It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? The Little French Guesthouse… After a month of very ‘April’ weather, we could all do with a holiday in France, and Helen Pollard has provided just that with her latest novel, published last Thursday and already in the kindle top 50. I’m very happy to welcome her back to the blog to answer some questions about her Little French Guesthouse – and a few other things.
Tell us something about your book – and why you write in this genre.
The Little French Guesthouse is told from the point of view of Emmy Jamieson. Her relationship with boyfriend Nathan is getting stale, so she books a quiet holiday in the Loire region of France to give them a chance to reconnect. Instead, he runs off with an older woman, and she ends up looking after the temporarily-incapacitated guesthouse owner Rupert and his business. There are complications in the form of muscled gardener Ryan and attractive accountant Alain, along with various friends and acquaintances of Rupert’s to deal with. But as Emmy comes to terms with what has happened, she rediscovers her inner strength and starts to think about her future.
My previous two books were ‘sweet’ romances. I enjoyed writing them, but I wanted more scope to express my ‘voice’ and sense of humour, so The Little French Guesthouse is much cheekier and more down-to-earth, with a wider cast of characters.
What research did you do for this novel?
La Cour des Roses is an imaginary setting loosely based on somewhere we stayed on holiday a few years ago, and the nearby town – again imaginary – is based on a real town. So I studied photos we took and Googled the town and area to remind myself about various aspects of it. I did the same for descriptions of the countryside and some of the places Emmy visits . . . but most of it was based on memories.
Do you have any ‘must-haves’ before you sit down and write? (music, coffee…)
I tend to get some admin out of the way first thing, then I break off to savour the one coffee I allow myself each day. After that, I’m in more of a frame of mind to write. Several cups of tea factor in throughout the day, and of course chocolate always has a part to play in the creative process!
This is your third book – has your writing process changed in any way since you wrote your first?
Not really – I start out trying to write from beginning to end in a logical manner, but what with the characters going off and doing their own thing, and me getting stuck at certain points so I have to maybe leave a gap and jump to the next scene rather than waste time worrying about it, it can get a bit messy! But eventually it comes together as a cohesive whole. Eventually . . .
Which romance books have you read recently?
I’m currently enjoying There Must Be An Angel, a romantic comedy by Sharon Booth, which has a great sense of humour. Before that it was a Nora Roberts, who can always be relied upon for a romantic escape with a little sizzle! Next up is fellow Bookouture author Christie Barlow’s Kitty’s Countryside Dream.
Have any other writers particularly influenced your writing style?
Gosh, I’m sure they have, but I assume it must be a subconscious thing. I do spend a lot of time choosing the words I use for maximum effect – and I wonder if that’s due to a diet of P.G. Wodehouse. He had such a wonderful turn of phrase, often making me laugh out loud because he used an unexpected word but it worked so well. I like Bill Bryson for the same reason.
If you could be a famous book character for one day, who would you be?
Crikey, that’s a difficult question! Maybe Bertie Wooster – that way, I could be pampered and I could get clever Jeeves to solve all my problems for me!
Do you have a similar taste in television programmes?
I don’t watch much television nowadays, but when I do, it’s to ‘escape’ for a while . . . so I can’t stand reality TV, and I can’t cope with anything that is upsetting or gory!
I like a cosy mystery – something like Midsomer Murders – and will happily indulge a sense of nostalgia by watching reruns of things like Magnum P.I. and The Rockford Files. I absolutely loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer – again, probably because of the humour woven into it.
If I need cheering up, Father Ted or The Big Bang Theory will probably do the trick, or a wonderful old movie like Pillow Talk or Some Like It Hot.
Sun, croissants and fine wine. Nothing can spoil the perfect holiday. Or can it?
When Emmy Jamieson arrives at La Cour des Roses, a beautiful guesthouse in the French countryside, she can’t wait to spend two weeks relaxing with boyfriend Nathan. Their relationship needs a little TLC and Emmy is certain this holiday will do the trick. But they’ve barely unpacked before he scarpers with Gloria, the guesthouse owner’s cougar wife.
Rupert, the ailing guesthouse owner, is shell-shocked. Feeling somewhat responsible, and rather generous after a bottle (or so) of wine, heartbroken Emmy offers to help. Changing sheets in the gîtes will help keep her mind off her misery.
Thrust into the heart of the local community, Emmy suddenly finds herself surrounded by new friends. And with sizzling hot gardener Ryan and the infuriating (if gorgeous) accountant Alain providing welcome distractions, Nathan is fast becoming a distant memory.
Fresh coffee and croissants for breakfast, feeding the hens in the warm evening light; Emmy starts to feel quite at home. But it would be madness to walk away from her friends, family, and everything she’s ever worked for, to take a chance on a place she fell for on holiday – wouldn’t it?
Fans of Jenny Colgan, Lucy Diamond and Nick Alexander will want to join Emmy for a glass of wine as the sun sets on the terrace at La Cour des Roses.
As a child, Helen had a vivid imagination fuelled by her love of reading, so she started to create her own stories in a notebook.
She still prefers fictional worlds to real life, believes characterisation is the key to a successful book, and enjoys infusing her writing with humour and heart.
When she’s not writing, Helen enjoys reading, decent coffee, scrapbooking and watching old seventies and eighties TV shows.
Helen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.