• Out of my comfort zone

    Out of my comfort zone

    For years I’ve been writing books set in the present day and set in areas I know well, either the Cotswolds or Scotland.  So why did I suddenly find myself setting a book in France, set in the 60’s?

    My friend and fellow writer Jo Thomas had said to me, ‘you’ve never written about that cookery course you did.’  Instantly I knew what I had to write about.  The girls, all on the course, with different backgrounds and different ambitions and I wanted to set it in the 60’s.

    The first book, A Wedding in the Country, was about Lizzie.  I actually did my cookery course in the 70’s, but I’d spent some of my teenage years in the 60’s and this was a world I was familiar with.  A lot of the things (but not everything!) that happened to Lizzie had happened to me.  I had a lot of fun writing that book.  It was the perfect escape from everything bad that was happening around us in real life.

    But the second book was about Alexandra.  Now she was a character who arrived in my head fully formed.  I knew all sorts of things about her all at once.  I had mentioned many of them in the first book so I couldn’t make it easier for myself.  Writing her story was going to be hard.

    Firstly, Alexandra is quite unlike me.  She is brave, a little reckless, full of confidence and gorgeous.  Even before I started, when I was describing the cookery school at the beginning of the series, I knew she was going to spend time in Paris on her way to Switzerland.  I knew she was going to end up in a chateau.  I did book a family holiday in a chateau but because of covid, we never got to go.  I was going to have to write it all based on watching endless episodes of Escape to the Chateau DIY. 

    I don’t know Paris – Paris was important to Alexandra, I had to get it right.  A friend of my son’s is a guide to Paris – I had assumed going there and being with him would be possible.  But no!  Although I have been a couple of times I was by no means familiar with this magical city.  I spent a lot of time on websites looking at photographs, reading blogs, watching films, immersing myself in a place I couldn’t visit.

    In the past my research had almost always been real.  I’ve worked in auction houses, tried my hand at pottery, been behind the scenes at The Chelsea Flower show.  (Golly, it was wet!).  I even did a Ray Mears survival course when I wanted to write about an explorer.  But I only had Google (my new best friend) and films to help me and many, many episodes of Escape to the Chateau DIY.

    I really hope when you come to read A Wedding in Provence you feel you are spending time in Provence, in the 60’s with a rather wonderful girl who is so unlike me.  And I really hope you enjoy yourself!

  • Comments on this post (10 comments)

    • Rhiannon says...

      I loved ‘A Wedding in the Country’ and I am really looking forward to reading the Alexandra one! The three girls are wonderful vivid characters.

      November 07, 2021

    • Andrew Waine says...

      Thanks for sharing the above.I’m disabled and I’ve spent a lot of time reading ( listening) to your books. I started several years ago when bed ridden ,and your writing inspired me to write. My work is not published and was originally undertaken to amuse my wife who had Alzheimers. When she passed I continued, finding the exploration of the human condition cathartic. It helped me to grieve,
      Please continue to write your marvellous books and thank you again, Andrew Waine.

      November 02, 2021

    • Jsnyce Knight says...

      I loved your last book Wedding in the Country and cant wait for this next book. I watch Escape to the Chateau DIY. I akso visited the UK and Paros in the 60’s. Especially at this time when the rug has been pulled out from us and can’t travel😊

      November 02, 2021

    • alison samuel says...

      Sounds amazing. Can’t wait.

      November 02, 2021

    • Karen Clarke says...

      Really excited to read your new book!! Been a huge fan for many years now… I’m sure your bravery will be very well rewarded!
      Devoured all your books. I’m an avid reader always been my escapism for a very young child.
      Books have got me through many traumatic life events, from being a little girl.
      Thank you for being a great writer and sharing them with us.
      Kind regards
      Karen x

      November 02, 2021

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