Today, please welcome Sophie Claire. Sophie, what was the inspiration behind your book? Can you tell us a little about it?
When I wrote A Forget-Me-Not Summer I was nostalgically remembering the childhood summers I spent in Provence (South of France) at my grandparents’ house by the sea. I have really fond memories of trips to the beach, sunshine and big family gatherings around the table eating the delicious meals my grandmère had cooked. Those meals stretched for hours with lots of laughter, telling stories and joking.
In A Forget-Me-Not Summer I drew on these memories when I wrote about Luc’s large and noisy family, and it wasn’t difficult to make his ex-wife, Natasha, wish she belonged at Chateau Duval. Natasha doesn’t have any family of her own, so she’s particularly envious, and sees a whole new side to Luc when he’s with his family. But the deal is she’s only there for two weeks pretending they’re still married, then she’ll have to leave.
How did you decide on the setting for your book?
A Forget-Me-Not Summer is the first book I had published (it was originally called Her Forget-Me-Not Ex) and all the books I’ve written since have featured Provence. I love to set my stories there and find it a fascinating place with so much variety – from the glamorous French Riviera to the hills, ravines and lakes inland, and tiny hamlets where time appears to have stood still. Provence is full of history (Roman remains especially), picturesque places to visit and has lots to offer food and wine lovers too. As a setting, it offers so much scope for a writer.
How long did the book take to write? How much re-writing do you do?
Unusually, I wrote this book in several stages over 5 years. When it was first published (with Accent Press in 2015) it was 55,000 words long. Then I moved publisher to Hodder & Stoughton and they asked me to lengthen it because the norm in women’s fiction is 80-90,000. At first I found this a daunting prospect. I wanted the story to carry the reader along and keep the ‘will they/won’t they’ romantic tension, so I definitely didn’t want to pad it out with unnecessary scenes or description.
But as I read the book again, I realised there was so much in my head which hadn’t made it to the page the first time round. Backstory about Natasha and Luc, and memories of their brief relationship in the past. Scenes with Luc’s family which revealed more about him, his qualities and flaws. I also added more twists in the plot: complications and obstacles for the characters to overcome. And I included my own family recipes too.
In the end, extending the book turned out to be a really satisfying experience. Like revisiting old friends in their beautiful French chateau surrounded by vineyards and fields of sunflowers.
When did you realise you wanted to be an author?
Looking back it was always there: I wrote books as a child and sent short stories to a London publisher when I was eleven! (I got a very nice reply asking me to write a full-length novel for teenagers, but I gave up at that point. Imagine what might have happened if I’d done it!) But as I got older I convinced myself there was no money to be made in novel-writing and went into business instead. It’s only when I attended writing courses run by the lovely Sharon Kendrick and Kate Walker that I realised some writers do manage to earn a living from their craft. Then I got serious about writing commercial fiction.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Persevere. Keep the faith despite the obstacles. It took me fifteen years to get my first book deal with a small press, Accent. And then another 4 years before I was published with Hodder & Stoughton. In that time I had so many rejections and spent long months waiting for replies, but it was worth it in the end. To hold my books in my hand and see them in bookshops is a dream come true.
Can you tell us what you are working on now?
I’m currently working on book 5 (there are a couple in the pipeline!) which is another hot summery story set in Provence. It seems unlikely that we’ll be able to travel abroad this year so I’m particularly enjoying escaping there in my imagination.
About the Author:
Sophie Claire writes emotional stories set in England and in sunny Provence, where she spent her summers as a child.
She has a French mother and a Scottish father, but was born in Africa and grew up in Manchester, England, where she still lives with her husband and two sons.
Previously, she worked in marketing and proofreading academic papers, but writing is what she always considered her ‘real job’ and now she’s delighted to spend her days dreaming up heartwarming contemporary romance stories set in beautiful places.
A Forget-Me-Not Summer: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07P7R6316/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1
About the interviewer.
Catherine Lawless lives in Hertfordshire with her husband, daughter and their three border terriers. She writes novels, journals and children’s books. Catherine’s career started out as a singer/songwriter in a rock band. She toured extensively throughout Europe and the UK before settling down and following her childhood dream of writing books.