My guest today is another author who is a full-time resident in France although not a close neighbour. We thought it would be interesting to compare notes on our experiences of writing in one language while living in a different country.
Vanessa, welcome to the Bingergread Cottage. Help yourself to tea or coffee and there is cake on the table, don’t give it to Lily, she’ll ask but then spit it on the floor.
VC : Thank you for inviting me, Ailsa. I’m delighted to be here, especially as there is Mars Bar and digestive biscuit cake. I’ll try not to scoff the lot. You have to give me the recipe. Poor Lily, she’s looking longingly at my cake. I love dogs but we don’t have one, since it’s difficult if you go away. I expect you can smell Felix, our fluffy cat, can’t you, Lily?
Yes, they are a tie but we’ve never been without one. A cat wouldn’t stand an earthly with Princess, here. Whereabouts in France are you? I’m up in the East, not too far from the Swiss border and can see the foothills of the Alps.
VC : We’re in South West France about an hour’s drive North East of Toulouse. We fell in love with our house, having seen 23 others in four days, and we’ve been there nearly 18 years now. Originally, we thought we’d use it as a holiday home and then retire there, but I was getting tired of a stressful job, so we decided to move over full time.
My husband (Per, Swedish but speaks perfect English) was working as a consultant and I started doing the same. Then I moved into freelance writing – copywriting, magazine articles, research reports, etc. – which involves less travel. I started writing fiction about five years ago.
How did you end up in eastern France? It’s not a place that’s traditionally favoured by ex-pats, as far as I know. I’m sure it’s very nice, though. Perhaps a bit cold in the winter? Mind you, it can be freezing here.
I started out in Brittany on a boat with a different husband. Ditched boat / bloke for house / Badger but got sick of living in a ghetto. I was made to feel as if I’d “gone native” because I learned French and had to work for a living. We shifted ten years ago and decided on here as being pretty central for exploring anywhere in Europe in our caravan. The house picked me, not the other way around but I love our isolated village. Know everyone, sit on the bench and knit with the grannies – it’s paradise and so many good dog walks around here.
Are there many British ex-pats around you? Do you find a local market for your books?
VC : There weren’t when we moved here in 1997 but the influx began in the 2000s, when house prices soared in the UK and property down here looked cheap by comparison. Now there are quite a lot of Brits in our area. It’s possible to live here without speaking French, but I think you miss out on a lot if you do that.
Luckily for me, this means that there is a market for my stuff down here. There are a growing number of English book clubs, writing groups and even an English library, and some of the bookshops in the bigger cities stock English books. Also, one of the villages locally has establishing an annual Anglo-French literary festival. I was involved in setting it up two years ago. Last year, I was invited to do an author talk, which was an opportunity to sell books. It was great fun, too, and since I was one of the first on, I could relax and enjoy the rest of the event afterwards.
How about you? Is there a market for your books over there?
No. Everyone goes potty when I say I’m an author because, as you will know, in France we are a “breed apart”. We get the kind of “not a real brain surgeon?” reaction so unlike the “I’ve got a book idea too” one with which we are familiar in other places! All my friends here want to read my books but not in English.
Shall we have a break? I’ll make some more tea.
To be continued….
Website and blog: http://vanessacouchmanwriter.wordpress.com
The House at Zaronza is available in paperback and e-book formats from:
Amazon UK: http://tinyurl.com/UK-Zaronza
Amazon US: http://tinyurl.com/US-Zaronza