Welcome to ‘France et Moi’ where this week I am talking to author Marie Laval about what France means to her.
from a small village near Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the beautiful
Rossendale Valley, Lancashire, England, for the past few years. She works
full-time as a modern languages teacher and when she isn't busy looking after
her family and preparing lessons, she loves dreaming up romantic stories. Her
contemporary romantic suspense A Spell in Provence (see my review here), as well as her historical
novels Angel Heart
(review coming soon), the award-winning The Lion's Embrace and her Scottish
trilogy DANCING FOR THE DEVIL are all published by Áccent Press.
Firstly, I think France is a special place and it is famed for many things including its cheese, wine and diverse holiday locations plus, dare I say it strikes and dog poo littered streets. What do you think makes France so very unique and ‘French’?
Marie: For me it has to be the long, leisurely lunches with friends and family, the heated discussions about politics or just about anything (!), the incredible variety of landscapes...and the scents, but that's probably because scents always take me back to my childhood. There is nothing as evocative to me as smells of warm bread drifting out of the bakeries, of coffee and beer in cafés, or ripe fruit and fresh vegetables in the outdoor market.
2) As a French woman living in the UK I have to ask you about French women, what do you think makes you different to us and gives you that je ne sais quoi?
Marie: If you knew me, Jacqui, you wouldn't ask that question! I don't think I have anything special that makes me different from English women - apart perhaps from my love of navy blue, red and white clothes, and my terrible French accent, which seems to be getting worse the older I get!
3) How does France inspire your writing?
Marie: I find inspiration in so many things, from memories of childhood holidays, to songs or novels, or again stories my mother used to tell me about growing up in Algeria... My family used to spend summer holidays in Provence, either in a tiny rental house in a pine wood near Hyères, or at my uncle's ramshackle house in Avignon. Memories of those sunny holidays inspired the setting of my romantic suspense A SPELL IN PROVENCE. My love for Lyon and its history inspired much of my debut historical romance ANGEL HEART, as did the fantastic story that Napoleon had stopped in my village on his way to Paris after he came back from his exile in Elba!
4) Lyon is somewhere I would love to visit one day, what are your top tips for a quick visit?
After visiting the basilica, I would walk back downhill towards St Jean, taking the time to look at secondhand book and gift shops. I would, of course, stop at a café for a drink and a crêpe, or if it was lunchtime, I would sample a 'quenelle' or some 'charcuterie' in a 'bouchon' (a small restaurant serving typical Lyonnaise cuisine). I would also go into a few 'traboules', which are passages silk weavers used to take to keep the rolls of fabric from inclement weather.
I would then cross over the river into the 'Presqu'île' and the Place des Terreaux, before going up another hill - La Croix-Rousse, the old silk weavers district.
One thing Lyon is famous for as well as its gastronomy, is its incredible wall art. Look at the buildings and you will be amazed.
There is another, more leisurely way of seeing the town. You can take a river cruise down the Saône all the way to Ile Barbe, a lovely island North of Lyon.
5) France has many different cheeses, a silly question, but which French cheese are you? A hard and mature Tome, a soft, fresh and lively goat cheese, the creamy and rich Camembert or maybe the salty and serious Roquefort?
Marie: Do I really have to choose? I am a cheese addict.
6) Imagine you are sitting outside a French café at 10.00am on a sunny morning watching the world go by, what do you order from the waiter?
Marie: An expresso and a pain au chocolat, followed by a 'diabolo citron' (lemonade and lemon cordial).
7) Every region in France has it’s own culinary speciality, do you have a favourite regional dish?
Marie: That's a tough question, Jacqui, but I will choose a speciality from Lyon - and not frogs legs, although they are a must if you stop at one of the outdoor restaurants along the Saône. One of my favourite dishes ever are 'quenelles de brochet' in Nantua sauce - a dish made with pike, butter, milk and eggs, in a crayfish sauce. Simply delicious.
8) Do you think the French have a different attitude to food than the British and if so, is it a healthier one?
Marie: Things have changed a lot in England since I first arrived. People now enjoy preparing food from scratch, trying 'foreign' recipes and taking their time over a meal. In France people take mealtimes very seriously, with three courses and freshly prepared food, although I suppose that, like everywhere else nowadays, more and more people are turning to frozen and convenience foods.
9) Best French tipple, and yes I know there are many to choose from?
Marie: It would have to be either Pomerol or Chateauneuf du Pape...and champagne, of course.
Finally, do you have any current projects you would like to tell my readers about?
Marie: I am shortly to release a historical short story set in the Camargue - SONS OF THE WIND - as part of an anthology of short stories called LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES which features American, Canadian and European romance authors.
I am also editing a contemporary romance set in Scotland, PINK FOR HEART, and researching for another romantic suspense set in Paris. As usual, there aren't any hours in the day!
Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about France and you and I'm really looking forward to reading Sons of the Wind and the romantic suspense set in Paris.
Marie: Thank you very much, Jacqui, for inviting me to your blog.