We are delighted that you could join us to talk about your new release. Could you tell us a little more about it?
An Escape To Provence is a sensual romance about healing past hurts and daring to open your heart again: When cynical divorce lawyer Daisy Jackson unexpectedly inherits a ramshackle farmhouse in Provence, she sets off for the French countryside to oversee renovations herself. But Gabriel Laforet has other ideas. A local builder with ties to the property, Gabriel is determined to see Daisy off and preserve the characterful, charming farmhouse – which, but for a missing will, he knows is rightfully his. When the two meet, it’s clear they couldn’t be more different: Gabriel has lived in the small country village all his life; Daisy is a city girl whose career means everything. He is laid-back and messy; she is used to being in control. As they begin to work together, sparks fly. Yet they’re inexplicably drawn to each other and, in the heat of the Provence sun, secrets begin to spill. Perhaps Daisy can trust him with her carefully guarded heart after all? But Gabriel is still searching for the missing will that proves the farmhouse belongs to him – and in doing so, risks upturning everything he and Daisy have started to build together . . .
What was the inspiration behind your book? What prompted you to tell this story?
The idea was loosely inspired by the real story of a friend’s brother whose will couldn’t be found after his death so he died intestate: it caused a lot of upset within the family. I like to set my books in France so I began researching inheritance laws and I was fascinated to learn that in France you can write your own will without any legal help (un testament olographe) – this fired my imagination even more! What if a will was written then lost? I loved the idea of my hero and heroine both claiming ownership of the same house, and being invested in its renovation (while having opposing views on how it should be done!).
How did you decide on the setting for your book?
The setting was easy: I love to set my books in Provence as my mum is French and we spent my childhood summers at my grandparents’ house there. I’m especially drawn to the quieter areas inland and away from the glitzy Riviera, where life is slow and there’s a strong sense of history and tradition. I suppose at the back of my mind were the landscapes and passions of Pagnol’s book, Jean de Florette, with a little of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence thrown in too (especially because Gabriel is a builder and his laid-back attitude infuriates Daisy!). But mostly I drew on my visits to the area: the strong sense of community and tradition, and the beauty of the place. Daisy is a city girl and I enjoyed introducing her to Provence. At first she’s horrified by how quiet and isolated it is, but bit by bit her attitude changes, and Gabriel’s love of the place begins to colour her perspective. He teaches her to slow down and she realises how lonely her busy life in London was. Living in such a tranquil place helps her confront her fears and to live more mindfully.
How long did the book take to write? How much re-writing do you normally do?
This book was unusual because it was written in two parts. I began writing it in 2018 and was halfway through when I signed my first contract with Hodder. They asked me to write a Christmas book (A Winter’s Dream) so I put this one aside for a year, then came back to it. I must confess, it took me a little while to get back into the story, but fortunately I had made lots of notes for myself and, in the end, it was a delight to be transported to sunny Provence in a fictional heatwave. I finished it at the start of the pandemic when foreign travel was not possible, and I relished escaping in my imagination to this beautiful sunny place. I really hope my readers will enjoy being transported there too.
What is your writing day like
I like to write first thing, and I always warm up with ‘morning pages’. This is a technique Julia Cameron describes in her book, The Artist’s Way (which I wholeheartedly recommend), where you fill three pages with a handwritten stream of consciousness, simply allowing your thoughts to flow freely. The important thing is not to stop writing, and I rip up the pages when I’ve finished. It’s a wonderful way to clear the mind ready to focus on my work-in-progress. (I also use the technique when I’m stuck and it often frees up my thoughts and kickstarts ideas).
I work on my book all morning because that’s my most productive time, then carry on after lunch or switch to admin and promotional tasks which are less intense than writing. I probably spend too much time on social media but I love ‘chatting’ to readers and fellow writers. If I have copy-edits or proofs to check this routine goes out of the window and I work all day solidly to get them done. Partly because I’m working on the next book by then and they feel like an interruption, but also because I’m a word geek and I love that stage of the process. Fine-tuning words and phrases so they flow as perfectly as possible doesn’t feel like work to me!
What was your journey to publication?
It took me a long time to get published – 15 years or thereabouts. I began writing when my eldest son was a baby, progressing from short stories to a full-length novel. Then, about seven years in, I tried writing a Mills & Boon as a challenge set by my writing group. I took the challenge seriously and really enjoyed reading and analysing romance novels as research. I realised then that my favourite books fell into this genre: for example, Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife. I got encouraging feedback from Mills & Boon but that was all, then I wrote a mainstream romance and had my first book published by Accent. I sent my second to Megan Carroll, who became my agent.
However, even then things weren’t simple! Megan couldn’t find a publisher for that book so she tried again with my next book, The Christmas Holiday, and that’s when I was offered a book deal with Hodder & Stoughton. (The other book, Summer at the French Olive Grove, was later published by them too).They will be publishing my 6th book next year.
Can you tell us what you are working on now?
I’m editing book 6, which is a Christmas book (scheduled for 2023 publication), and that brings me to the end of my contract with Hodder. So I’ll be brainstorming ideas for new books, and hopefully making a start on the next one soon. Exciting!
ABOUT SOPHIE CLAIRE
Sophie Claire writes uplifting emotional stories with their heart in Provence, where she spent her childhood summers. She is half French, half Scottish, was born in Africa and growing up in England she felt she didn’t belong anywhere – except in the pages of a book. Perhaps this is why she likes to help her characters find their home; a place in the world where they can be loved for themselves.
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.
Sophie has been speaking with…
Julia Boggio is a writer, photographer, mother, Peloton lover, runner, and Christmas card enthusiast. She is one half of the popular podcast, Two Lit Chicks (like desert island discs, but for books). Currently, she has one cat and is thinking of getting a dog. Represented by Katie Greenstreet at Paper Literary.