Interview: Gary Lee Kraut
Gary Lee Kraut is the author of five travel guides to France and Paris as well as numerous articles, essays, short stories, and op-ed pieces about travel, culture, cross-culture and expat life.
He won FrancePress’s 1995 Prix d’Excellence for his guide to France published in the Fielding Guidebook Collection.
Following the publication of his guide ‘Paris Revisited: The Guide for the Return Traveler’, he founded the companion site ParisRevisited.com. That site evolved into the online magazine France Revisited™, which was launched in January 2009.
Gary, how would you describe yourself in three adjectives?
Serious. Funny. Human.
What is your connection to France?
We’ve been together a long time but have always had an open relationship.
What are your interests outside of travel writing?
Biking, tennis, theater, literature, travel, history, nature, family, friends, odd and enlightening encounters, other forms of writing.
You have written five travel guides to France and Paris as well as articles, essays, short stories and op-ed pieces concerning travel, culture, cross-culture, and expatriate life. How did you get started writing travel guides?
Before coming to Paris for an extended stay over 20 years ago, I had traveled extensively in Europe, received a master’s degree in creative writing, and worked for two years as a journalist. In late 1990 I learned through a friend in New York that a guidebook collection (Fielding) was looking to create a new guide to France. At the time I didn’t even know how to write a proposal, let alone a 600-page guidebook, but I sent in a proposal and in 1991 I received my first book contract.
How does your guidebook ‘Paris Revisited: The Guide for the Return Traveler’ differ from others?
As you know, most guidebooks aren’t good reads because they’re basically a collection of snippets of information without authorial personality, whereas narrative travel writing can be a good read full of interesting characters but isn’t necessarily informative. Both types are valid; the former is useful, the latter is a pleasure to read. My intent in creating ‘Paris Revisited; was to create a guidebook with personality, a guidebook that was both informative and a pleasure to read. Since the intended audience was ‘the return traveler’, I could approach Paris and the travel experience in ways that might not have worked in a guide for first-timers.
Since then the main audience for my work has been English-speakers living in France or people around the globe who are especially curious about travel, touring and life in France.
For those who aren’t familiar with your website, how would you describe it?
France Revisited™ is a premier English-language web magazine for savvy readers and experienced travelers. It was launched in 2009 on the premise that some readers and travelers want more than mere information and opinions—they want insights and experience and encounters that go beyond the clichés.
France Revisited™ therefore employs an unusually wide range of approaches in exploring the many facets of travel, touring and life in France: articles, reviews, vignettes, poetry, essays, humor, photography, videos, and more. The magazine sets out to be as rich and varied as the travel experience itself.
About 40 percent of the articles and posts concern places or experiences in Paris, about 40 percent the rest of France, and about 20 percent concern life or travel in general.
Since I’m American and many of the initial contributors have been American, there’s naturally an American skew to the cross-cultural references in France Revisited™. However, there have also been French and English contributors, and I would certainly welcome good work from Australian and Canadian contributors as well. I’m always on the lookout for writers, photographers and videographer who have experience, knowledge and above all passion for their subject—both for France Revisited™ and its sister publication Europe Revisited™. A word of caution to potential contributors: readers of France Revisited™ know France, in fact many of them live in France or return frequently, so there’s no faking it.
France Revisited™ is a place where you come when they want to be surprised, to go beyond the clichés, and to take pleasure in reading about France (and beyond), whether or not you intend to travel anytime soon.
What advice would you give to first time or returning travellers to France?
Seek out a variety of experiences and approaches when traveling, take other people’s must-see lists with a grain of salt, meet strangers, read France Revisited, sign up for the free France Revisited™ Newsletter, perhaps even join on an exclusive France Revisited™ tour.
What are the France Revisited™ tours?
Tour that are as eclectic, informative and entertaining as the magazine itself. Though I’m primarily a writer and editor, I love having the opportunity to use my knowledge and contacts to create unique and personalized tours and itineraries throughout France.
Over the years I’ve been contacted by high-end travel agents (American, Mexican, English, Australian) to create highly personalized itineraries, tours and special events for their clients. Individuals, couples and families (not necessarily high end but invariably curious) also contact me for assistance. Occasionally I join forces with various experts to organize unique tours for 4-10 travelers; those tours are announced on France Revisited and/or through the France Revisited Newsletter.
I naturally field many requests concerning Paris alone, while I also enjoy encouraging people to get out of the capital. Normandy, Champagne, Loire Valley and Burgundy are my current specialties, along with WWI and WWII sites, and I’m also preparing some southwest adventures for 2012.
Thank you Gary for doing this interview with My French Life™. We’ve enjoyed getting to know you, your travel writing, website and tours. To find out more about Gary, you can see visit his website, France Revisited™.Images credit Gary Lee Kraut