethnic groups shared their lives there—it was as if the whole world had gathered in one place, and that place was New York.  It was a city in color that I wanted to be a part of.

2. You have a love for food and cooking.  What differences do you see in the American vs. the French approaches to cooking and dining?

The French cook with less of everything: salt, oil, sugar, sauce, etc.  It is fascinating to see, in fact, how much flavor you can produce when you do this.  But I’ve noticed that many new French restaurants are now adopting the trend of overusing ingredients.

The main difference between restaurants in Paris and New York?  The noise.  I’ve been in some restaurants where there is more noise in the dining room than food on your plate.  A restaurant in Paris that played its music as loudly as New York restaurants do wouldn’t last more than a week.  When we invite friends out to dinner, we usually want to talk to them, not yell at them.

Elle et lui levy
Read this one in French. Order ELLE & LUI here

3. You have an older son who was raised primarily in France and a young son whom you are raising in New York. What differences do you see in the French and American parenting cultures?

My older son was actually raised primarily in London.  It's a bit difficult for me to comment on contemporary French parenting culture, since I've been living outside of France for the past 15 years, but as far as I can tell, there aren't too many differences.  As parents, we all love our children with the same heart and want the best for them.

I suppose one subtle difference might be that in France, we focus less on the psychology of the child and more on his or her practical education.  For example, when I was at a friend's house, she had told her son he couldn't do something and he responded, "You're hurting my feelings!"  Our French friends laughed, as this is not very French—it would not garner a French child much sympathy when being scolded or told no.  Perhaps French parents are more old-fashioned, stricter in this way...or at least, mine were with me.

4. Some language learners are fearful of speaking English to a French person, afraid they’ll make an embarrassing mistake. Did you ever humiliate yourself in English? Any examples you are willing to share?

I do this every day.  One example that comes to mind is something I once said to a woman in the street. She was trying to light her cigarette, but her lighter wasn’t working, so as a proper French gentleman would, I offered her my own.  I asked her, “Do you want my fire?”  After she had left, the American friend I was with burst into laughter.  When I asked him what was so funny, he explained to me why that had been a ridiculous thing to say.  I was absolutely mortified!

5. Humor, or a good joke, is often “lost in translation”, making it even more difficult to adapt as an expat.  Did you ever find it difficult to appreciate the sense of humor in your adopted country, or to share your own sense of humor?

Yes and no.  Humor is one of the most important things in my life—it’s like a drug to me.  I have watched so many comedies and read so many books to try to better understand American and British humor.  What I have discovered is that the jokes we make are often very specific to culture, sometimes only understood in the country they are from.  For example, a joke about cheerleaders that Americans find hilarious would be confusing to the French, because we don’t have cheerleaders in France.

Living in a new place, you come to understand that it is much more difficult to share your sense of humor, but as implied in my answer to your previous question, sometimes you can make people laugh without knowing why.

6. There are some colorful expressions in French, such as “faire du lèche-vitrines” or “avoir un oursin dans sa poche”.  Can you share a favorite French expression?

One of my favorites is “Ce n'est pas tombé dans l'oreille d'un sourd”. The English equivalent is “It hasn’t fallen on deaf ears,” or that the information has been fully understood, but translated quite literally, it would be “It hasn’t fallen into the ear of a deaf man.”

7. Regarding pronunciation, what do you think about accents? (i.e. when speaking English, do you strive to lose your own French accent? Conversely, what do you think when hearing someone struggle to pronounce French?)

I would love to do that—if only I could get rid of the “z” and say “the” one time, as it should be!  But in regard to hearing a foreign accent in French, I find it very charming, and never ridiculous.  Especially when an American woman speaks French, it’s so sexy.

Et si cetait vrai levy
Read this one in French, order here (scroll down for the English edition)

8. Regarding things getting lost in translation, how do you feel about having your French words—so thoughtfully chosen during the writing process—translated into English, or another language, now that your books are being made available worldwide?

It’s a real concern.  The initial English translation of my first book was so bad, it really killed me and almost ruined the story.  For a writer, finding a translator who understands your writing is as difficult as an actor finding the voice that will dub over his own.  (Dubbed voiceovers for foreign movies and television shows are very common in France.)  Translators are constantly underpaid and underappreciated, but their role is so important that they should really get a part of the royalties.  They aren’t just translating, but adapting the text, and to do so, they must be good writers.

When I received corrections for the English translation of my second novel before it went to print, I sat down with both versions in front of me, trying to go through and compare every word.  In the middle of this, the doorbell rang and the mailman arrived with the Chinese manuscript.  I went back to my desk and closed everything.  I learned that day that after a certain point, you must trust that the translator likes and understands your work, and wants to accurately reproduce it.

