Today is Bastille Day in France—roughly equivalent to Independence Day in the US. So, of course, all things French are on my mind.
I think lots of people have a special relationship with a country other than their own. Mine happens to be with France. French is my second language, many of the fairy tales I grew up with (such as "Sleeping Beauty," "Cinderella," and "Beauty and the Beast") come from France, and Les Misérables is one of my favorite musicals. While I didn't have the greatest experience when I actually went to France (I had a nasty cold and was miserable the whole time), I'd love to go back someday.
Amusing side note: When I saw the 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast in theaters with my family (none of whom speak French), I don't think they understood why I laughed so hard at the "Je ne sais quoi" moment between Gaston and LeFou.
Interestingly, a good portion of my writing career has also involved France. I spent several years writing screenplays adapted from stories in the Scarlet Pimpernel series, which is set during the French Revolution. I think my background in the language, culture, and history of France made a big difference in my work on those scripts. If nothing else, it helped me figure out all the ways Percy might intentionally butcher his French pronunciations when he's playing the fool. 😏
Maybe this is what people really mean when they tell us authors to "write what you know." Knowledge is a lot more than just skills you've acquired or facts you've stored in your gray matter. It's also those things that have sunk deep into your heart, things that you love even if you don't fully understand why. When you write about those things, your passion can't help but come down from your heart through your fingers and onto the page. Readers will sense it.
So don't just write what you know. Write what your heart knows.
(Thanks to cyril mazarin for sharing their work on Unsplash.)