The Story Behind the Story
The inspiration for Opposites Attack came in the summer of 2001 after I spent two weeks at a total-immersion language school in Provence d’Azur, a heavenly part of France where Provence and the Côte d’Azur meet. There was an American student I kept gravitating to because he spoke English and was around my age. He told me he had been coming back to the school every summer for several years. Perhaps it was my vivid writer’s imagination at play, but was his ”friendship” with one of the instructors more than that?
My, what endless mischief could erupt here as foreigners whooshed in and out of the lives of the locals for weeks and months at a time. This was like a cruise ship for smart people.
What prompted me to go to this school in the first place was having dated a man who would always speak to his mother on the phone in French. I wanted to know what he was saying. I also felt like a pathetic human being for not being able to speak another language.
Right after I’d lost a big announcing contract, a flyer arrived in the mail from a local college inviting anyone to be part of a one-month total-immersion trip to the South of France. I went for it, though I could only stay two weeks.
I entered Institut d’Enseignement de la Langue Française sur la Côte d’Azur (ELFCA) in Hyères speaking like a one-year-old and left speaking like I was two. But I found a delightful way to experience a new country, especially as a single woman. Did I offend anyone? Like Alyce, if I did it was unintentional. My eternal gratitude extends to my sole hosts, the wonderful Nathalie and Bernard.
At the same time I was writing this book, I was also pondering why people sometimes end up with the opposite of what they say they want in a mate, and the converse—why do matches made in heaven turn incendiary? How far should you compromise when your love has enough baggage to fill a moving van? Can someone really change? When you have a child with someone you never married, is it possible to truly move on if you can’t divorce? I knew several Baby Mama/Baby Daddy situations. The dynamics were more unresolved and complex than those dealing with ex-spouses and their progeny.
Nelson was loosely based on a few men I’d known who were in love with a woman of a different race, religion, and/or social standing yet couldn’t make a life with her for that reason. One, however, did make a baby. A friend of mine dated him. He was perfect until she met the mother of his child, who was dressed like a call girl and spent a lot of time in the bathroom with other adults. My friend quickly retreated. I often thought about how such a circumstance would affect everyone it touched.
I was also trying to stop falling for unpredictable creative geniuses or stop expecting them to be “normal.”
If this book inspires you to travel, take a cooking class, learn a new language, tout nouveau, tout beau!As for why it took so long to be published, when it was finally finished, an anti-France movement had erupted in America due to the war in Iraq. Remember Freedom fries and the boycotting of French wines? I reluctantly put the novel away in a digital drawer and, like a good daube, let it marinate. It is all the better for it.