Jan Moran Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Jan Moran

Jan Moran

An interview with Jan Moran

Jan Moran talks about her fiction and nonfiction books, particularly her first novel Scent of Triumph

Why did you want to become a writer?

As a child, I was an avid reader. Writers were my rock stars! Books were my passport to exotic locales and fascinating characters.

What are some of your favorite locales, objects, or activities that a reader might find in your books?

I often include my favorite locales. Paris, New York, Grasse, London, Hong Kong, Italy, and California are among my favorite places that I like to write about, and perfumery and fashion are twin passions. I'm also a strong advocate of the entrepreneurial path, especially for women.

What's your favorite part of the book?

I have a special place in my heart for Danielle's perfumery journal, which gave me deeper insights into her character, and allowed me to share her interpretation of her work and world events. Each entry appears at the beginning of a chapter, and relates to flowers or perfumery ingredients in that particular chapter, or current events in her world.

For example, the entry for the first chapter is: A rose, the symbol of love, the queen of the perfumer's palette. How then, does the perfume of war intoxicate even the most reasonable of men? Roses are a recurring symbol throughout the book, along with other flowers, such as iris and jasmine, which are all important to the perfumer. The story opens on the days that England and France declare war on Nazi Germany in response to the invasion of Poland.

Other favorite quotes include:

  • Perfume is my memory, the chronicle of my life.
  • Deep within the stench of despair blooms the perfume of hope.
  • Sandalwood, a stalwart of the perfumer's palette. Impervious to termites, matured more than thirty years. A superb fixative, an anchor. Stable, rich, smooth. Important qualities—desirable in men as well.
  • The orchid, queen of exoticism, a mute observer slow to reveal the mysteries of her petals. Would that I had such patience, too.
    • Who are your favorite authors and books?

      Favorite authors include: Kristin Hannah, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Jennifer Crusie, Anita Hughes, Michelle Gable, Barbara Delinsky, Elizabeth Adler, Tatiana de Rosney, and Gerard Macdonald. A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford was an early inspiration, and I adore A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable. I love Shanghai Girls and others by Lisa See and The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory. And who can forget Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, or War and Peace. There's nothing like a smart, strong-willed heroine. For historical fiction, I also adore Allegra Jordan and Allison Pataki, and for modern series fiction, Melissa Foster and Rebecca Forster are excellent.

      Barbara Taylor Bradford writes with elegance and a designer's eye for detail; Lisa See paints vivid portraits of time and place; Philippa Gregory enchants with historical details. And all of them portray strong, accomplished women.

      Is there a message you want readers to take from your books?

      Hope, triumph over adversity, appreciation of other cultures, belief in your own abilities.

      What inspires your writing?

      Travel always inspires me—I love to explore new cities, countries, and cultures that I can share with readers. Strong female protagonists and entrepreneurs who forge their own paths to success are also a source of inspiration. Finally, I like to learn something fascinating along the way, about history, unusual careers, or interesting people.

      When did your love of perfumery first begin?

      My love of perfumery was seeded by my mother and grandmother, who never left the house without perfume and lipstick. Fortunately, they had excellent taste and were generous with their knowledge.

      What's your advice for authors just starting out?

      Just begin! The journey begins with one step, or in this case, one paragraph or page. Then, edit and revise until you just can't stand it anymore. Be sure to seek professional help for editing.

      Any hidden talents you'd like to share with readers?

      Besides a really good nose? Well, once upon a time I was a ballerina, but now I'm quite good at reading financial statements, too. I've also worked with PR firms representing brands to the media. And I've started several companies. My last company, Scentsa, was sold to Sephora, and shoppers can still use the touch-screens I designed for perfumery and skincare.

      Are your character based on real people? Or imaginary people?

      All of my imaginary characters are jostling for headspace and attention. But there are many real stories of entrepreneurs and survivors that serve as inspiration, too. And remember, no one is safe around a writer!

      When did you begin writing?

      My first volume of poetry: fourth grade. My first novel: seventh grade. Both are, thankfully, forgotten. The UCLA Writers Program in Los Angeles was my next stop along the writing route. The RWA (Romance Writers of America) is also an excellent organization for learning and support.

