|The Vineyard in Alsace by Julie Stock|
Welcome to ‘France et Moi’ where this week, to coincide with the release of her latest novel, The Vineyard in Alsace, I am talking to author Julie Stock about what France means to her.
Julie Stock is an author of contemporary romance novels, novellas and short stories. She’s a proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. She blogs regularly on her website ‘My Writing Life’.
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’?
Julie: I think one of the things that makes France so unique for me is particular smells that just seem so French. I wrote this into my book actually, giving the example of when you first arrive in France and smell the unmistakably French smell of a boulangerie. There’s nothing more French than that really for me. The smell of croissants and pains au chocolats baking in the morning is the smell of France to me.
2) What is your earliest memory of time spent in France?
Julie: I first went to France on holiday when I was a young teenager to visit my family who are based around a village called Langon, near Bordeaux. My maternal grand-dad’s mum moved with him to France from Czechoslovakia just before the start of the second World War. She remarried and settled there with her new husband. I had never met the family before and suddenly I had a whole host of new aunts, uncles and cousins. It was fabulous and I became very close to them all.
3) Your latest novel is set in Alsace, is this a region of France you know well?
Julie: It is! I first went there on a holiday touring round France with my husband many years ago. I’d just got a new job for a mail-order wine merchant and one of their suppliers was Hugel et Fils in Riquewihr. So we went to visit and had a lovely wine tasting too! The next time we went to Alsace was when our oldest daughter had just been born – she was barely three months old! We stayed in a beautiful Relais et Châteaux hotel and really explored the area. Then we went again recently and this time, we introduced the delights of Alsace to our younger daughter. Sadly, she wasn’t as impressed as we were hoping she would be but then she was 14 at the time...
4) Would you say time spent in France has inspired your writing?
Julie: Definitely. I find France a very romantic country in many ways and fell in love with Paris the very first time I went there as a teenager. My husband and I lived in France when I was doing my degree and I think that was where we properly got to know each other. Then we went back to Paris when we got engaged, as well as spending our honeymoon there. I love the language and the culture, and I always knew, after I started writing, that I would one day set a book there. Setting is so important to me and my love of France and my wine knowledge made Alsace an easy choice for this book.
5) If money and commitments were no object where in France would you like to own a property and what sort of place would it be?
Julie: Well, I do love Alsace, of course, for the picture postcard beauty of its towns and villages. And I love the wines too (did I mention that?) However, most of our holidays have been spent in the Vendée, Poitou-Charentes and Aquitaine regions so I would probably choose to live in one of those départements. I love the typical French farmhouses with pale blue shutters, a little bit of land around and definitely a pool. I’d like to be by the sea and not too far from a bustling town.
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?
Julie: At that time of day, I’d probably order un café crème and maybe a small pastry, a croissant or a pain au chocolat.
7) 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?
Julie: I would see myself as a creamy and rich Camembert, or a luscious Brie!
8) What is your favourite thing to buy in a Boulangerie/Patisserie?
Julie: I love anything made from choux pastry, especially the éclairs you only seem to find in France with the coffee-flavoured icing and filling. I also love those little strawberry tarts!
9) Writing about a vineyard, must mean you’re quite knowledgeable about French wine, so what is your favourite French tipple, and yes I know there are many to choose from?
Julie: This is probably the hardest question for me! I love French wine from all regions. I am especially partial to reds from St. Emilion and the Rhône but one of my favourite reds is Corbières from the Languedoc. As for white wines, my favourite is probably Alsace Gewurztraminer. I’m always very happy to drink a glass of champagne too!
10) Can you describe your perfect French apéro for us, including the drinks, the nibbles, the location and the company?
Julie: Again, so many to choose from. We like to drink the apéritif of the region we’re in so we’ve tried a few different ones over the years. One of my favourites though, which I haven’t had for a very long time, is Pineau des Charentes. There’s nothing nicer than sitting outside in the early evening sunshine drinking a cold glass of Pineau. I could quite fancy one as I write this. On our tour of France, we visited Châtelaillon Plage and I remember sitting outside at a café drinking Pineau and eating olives and some nuts as the evening sun began to fade. Heaven.
Finally, can you tell us a bit about your new novel The Vineyard in Alsace? Can we expect more novels set in France in the future?
Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about France and you.
Julie: Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Jacqui. This book is the first in a series of books to be set at Domaine des Montagnes so there will definitely be some more books set in France. Here’s the blurb for this one:
Is there really such a thing as a second chance at love?
Fran Schell has only just become engaged when she finds her fiancé in bed with another woman. She knows this is the push she needs to break free of him and to leave London. She applies for her dream job on a vineyard in Alsace, in France, not far from her family home, determined to concentrate on her work.
Didier Le Roy can hardly believe it when he sees that the only person to apply for the job on his vineyard is the same woman he once loved but let go because of his stupid pride. Now estranged from his wife, he longs for a second chance with Fran if only she will forgive him for not following her to London.
Working so closely together, Fran soon starts to fall in love with Didier all over again. Didier knows that it is now time for him to move on with his divorce if he and Fran are ever to have a future together. Can Fran and Didier make their second chance at love work despite all the obstacles in their way?
The Vineyard in Alsace is a contemporary romance set against the enticing backdrop of the vineyard harvest in Alsace in France.
You can read my review of The Vineyard in Alsace here.