Author, Jennifer Bohnet talks to Lin Treadgold about her life in France and her writing activities. Her latest book Shadows of Conflict is available on Amazon in hardback at the end of September 2013.
Go to Jennifer’s home page to find out more about her books.
LIN: I am so pleased we exchanged experiences in the last few weeks, it has been interesting to meet a like-minded expatriate. You live in France and I am in Holland. You might like to tell us something about yourself and how many books you have written?
JENNIE: It’s been great meeting up with you via the internet, Lin, and thank you for the opportunity to be a guest on your blog. A bit about me? Well, we’ve been in France for 14 years now – 3 up here in Brittany and the previous 11 in the South of France. We originally cycled from Roscoff down through France via the canal paths with our then collie dog in a trailer behind Richard’s bike. It was good fun and we keep muttering we should do it again but I think the moment has passed! SHADOWS OF CONFLICT published by Hale this year is my fifth book.
LIN: Do you write throughout the year or do you wait, as I do, until summer has gone and start a new project through the winter months?
JENNIE: Because I write short stories and serials as well I write all year – or try to! There are certain times of the year though that do prompt new motivation. Although it’s a long time since I was at school, September and the new school year always has me making resolutions, starting new projects, and buying yet more notebooks.
LIN: When did you begin writing your first book?
JENNIE; My first two, French Legacy and For The Love of The Sea were serials in The People’s Friend and were then accepted for Large Print publication by Ulverscroft. The next two were shorter serials so I had to edit, re-write and add about twenty thousand words with a couple of new sub-plots. All this began to happen in 2005.How is the quality expatriate life in France?
LIN: Are there things you miss about the UK? For me it’s Branston Pickle, Bisto gravy, and English cheeses. I also miss the hills; Holland is so flat. How is the quality of life in France?
JENNIE: Living in the South of France followed by Brittany has actually given us two different expatriate lives in France. Same country but two totally departments. One very cosmopolitan, the other very rural and quiet. Food wise there is very little I can’t buy here these days – even Branston Pickle. Friends bring us treats like Devonshire clotted cream and pasties – oh, and peanuts for the birds are almost impossible to source here! We are lucky in that we live in gorgeous countryside – with hills - and the sea is a short drive away in three directions.
LIN: How do you manage to interact with other authors in real time when you are in France? Do you come to the UK for conferences?
JENNIE; Sadly I have no interaction with other authors in real time here. I did recently hear of another writer who lives up on the coast in another department but as yet we haven’t managed to meet up for one reason or another. I am a member of the RNA but have never attended any of their famous (or should that be infamous?) parties.Maybe one day I’ll get there.
LIN; Many authors write about what they know best; I am one of those too although I do enjoy the research. Do you tend to keep your stories around France or are your books based elsewhere as well?
JENNIE: Three of my books are based in France and the other two are set in Devon where we lived before running away to France. Number six is again based in France but is drawing on some of my experiences of running a beach cafe in Devon. So it’s a mixture of what I know and research.
LIN: What started your writing? When was the moment you said ‘I’ll write a book’ ? Was this due to a life changing experience?
JENNIE: I’ve always written but coming to France was the life changing experience that propelled me into writing books rather than features and short stories.
LIN: Who are your three most favourite authors and why?
JENNIE: Oh, this is a difficult one – just three? Anna Seyton for Katherine – the historical novel of all time (imo). I adore all of Erica James’s books – she is so good at bringing characters to life. Jill Mansell, Veronica Henry, Katie Fforde, Marcia Willett – oh sorry you said three! And why? Basically because they all write, in totally different ways, about ordinary relationships and make them special.
LIN: You and I obviously enjoy sea-related stories. I couldn’t imagine living too far from the sea, I was born on the top of a cliff! What do you feel it is about the sea that provides an author with a wealth of story telling? How would you describe the feelings?
JENNIE: I was born on the seafront at Weston! Yes I love being near the sea but not so keen on being in it or on it! I’m not sure why it’s so inspirational for writers. Possibly because it can call up a myriad of emotions and thoughts – calm, stormy, happy, threatening, romantic etc. Knowing that gentle waves can change almost instantly to rough hard hitting ones ready to snatch things, lives, away and alter everything, can be inspiring.
LIN: We are both members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Describe why membership to the RNA has been important to you.
JENNIE: Membership of the RNA is the thing that keeps me in touch and up to date with the writing scene in the UK. Getting to an RNA do is on my bucket list!
LIN: Who would you say has influenced you most in your writing style?
JENNIE:Another difficult to answer question. I read a lot – usually contemporary, occasionally historical. I think sub-consciously you absorb things into finding your own voice. I honestly couldn’t name a single writer who has influenced me more than anyone else. Although I did go through a period of wanting to be the next Aga Saga writer aka Joanna Trollope.
LIN: Are there any members of your family who are also writers?
JENNIE: Not yet – although I live in hope that my son will eventually put pen to paper because I know he has the talent from the few things he’s written but at the moment he’s just not interested.
LIN: Thanks Jennie for a most interesting alliance, I hope we shall meet in real time in the future and exchange more of our writing experiences.
JENNIE: It would be lovely to meet up in real time Lin. I’m sure it would be non stop chat. Thank you for inviting me.
SHADOWS of CONFLICT tells the stories of Katie and her god-mother Mattie. When Katie, redundant from her media job, accepts Mattie’s offer to take over her shop, A Good Yarn, in Dartmouth, she expects her life to be busy and unexciting. But with an American film crew in town intent on uncovering buried secrets from World War II, a disgruntled relative, and Mattie herself still refusing to face up to the lingering shadows of an unhappy childhood, life is neither simple nor quiet. When Patrick, her ex-boss, offers the chance of her dream media job Katie has to decide whether accepting it is worth turning her back on everything and everyone in Dartmouth – including Leo, a friend from the past who plans to be a part of her future. Will Katie make the right decision? And as the Americans uncover a secret from her past, will Mattie shake off a lifetime of regrets and shadows from the past to finally find happiness with Henri, her new ami