9. It is both fascinating and inspiring to read about your path to writing, and the failures that brought you there.  In one interview, we read about some of the words of wisdom you shared with your son.  You said, “The biggest mistake you can make in your life is to avoid any mistake by not doing anything.”  Could you please translate that into French for us, and so leave us with the courage to pursue our own dreams?

La plus grande erreur que tu pourrais faire dans ta vie serait d'avoir évité toute erreur en n'ayant rien fait.”

  If only it were true

Click here to order this book

A little more about Marc Levy

With 13 novels published over the past 12 years—all of which have been #1 bestsellers in France and many other countries worldwide—Marc has nearly 30-million copies of his books in print in 45 languages. 

Before his first novel, If Only It Were True, was published in the U.S., Steven Spielberg acquired the film rights for DreamWorks. The movie, Just like Heaven, starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo, was a #1 box office hit. Since this remarkable introduction, US readers have not had easy access to Marc's subsequent works. Until now. Click on the book cover below, or link, to discover all of Marc Levy's books.
Ps from paris

Read Marc Levy's P.S. From Paris

Une autre idee du bonheur (French edition)


...or read the above book in French. Order here.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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The comment about the noise in NYC restaurants (and certainly all other American cities...) is so true. Having a "quiet meal" is almost impossible here in the U.S.. I much prefer the murmur of voices, occasional laughter and the clinking of plates and cutlery that is so much more common in Europe. Thanks for the great interview!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,

I have never heard of Marc Levy and enjoyed the interview. I would have liked to know how he went from Red Cross worker to author. Thanks for sharing!

Nancy Allf

I have loved his books! Thank you.


I went to France for a month a few years ago and studied at a language school for three weeks. I was all alone, living in the apartment of a French woman who made it clear that she resented my presence. I spent much of my free time reading Marc Levy's novels in French (slowly, and with a dictionary), being fully drawn into the stories and hating for each to end. This interview was a nice connection with the author who gave me so much pleasure.


I’ve read PS from Paris. It was a pleasant rom-com read with the amusing translation subplot. Traducteur is both translator and traitor - I guess it depends on how faithful they are to the author’s intent. ;-)

Nan Morrissette

I very much enjoyed PS from Paris. And this interview. Hope you and J-M are well and happy in your new home.
Peace to you
From Maine
Nan Morrissette


An interesting and fun interview...thank you for sharing. Will definitely have a look at Mark Levy's books

jean Palmer

Juts to share: this is my "starred" review of the AUDIOBOOK version of PS from Paris from my website Your Wise Guide To Audiobooks:

*Marc Levy. PS From Paris. A Novel. Translated from the French by Sam Taylor. Read by Tim Campbell. 6 Cs. 7 hrs. Brilliance. 2015/2017.
PS from Paris is a light, fun story of two people who meet online in Paris. Paul Barton is a shy writer from San Francisco. His first book a great success in the US brings publicity that overwhelms him so he moves to Paris to escape and write in peace. He learns the language and the city. But he is lonely. Mia Barlow, a popular UK film actress discovers her husband, and co-star in their most recent film about to come out, has been unfaithful, just as they were about to embark on a publicity tour for the film. Seeking escape and comfort she moves in with her life long friend Daisy, a French chef who owns and run a restaurant in Paris. Mia helps by waiting tables. Mia, using Daisy's computer for email, discovers a dating website that Daisy has been using and zeros in on someone Daisy has emailed, who turns out to be Paul. And they meet.
Paul and Mia seek just 'friendship.' Everyone else, except Paul and Mia, see the friendship offers more. For some reason (revealed later and I won't spoil it for you) Paul's novels are wildly popular in South Korea and he attributes this to his Korean translator with whom he thinks he is in love. He thinks of moving to South Korea, if he can get over his fear of flying. He only sees his lover/translator infrequently when she visits Paris now and then to meet up with the publisher of Paul's books. Mia hides her "actress" identity from Paul and just lets him show her (and listeners) familiar Paris hot spots as they get to know each other. The story twists and turns; the characters are very likeable; the scenery and the food lucious. Levy even includes a brief trip (very amusing) to South Korea so Paul can meet with his many fans there.
Levy is, according to the package "the most-read French author alive today." Sam Taylor's excellent translation and Tim Campbell's appealing narration will bring Levy more fans in the US as well. Campbell's reticent Paul, subtle Mia and Daisy (with a French accent), the Italian publisher, South Korean hotel staff and fans, and many other appealing characters are very well done and his pacing is perfect.

Judi in Lake Balboa

My list of “wanna reads” has just grown much longer. What a warm, open face he has - enjoyed your interview. I think you had done one once before, I’m sold!

Rob T.