      What are you working on now?

      Several fiction and nonfiction projects. I have a couple of new novels underway, which will take readers to fabulous international locations and delve into sexy new stories. I'll make announcements on my website, blog, Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter. Stay tuned on www.janmoran.com, where I'll post previews. Better yet, sign up for my newsletter to learn about new books and enter to win Advance Reader Copies and autographed books.

      If you could tell your readers anything, what would it be?

      Never give up!

      Can you tell us something about yourself that people might not know?

      A lot of people might know that I've written earlier nonfiction books on fragrances, Fabulous Fragrances I & II, which grew into the immensely popular Scentsa touch-screen fragrance and skincare finders in Sephora stores around the world, but not many people know that I've also guided the creative effort on a fine perfume, and blended several artisan scents. These incredible experiences helped me breathe life into the character of Danielle Bretancourt, a French perfumer, in Scent of Triumph.

      Are there any modern women who inspire your work?

      In writing Scent of Triumph I was inspired by forward-thinking women entrepreneurs of the twentieth century in beauty and fashion, including Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, Nina Ricci, Elizabeth Arden, Estée Lauder, Madame Carven, and Mary Kay. These smart, gutsy, entrepreneurial women lived cinematic lives steeped in creative endeavors, along with their share of drama. There are also many modern day female entrepreneurs in today's beauty and fashion industry—think Jo Malone and Bobbi Brown—and thousands of others who support themselves and their families through their efforts and creativity.

      What do you love most about the writing process?

      Creating a world where anything can happen…

      What's your favorite genre?

      I read across genres, but contemporary and historical fiction, epic sagas, mysteries, and biographies are among my favorites.

      What's your favorite place?

      So many! Paris, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Hong Kong, Copenhagen, London, Sydney, Mammoth Lakes, New Zealand… But I love living in Southern California, and I'm a native Texan (Austin).

      What's your favorite color?

      Has to be RED!

      What other books would you compare Scent of Triumph to?

      It's hard to say, because the book is an original idea. Personally, I like to read a wide range of historical and mainstream fiction, if that helps. Some of my faves are on my Goodreads page. Stop by and say hello. Some other books in which perfumes make a significant appearance include The Perfume Collector, The Book of Lost Fragrances, and Perfume.

      What was the inspiration behind
      Scent of Triumph?

      Scent of Triumph was initially inspired by my love of perfumery, but the main character quickly took charge and began building a business, despite her many setbacks. I was inspired by female entrepreneurs from the early part of the twentieth century, such as Elizabeth Arden, Coco Chanel, Madame Gres, Nina Ricci, Estee Lauder, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many others in the beauty and fashion industries. Family is also vitally important in this story; Danielle's love and devotion to her children is really the root of her ambition, as it is with many female entrepreneurs who wish to create a better life for themselves and their children. She is an ordinary woman, who achieves extraordinary things. Like any one of us can.

      What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

      Scent of Triumph is a highly emotional story. Readers tell me they get emotionally invested in the main character, Danielle. They pull for her success, they cry with her during her periods of grief, and they fall in love with her lovers.

      What can modern women learn from your protagonist, Danielle Bretancourt?

      The story of Danielle Bretancourt is really the story of a woman's journey on the entrepreneur's path. It's a story of creativity and innovation, and of courage of convictions. Since the story begins in 1939, I had to understand the challenges that faced women at that time, such as the lack of credit or borrowing power for women who wanted to start their own business, among others. While opportunities have improved for women around the world, there are still so many women who suffer from inequalities, lack of knowledge, poor access to capital, and cultural oppression.
      For this story, I drew on memories from my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother – their memories of joy over gaining the right to vote, owning property in their name, and creating their own income. The challenges they faced and overcame inspired me to become an entrepreneur, and to help spread the word today about women's entrepreneurial efforts as a positive economic force for change.

