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How This Novelist Kept Deadlines On A Whirlwind Business Trip To Paris

By Stephan Lee

After years and years of telling everyone I knew that I wanted to be a novelist, and years and years of shutting myself in my apartment after work to write — or, let's be honest, scroll through social media while I should have been writing — I finally achieved my ultimate dream earlier this year: I signed a deal with a major publisher to write a Young Adult novel!

My deal was a little unusual in that I signed it before I'd actually written the book, and the rights sold in several foreign countries, including France, based solely on my proposal and sample chapter. The publication of the book is being fast-tracked, so I've had to write the entire thing in a matter of months, all while holding down a full-time job.

As I've been putting the finishing touches on my manuscript, I recently had the opportunity to fly to Paris to do some last-minute research for the novel and meet with my French publisher. I've never felt so glamorous, but I've also never felt so overwhelmed. Turns out, in addition to writing the best book I can, I also have to deal with the business of being an author: taking edits from several different people, writing promotional copy, weighing in on marketing plans, cover art, contracts, etc. Needless to say, this trip to Paris was going to be full of multi-tasking, especially since I also wanted to find time to actually enjoy Paris.

Thankfully, I was able to partner with Hilton Hotels & Resorts for this trip, and my incredible stay at Hilton Paris Opera made it possible to not have to sacrifice pleasure for business. Here are some ways I made the most out of my work trip, even when I was being pulled in all directions.

1. Choose A Hotel That's In The Heart Of It All

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The right hotel was the single most crucial ingredient to making my trip both productive and fun. Located in the bustling Opéra district in the heart of Paris, Hilton Paris Opera is close to the slick Saint-Lazare metro station, which serves four major Paris Metro lines. Throughout my trip, I felt as if I had the entire city at my fingertips — even spots that looked far away on the map, like the Marais neighborhood, were surprisingly easy to get to.

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In addition to the location, the character of the hotel suited my trip perfectly. The moment I walked into the lobby, I truly felt a sense of grandeur, from the Napoleonic décor to the high ceilings and shimmering chandeliers. The building, formerly known as the Grand Hotel Terminus, was originally constructed in 1889 in honor of the World Fair, where the Eiffel Tower was unveiled to the public. Stepping into Le Grand Salon, the main restaurant and cocktail lounge adjacent to the lobby, was like stepping into 19th-century Paris with its statues, granite columns, and ornate details. Hilton Paris Opera combines a very modern hotel experience with the aura of history, and in a way, it set a tone for my trip, which was all about combining business with inspiration and creativity. It was a perfect match.

2. Make Yourself At Home Right Away

The room itself was chic and modern yet homey. Because I checked in and chose my room ahead of time via the Hilton Honors app, I was able to settle in immediately, which was a relief after a long day of traveling. The spaciousness and clean décor instantly put me in a relaxed and happy mood.

I'm all about fully unpacking while traveling — you feel so much calmer when you're not constantly pulling stuff out of a messy suitcase. With the large armoires and plenty of sink space in the bathroom where I mingled my (many) products with excellent ones provided by the hotel, I made myself completely at home. I did my nightly skin routine and got some much-needed rest before getting to work the next morning.

3. Set Up An Impromptu Headquarters

Stephan Lee

In the morning, when I threw open the curtains, sunlight poured into my room, and I couldn't get over how picturesque and quintessentially Parisian the view from my window was — this was the Paris headquarters and writing studio of my dreams. I plugged my phone, wireless headphones, and tablet into the USB ports throughout the room. Those came in handy because I only brought one European adapter, which I used for my laptop.

After making some espresso using the machine in my room and grabbing a quick, tasty breakfast (two chocolate croissants, smoked salmon, and scrambled eggs) from the Executive Lounge downstairs, I strapped on my comfy robe and worked through the morning. Honestly, my Hilton Paris Opera headquarters was just as well equipped and way more scenic than my home base in New York.

4. Combine Exercise With Sightseeing

Stephan Lee

When you're busy and stressed out, it's more important than ever to stick to your exercise routines. Neither work nor travel should stand in the way. After a few hours of work, I started with some weights in the Fitness Center just down the hall from my room. Then I pulled on my athleisure pants and went on a long run-slash-walk through Paris, using the Explore feature on the Hilton Honors app to route my journey through all the key sites, including the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, the Tuileries Garden, the Arc de Triomphe, and the iconic bookstore Shakespeare and Co.

I always count exercise as productive time, not just a break. Especially when you're doing creative work, it's amazing the ideas and solutions that pop into your head while you're getting your blood pumping — and if you're simultaneously taking in the sights and sounds of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, that's even better. On this run-slash-walk, I came up with a new ending for my novel and a compromise with my U.S. publisher regarding the book cover concept. Multi-tasking at its best!

5. When You're Really Busy, Bring The City To You!

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On my third day in Paris, my schedule really went nuts. I had to write up a new summary of my novel in time for an international book festival, make edits to my manuscript based on suggestions from my U.K. editors, record an episode of my podcast with my co-host in Los Angeles, and interview a local as research for my novel.

Since I barely had time to leave the hotel all day, I went downstairs to Le Grand Salon and set up my laptop. The soaring ceilings and chandeliers of the historic space made me feel as if I were actually experiencing the city, even though I wasn't leaving the building. I met fellow travelers, enjoyed a special Tea Time inspired by the Belle Epoque, and felt inspired by the atmosphere as I worked.

Stephan Lee

Later, I invited my interview subject to join me at Le Grand Salon to enjoy a craft cocktail as we talked. We ordered the Le French and the Le 1889, created for the 130th anniversary of the hotel. At the end of the interview, my guest, who was born and raised in Paris, said he'd never seen this space before and wanted to come back.

The tourist had become the tour guide — I felt très chic!

6. Save The Last Night For Yourself!

Stephan Lee

My meeting with my French publisher took place on my last full day in Paris. The office was near the Champs-Élysées, which was an easy ride on the metro from Hilton Paris Opera, so I had plenty of time before the meeting to relax and collect my thoughts.

The meeting couldn't have gone better! My French editor and I shared our visions for my novel, which were perfectly aligned, and we even made preliminary plans for me to come back next year for promotions when my book hits shelves.

Later that night, there was certainly more work I could have been doing, but I put it off to celebrate a successful trip and the fact that my dreams are coming true. I had a delightful dinner with a friend near the Louvre and took some time to talk about everything other than writing or work. Then we went out for a fun night on the town in the Marais.

If my debut novel becomes successful enough that I'm able to go on international book tours in the future, I'll certainly look to check in at Hilton Hotels & Resorts for their amenities and services that help you make the most of your work trip and experience everything your city has to offer. But whether or not this book becomes a best-seller, I'll keep writing and enjoying the adventure in the process.

For more content on making the most out of your business trip, visit our "Doing The Most" hub.

This post is sponsored by Hilton Hotels & Resorts.