Mary-Louise Parker is a Tony, Emmy, Obie, and Golden Globe Award-winning actress. Her first book, Dear Mr. You, was published last year.
Mary-Louise Parker (MLP): I was struck by the way your memoir begins with an idealistic view of love. You describe your relationship with your soon-to-be husband as a kind of fairy-tale romance. But that vision of love—not to give too much away—doesn’t bear out. Did writing the book (and reliving it in a sense) affect the way you look at your expectations of love?
Danielle Trussoni (DT): My perceptions about love did change, and that is a good thing. When my marriage of nearly a decade was failing, my husband and I made a last-ditch attempt to save it by moving to a small medieval village in the south of France, bought a 13th-century fortress for our family to live in, and tried our best to stay together. It was a romantic quest, one that I hoped was so drastic it would bring us closer, but that ultimately failed. Now, my expectations of love are much more simple and straightforward.
MLP: Anaïs Nin famously said, “We are poisoned by fairy tales.” I feel like this could be the epigraph of your memoir. Do you feel that our modern-day fairy tales (movies and certain kinds of novels) create false expectations about love? Do you think women are more vulnerable to this than men?
DT: You’re so right to say that our modern day fairy tales are movies and novels. I grew up watching every romantic comedy ever made, and I think I embraced the idea that “true love” would have the power to transform my life. As a woman with a vivid imagination, I was definitely prone to creating fantasies about my “dream” life or the “perfect” life. I see this happen to many of my women friends, too.
MLP: You seem to love the south of France, where you moved with your family and bought the eponymous fortress. Do you think place affects our sense of home and family?
DT: Absolutely. I’ll always remember my kids’ first words in French and the smell of fresh baguettes at our village bakery each morning. I loved living in France and found that it utterly changed me and my children. Even now, the experiences we had in France remain with us. The kids are bilingual and we love French food and culture. We try to return to France often to see friends. It opened up a new world for us.
MLP: You are a self-proclaimed Francophile, and your book fully sparks our passion for that world. What are some of your favorite French films and novels, or any aspects of French culture that gave you that appetite for France and it being a place where anything could happen?
DT: I love French film, and my favorite writers are Proust and Colette. My real love affair with France is more tactile. I am a sucker for the food, and wine, and the (often infuriating!) etiquette in France. Cooking French food is one of my greatest pleasures. You don’t have to live in Paris to bake a soufflé.
MLP: Memoir is such a personal form of writing, but there is also an element of giving your experiences to readers as a way to think about their own lives. What would you like your readers to take away from The Fortress?
DT: I would love for readers to finish The Fortress and feel that they have the power to change their lives. Bad things happen, but you can recover and be stronger than before. The day I decided to write my story was the day I began to transcend it. It is never too late to start over.