      We love the romantic aspect of Scent of Triumph, so tell us, what is your favorite romantic scent?
      When I was writing Scent of Triumph, I created a cast of characters and imagined, what fragrances they would wear? How would perfume add to their characterization? What would their choices reveal about them? I used fragrances to reveal a character's personality, heritage, or psychological nature. For example, Tabac Blond, and Jicky were considered fairly avant-garde in the first part of the twentieth century, so I gave these fabulous vintage scents to two of the more extravagant characters in the books. Personally, I adore Mitsouko, so this one has a special passage in the book, too.

      If you were casting a movie for Scent of Triumph, who would you cast?

      It's open to interpretation, but here's a start:
      Danielle Bretancourt: Keira Knightley, Audrey Tatou, Emma Stone
      Jonathan Newell-Grey: Chris Hemsworth
      Max von Hoffman: Jude Law
      Cameron Murphy: Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds
      Marie Bretancourt: Meryl Streep, Juliette Binoche
      Erica Evans: Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek

      How did you come up with the idea for Scent of Triumph?

      I drew on my entrepreneurial experience in the perfume industry to create a vivid, compelling world. Equal parts artist and businesswoman, my gutsy heroine Danielle Bretancourt enchants men and women alike with a magical perfume blended in France and launched in Hollywood, while World War II rages across the continents.
      I'd also like to add that Danielle charts her course through devastating wartime losses and revenge, lustful lovers and loveless marriages, and valiant struggles to reunite her family. Set between privileged lifestyles and gritty realities, Scent of Triumph is one woman's story of courage, spirit, and resilience. So many of us have our own stories of resilience, of fighting for our principles, or for our families—I wanted to write a story that people of any age or circumstance could relate to, a story that would uplift the spirit.

      Who or what inspired you to write this book?

      Scent of Triumph was inspired by my love of perfumery. My creation of Scentsa for Sephora and other work in the fragrance industry also inspired me. The idea for the World War II period was inspired by my parent's memories of their lives during the war, and by accounts from French perfumers and fashion designers who lived through the war.

      How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

      For Scent of Triumph, the first draft was written in about a year, but there were many, many rounds of revisions and edits that took several years while I was working full time.

      Is Scent of Triumph only for female readers?

      Not at all. If you visit Amazon or Goodreads, you'll see reviews from many of my male fans. Scent of Triumph resonates with both genders. Entrepreneurial struggles, family, love, and World War II are topics that both men and women can relate to.

      Anything you would like to say to your readers?

      I hope everyone enjoys Scent of Triumph, and I really love to hear from readers. You can always reach me at www.janmoran.com.

      What's the best fan letter you've received?

      They're ALL the best! I cherish (and save!) every letter I receive, and am so touched when people take time out their busy day to write to me. I love it when people share memories or places they've visited, or stories of a perfume that touched their soul—perhaps one that a beloved family member once wore. What an incredible honor to receive an email or a handwritten letter—especially today.

      Where do you dream of traveling?

      As a young girl, books were my magic passport to faraway lands. As an adult, so many of these travel dreams have come true, but I still dream of visiting Brazil, Argentina, Bora Bora, Russia, and Africa. Recently, I visited France and Denmark, two countries that stole my heart.

      Where did the idea come from for your books?

      Many of my ideas stem from my personal experience, although my books are not autobiographical. But in both Scent of Triumph and my next book you will learn about places I've lived and traveled (such as Paris, Beverly Hills, New York, Italy), the work I've done in perfume and beauty, period fashions, history, and more. I don't like to drop designer names or labels simply for the sake of doing so, but I will when it's germane to characterization, setting, or historical reference. I also like to include details about what it's like to create a product, run a business, and obtain funding–keys aspects of any entrepreneur's experience. My characters are quite entrepreneurial; of course, that stems from my own experience as well.

      In what genres do you write?

      Scent of Triumph
      is historical fiction with strong romantic elements. My nonfiction books include the Fabulous Fragrances series. My next books will be historical and contemporary fiction.

      You've created products, started companies, and have been at the helm of several ventures. Any advice for entrepreneurs?

      Plenty. Make sure you have a passion for what you do. Instill excellence in every part of your product, company, and training. And remember, customer service is paramount.

      Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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