I agree. I was recently taken to a famous New York Michelin-starred Italian Restaurant in New York. The music was so loud and obnoxious, that I think it affected my feelings about the quality of the food. I have had much better meals in New York than that one, but that was the highest-rated, most in demand restaurant at which I have ever eaten. Would be nice to see the US tone it down.

Elaine Squeri

Quel entretien intéressant! Merci de me «présenter» Marc Lévy dont le nom est certainement connu mais pas ses livres. Donc je vais m'en acheter un pour commencer une nouvelle liste à lire.

J'espère, Kristi, que tu fais d'autres entretiens aussi.

Sue Steele

I was very disappointed with the novel PS FROM PARIS. I figured it was lost in the translation. I love Paris and all things French. I felt the story was very simple and I did not get to know the characters. I was excited about reading this author since he was French. I will try another book. Anything about France is important to me.

Sue Steele
Michigan, USA

Julie Farrar

Thanks for the interview. I also was glad to know that I wasn't alone in my complaint about the volume in U.S. restaurants. Every time I return home from France that really grates on my nerves. I will have to look for his books in English or French.

cynthia wilson

Great interview! Julia Child is definitely a hero of mine having had success later in life. And for finding life so fascinating! Merci!


Our dear Kristi,
Congratulations on a wonderful,in depth interview,asking questions that we would most liked asked,with the answers being honest and down to earth.
Perhaps one of the best things is that aside from being a terrific(and successful!) author,Mr Levy also appears to be a very nice man.
Thank you for sharing this with us!
Natalia XO


Je l'aime!


Such a wonderful interview! Thanks to you, Kristi. As you think more about writing may I suggest Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont. She like you is proudly sober and very wise in her observations. Cold and rainy on Cape Cod. Merci for your eloquent visits to my in box all these years. I feel like family!


A Terrific interview! My French friend is crazy for him. I must try too.
Mille merci

 Lee Hong Toh

Bonne année Kristin ! Thank you for the article. I'm learning French, I should try reading one of the novels by Marc Levy in French though it will take me much much longer time to read it. His name has been added to my to-read list that is growing longer by the day.

Merci beaucoup, Lee Hong


Thank you for this interview, Kristi. I had not heard of Marc Levy before today and will be sure to add his books to my list. I am curious to learn at what age he started writing and what inspired him to make that move. Merci, as always, for the inspiration.


And we suffer the same problem in many Australian restaurants - it absolutely ruins a meal for me in when there is noise and a lack of gentle ambience,. don’t return.....


I have seen his books and have been curious..Merci for this interview..I will look into reading him:)I love reading.

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

Very enjoyable read! And, yes, I do enjoy reading about someone making it in a new career or passion later in life. I once saw a pottery exhibit in NYC, either at the Met or NYPL, and it was noted that the potter had only begun his craft at 60. And here he was doing work worthy of such an exhibit! How cool is that!?That stuck with me. It's never too late!


I have been told that the reason restaurants tend to be very noisy is to help the "turnover" which increases the profits. Of course if you order lots of alcohol they probably do not mind as they make mega profits on that.................

Sarah LaBelle

That was a good interview. Did you meet him in person, conduct the interview via e-mail, or telephone?

Sarah LaBelle

Levy's comments about those who translated his novels reminded me of a comment by an American novelist, Tony Hillerman. He was a success in France, and received an award in France. He attributed his success to the interest of the French in other cultures (he wrote about Navajo people) and to his translator.

Marianne Rankin

This post was most interesting. I didn't know that Marc Levy was fluent in English or had lived in the UK and US for so long. A couple of years ago, I was taking a fairly long car trip, and listed to "Et si c'etait vrai" on CD on the way. I look forward to listening to, or reading, more of Mr. Levy's work, and thank you for letting us know more about it. I enjoyed reading the interview. I am glad that although Mr. Levy obviously knows good English, he is writing in French, because one will always know one's native language at least a little better than others. If I know a language, I prefer to read/listen in the original, because, as he noted, one cannot always exactly translate - one must convey the idea, but certain things really can get "lost" in translation (and I have done a good bit of translating in the past). If one doesn't always get every detail the first time, one can always read/listen again!

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

I seem to remember another post when you interviewed Mark Levy? His picture is very familiar...he has such a kind expression. Your questions led to really great reveals from him. I am definitely going to chose a few of his books to read! Congratulations to him for the success of his endeavors...

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Sarah. The interview was via email.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Chris, I posted the interview in 201. So good to know you will check out his books.

Cindy Mathias

I totally agree! Perhaps I shall read the next novel of Levy's in seemed that something was lost in the translation in P.S. from Paris.

Debra Hayes

Moi aussi! But, fantastically enjoyable and funny article!

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