Today I'm joined on the blog by author Julia Stagg to talk about her latest book The French Postmistress which has just been published.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?
The French Postmistress is the third book in the Fogas Chronicles and continues the story of the small community in the French Pyrenees. This time the focus is on Véronique Estaque as she fights to get the post office reopened and her job back. She’s also trying to come to terms with her unrequited love for one of her neighbours. Throw the volatile topic of the reintroduction of bears to the area into the mix and this is a tale of passions running high and a community being torn apart.
The French Postmistress is the 3rd book of the Fogas Chronicles, can it be read as a standalone or is it preferable to read the other 2 first?
As with L’Auberge and The Parisian’s Return, this can be read alone. But to get the full Fogas experience, try the other two first!
Where did the inspiration come from to set this series in the Fogas region of France?
I lived in the area running an auberge (a country inn) for six years. It’s hard not to be inspired by the stunning scenery of the Ariège-Pyrenees and by the characters that inhabit it.
Is there another book to come in the series or are you working on something completely different?
The fourth book has just been delivered to my editor – keep an eye on my Facebook page for news of the title coming soon. And I’m just starting on the fifth…plus something completely different. I would tell you more but then I would have to kill you!
If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I think most writers combine writing with another career to begin with, unless they are lucky enough to have a trust fund! So I’ve worked in all sorts of jobs, mostly with the public and as a teacher of English to foreigners. Luckily I love teaching and would happily go back to it if the need arose. (Let’s hope it doesn’t!)
Being a writer appears to be such a solitary lifestyle, especially when you’re in the midst of writing, so do you consider the influence of social Media, Facebook and Twitter, a blessing or a hindrance?
I’m very disciplined when it comes to work so hindrance doesn’t come into it. I think, as with anything, social media has its uses and its benefits. In work terms, Twitter has been invaluable, allowing me to interact with the publishing world in London while being based miles away. Socially, Facebook allows me to ‘meet’ people who have read my books and many of them have become friends. That said, I don’t spend a huge amount of time on either. I’d rather be out on the hills!
Do you have a set daily writing routine?
I work at least five days a week, seven when I’m coming towards the conclusion of a novel and the words are just tumbling out. I’m usually at my desk by nine and break off about five. Then I head out for a run, a bike ride or a long walk. I’m not good at spending entire days inside. But in reality, I’m always working as ideas don’t restrict themselves to office hours! I’ve been known to enter the office before breakfast so I can ‘download’ a dream or a plot development that came during the night. And I often get in from my runs and scribble frantically before the fragments of creation that came to me while in the hills fade away.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Believe in yourself but don’t let self-belief drown out good advice. If you’re being told by a variety of people that your work isn’t ready, listen. And maybe try writing something different.
If you could invite any three authors, alive or dead, to a dinner party who would you choose and why?
Oooh – difficult question as there are so many. Elizabeth Gaskell, because her novel, Cranford, gave me the idea for the structure of the Fogas novels. And because she was an amazing woman. Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House on the Prairie fame because she gave me so many hours of entertainment as a young child and a heroine with spark. I think Laura and Véronique Estaque of Fogas would get on famously! Finally, E.L. James. I haven’t read her books but while taking part in book-signings up and down the country during the Fifty Shades phenomenon, I saw the impact they were having. She’s taken a lot of brickbats from literary elitists but my take on it is that if she brings newcomers to the joy of reading (amongst other things!), she deserves some credit. And a free meal.
Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books?
Books are still my preferred choice – you can flip around within the pages easier and book shopping in a book shop can’t be beaten. But I do have a Kobo and use it for light reading – thrillers and the like. I love the versatility of it and the fact I can carry so many books at once. I’m currently working my way through Lee Child’s opus!
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
When I finished L’Auberge, my first novel, my husband and I were still running the auberge in France so I typed the last word and then got on with the mountain of other work that was awaiting my attention. Since then, I’ve had the luxury of becoming a full-time writer so now I usually phone my husband (he’s self-employed) and we head down the pub. I don’t do anything really special as I’m always a bit disjointed at the end of a book, as though I’ve left half of myself in Fogas.
Where would be your idyllic location for a writing retreat?
My office is pretty idyllic! I have a fantastic view, a kettle nearby and my cat to keep me company. I find that I work better in my own environment. I know if I took myself off to a remote spot I would miss my reference books, my notice board, which is covered in ideas, and my new laser printer…not to mention my husband!