From the writing desk, of Sophie Claire
Welcome to the French Village Diaries interview feature, From the Writing Desk, where this week, to coincide with the recent release of Summer at the French Olive Grove I am delighted to be (virtually) joining author Sophie Claire at her writing desk.
A bit about Sophie
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.
Find out more at her website here.
Your writing space
Sophie, how important is your desk space to your writing? Do you only write at your desk, or are you happy sitting anywhere?
Sophie: I love my messy office and desk! Oh I wish it wasn’t messy, of course, but I’m very lucky that I can disappear in there and close the door on the outside world. I work on a desktop, I have files of notes and magazine cuttings, and I like to edit on paper printouts so I’m not very mobile and my desk is where I do most of my writing. However, I do miss the pre-Covid days when, every now and then, I’d take my notebook and go and sit in a café to write for an hour. I used to find it helped if I was nervous about starting a new project or writing a tricky scene. It’s something I look forward to doing again soon hopefully.
Is your chair comfortable, old and slightly squishy or modern and ergonomic?
Sophie: Ha! I have a plain wooden kitchen chair. I used to have a grand, height-adjustable office chair but after suffering for several months from tennis elbow, I abandoned it one day and the tennis elbow vanished almost instantly. I’ve no idea how it cured it, but now I’m sticking with the kitchen chair.
Do you prefer to work to a deadline, and if so, do you set yourself daily or weekly targets?
Sophie: I hate deadlines, always have, and I write much more freely when left to my own devices, but they’re inevitable so I try to stay ahead of the game and set myself monthly targets with a couple of writing friends. I usually meet them with just days or hours to spare, which goes to show how well they work. We hold ourselves accountable, but also congratulate each other on what we’ve achieved, which is so important.
Writing during Covid-19
As a writer, with a desk and computer at home, life and work would have continued for you throughout lockdown, but did the pandemic affect your writing and motivation to write?
Sophie: The pandemic made concentration difficult for most people, and I’m no exception. Now that we’ve got used to the situation my concentration has improved, but I’ll be honest, I’m finding the well of creativity is beginning to run dry. I’m really looking forward to meeting friends again, travelling (especially to Provence!) and living a ‘normal’ life again because these all feed into my creativity.
Is there anything you have learned from living through the pandemic that you might use in future writing projects?
Sophie: I like to think that I’ve learned to write despite the distractions around me (I used to be alone working from home; now there are four of us). I do believe the pandemic has made us all more adaptable and I’m quite amazed by how humankind has responded.
Your latest release
Your fourth novel, Summer at the French Olive Grove was released last week, can you tell us a bit about it?
Sophie: It’s about adventurous filmmaker, Lily Martin, who breaks her arm and must return home to France while she recuperates. She hasn’t seen her childhood crush Olivier Lacoste since the devastating fire that changed her life and they have unfinished business…
Summer at the French Olive Grove was actually the second book I wrote (after A Forget-Me-Not Summer) and the one that won me my agent, Megan Carroll. Although she loved it (and other agents were interested too), she wasn’t able to place it with a suitable publisher. So she pitched my next book (The Christmas Holiday) and I signed a book deal with Hodder. A couple of years later, they asked to see Summer at the French Olive Grove and I was relieved that it only needed a light edit so there wasn’t anything fundamentally wrong with the book. Sometimes you have to be in the right place at the right time, and I hope this will inspire others to keep persevering.
All of your books feature a little bit of Provençal magic, is this area of France a special place for you?
Sophie: It’s an extremely special place (and I love that you used the word ‘magic’ because that’s exactly how it feels to me). My mum is French and we spent every summer at my grandparents’ house when I was a child. They lived near Sanary, a picturesque fishing port, and I have wonderful memories of trips to the beach, visiting hilltop villages, and big family meals with delicious French cooking (my grandmother was an excellent cook).
Summer at the French Olive Grove takes place in the fictional seaside village of St Pierre, which is inspired by Sanary. I fictionalised it to allow me to tinker with the geography and make it less developed than it is now, but readers might recognise elements such as the pancake restaurant and the colourful fishing boats in the harbour.
How would you normally celebrate the release of a new novel, and will it be different this year?
Sophie: Normally I’d celebrate with my writing friends, the Novelistas. We’d hold a launch party in North Wales with cake, champagne and goody bags. Sadly, that isn’t possible this year, but I’m planning to buy some delicious French patisseries (Olivier, in the book, is a master baker) and celebrate with friends and family.
Life outside of writing
What do you look forward to, when you’ve saved the document and switched off the computer, as your treat at the end of the writing day?
Sophie: Reading time! It doesn’t always happen, but that’s what I love the most – getting wrapped up in the words of a good book, preferably in the garden on a sunny day. I also love baking, as my readers may have spotted because food always features prominently in my books.
|Sophie Claire, reading in the garden|
I know I have really missed a French café terrace, a café alongé and a spot of people watching, what aspect of normal life have you missed most in the last year?
Sophie: Oh yes, people watching is wonderfully inspiring and I miss sitting in cafes too. But most of all, I miss meeting up with writing friends. My Hebden Bridge group, Authors on the Edge, is releasing the third Miss Moonshine anthology (Midsummer Magic at Miss Moonshine’s Emporium) on 21 June and we’re keeping everything crossed that we’ll be able to celebrate in person. It will be so nice to catch up and talk writing!
Thank you for taking the time out of your writing day to let me join you at your writing desk.
Sophie: Thanks for having me, Jacqui. I love your blog and always look out for your French-themed book recommendations.
You can read my reviews of Sophie’s books here: