I’m delighted to announce my family has once again grown — this time with the arrival of Jean-Luc of Pickpocket.
Here’s a better picture of the new baby, with Jean-Luc — driving way too fast for his mom’s liking, I might add — on his uncle’s Vespa through the streets of Old Nice in France.
Because Jean-Luc entered the world during a pandemic, I couldn’t host a live event to welcome him. Instead, I marked the occasion with a photo countdown on Facebook and Twitter in the days leading up to the book release.
I’m delighted to further share the photos here to offer some insights into what compelled me to create Jean-Luc and his story.
The story begins with my first visit to Old Nice in 2012. The apartment I rented was beside a socca shop called Chez Thérésa.
I definitely ate my fair share of socca. A popular street food there, socca is a flatbread that is much like a crêpe but is made from chickpea flour. I immediately loved Old Nice and with its creamy texture and crispy edges, I also loved socca from the first time I tasted it.
Although Thérésa and her family made the socca in their shop, they transported most of it to the Marché aux Fleurs and sold it there. Despite its name, the market vendors sell more than just flowers… luscious produce, local honey, homemade soaps and lotions, tea, baked goods and, of course, socca.
When I first saw the bustling market and the winding streets, my immediate thought was: “What an ideal spot for a chase scene!” And so, the town of Old Nice became my first character in the story that grew to become Pickpocket.
The Promenade des Anglais (Englishman’s Walk) is a famous 7-kilometre path which runs along the Mediterranean Sea. As the locals would say, I was “sur la prom” when someone tried to steal my wallet. Luckily, I returned to my apartment with both my wallet, and a story idea starting to emerge.
That leads me to my second character: 17-year-old Jean-Luc Dupont, who spends his summer working at a socca shop. As for how I got him there…
…Jean-Luc’s life has been on a downward spiral since his sister passed away two years ago. After his friends talk him into throwing a massive house party to celebrate the end of eleventh grade, his parents have had enough. They send him away to work with his great uncle Henri in Old Nice for the summer.
Initially annoyed at being so far away from home, Jean-Luc soon meets a pretty young woman on the Promenade des Anglais and decides his summer might not be so bad after all…
…until he realizes Selina has stolen his wallet.
Selina took shape in my mind when I began reading about rings of young pickpockets being forced to steal, and to then turn over the winnings to their handlers. Although this situation mostly occurs in larger cities like Paris, pickpockets are also prevalent in Old Nice.
Still grieving the loss of his sister, Jean-Luc sometimes makes poor choices. But on a rare day off, he makes a great choice: to hike the winding coastal trail from Nice to nearby Villefranche-sur-mer.
While at the beach, Jean-Luc processes all that has happened to him while in Old Nice, and over the past few years. He also starts to envision how he might get his life back on track.
Like Jean-Luc, I spent considerable time reflecting on life while in Old Nice. Its charm and relaxed vibe seem to lend itself toward doing so. I also completed much research there and I remain grateful to Marc and his regular café patrons for their patience in answering my many questions over morning cappuccinos and afternoon glasses of rosé.
When it’s safe to do so, I still dream of hosting a book event to further welcome Jean-Luc into the world. I am also, of course, dreaming of my next visit to Old Nice — and I invite you to join me there too via the pages of Pickpocket.
Many thanks to Orca Book Publishers, who partnered with me in creating Pickpocket. Special nods to my editor Tanya Trafford, and to Ella Collier, who completed the beautiful design work.
I encourage teachers, librarians, and all book lovers to check out the many fine titles in Orca’s collection. Visit www.orcabook.com.