Some years back, I had an idea for a book about a special perfume with seductive power. This scent, concocted by a voodoo priestess, would make the lady wearing it irresistible to any man who came close enough to breathe it in. The heroine of the story, Elene, was supposed to wear this fragrance on her wedding night in an arranged marriage, but of course things go terribly wrong. A handsome sea captain falls victim to this “Perfume of Paradise,” instead of her bridegroom. But how can Elene ever know whether his desire for her is real or a compulsion of the perfume?
In researching this story, I discovered most perfumes are blends of floral, green, spice and other notes. When it came time to describe the fragrance, I simply used an array of my favorite flower scents plus a couple I connected with the tropics. Over the months of working with the story, I came to have a sensory impression of this perfume; I could almost smell it as I wrote.
Soon after the book was released in trade-size paperback, I received a letter from a reader. She had a cousin, Loretta Theriot, who worked in a unique perfume shop in New Orleans where she blended special signature scents for customers. If I was interested, she was sure Loretta could create the perfume I’d described in my book.
What a fantastic idea! But could it really be done from a fairly vague description?
I contacted Loretta, and she agreed to put together a scent using the gardenia, rose, jasmine, frangipani and sandalwood essences I’d mentioned in the book. A short time later, I received three small vials of perfume. The first one opened was a bit too modern. The second was close to what I’d imagined, but a little sweet. But the third one was just right! It was perfect, in fact, the exact fragrance that had lingered in my mind for months. It was beyond amazing.
In no time at all, the perfume was being sold by Bourbon French Parfum Shop in New Orleans, a company that had been in business since 1843. For the mass market edition of the book, a special promotion was arranged by my publisher which involved 5000 sample bottles of this magic fragrance being sent to wholesale book distributors, booksellers and reviewers. A fabulous book signing was held at the perfume shop in New Orleans while a string quartet played classical music in the background and readers sipped champagne and nibbled gourmet chocolates and other rich fare. Today, some 25 years later, Perfume of Paradise is still being sold in the shop at 805 Royal Street, in the heart of the French Quarter: FMI: http://www.neworleansperfume.com/
Another quick tale about this book. Early one morning during the time it was being written, I was drinking my coffee when a sudden image for a cover flashed through my mind. It had an antique perfume bottle turned on its side in the upper corner while fragrance spilled from it in the form of flowers. Inset into the floral profusion was a small cameo of the hero and heroine. Quickly, I drew a pencil sketch of the cover, and sent it to my editor. “I don’t usually see visions,” I said in my note to her, “but could you run this by the art department and see what they think?”
Well, the weeks went by and I heard nothing. Then one day I received a cover proof for the book in the mail. The version painted by cover artist Jim Griffin (see top, left) was a vast improvement on my sketch, but enough like it to be recognizable. I was so touched and gratified. And thanks in large part to a gifted perfumer, wonderful cover artist and publisher PR department operating at the top of its form, “Perfume of Paradise” became a best seller.
The book is now available in an independently published edition from Steel Magnolia Press at a special price of just $.99. Just click on the Kindle Edition cover.