I’m back from a relaxing vacation, and kicking off this return with a breath of fresh air. I tell you, this is one of my favorite author interviews because not only is she full of life, she has so much to share, and behind the scenes, showed me her big heart. Laurette Long has spread her wings in life, and this is one interview you won’t want to miss. Please take a seat, enjoy a warm drink, and give a warm welcome to Laurette.
Describe yourself in 150 words or less.
I’m a gregarious hermit. A wobbling Libra.
The best of times: When not in hermit mode, locked in the study, daydreaming in the garden, I like to fling the doors open. A houseful of people-family, friends, different ages, nationalities, opinions, all enjoying wonderful food, wine, laughter and conversation. Throw in songs, a fandango and a brass band–perfection. I’ve been lucky to share many experiences like this, with my Yorkshire family whose doors were always open, in a graduate student community in the USA, and for several years in SW France where the tradition of hospitality is alive, well, and doing the cancan.
The worst of times: Any kind of disharmony. When the knives come out, I’m off. Though I must confess to being hooked vicariously–House of Cards, wow! Game of Thrones, ooh là là! So long as it stays on the page or screen.
Do you think book covers are an important factor in choosing a book? Explain.
As someone who loves art, a striking cover is the first thing to catch my eye when I’m browsing bookshelves, virtual or real, on the lookout for new authors. Certainly the consensus today is that they’re particularly important in terms of commercial success. A friend recently gave me a lovely present, a box of 100 postcards featuring book covers from the Penguin imprint. Fascinating to see how styles have evolved over 70 years.
Tell us about your published works.
I started off with non-fiction, a course book for Advanced Learners of English for Oxford University Press, then a translation into English of a work of literary criticism. Lots of fun, lots of hard work. But my first love, my childhood passion, had been writing fiction (those old notebooks are mouldering somewhere in the junk room) and a series of holidays in the French Basque country rekindled that flame. I’ve always been a fan of the Romantic writers and the way in which nature is such an essential element in their work. Gradually, as I got to know this part of France, its mysterious history, its stunning beauty, dramatic landscapes and changing weather, the idea was born to use it as the setting for a series of novels where it would be woven into the stories, become a part of their identity. Biarritz Passion, came out in 2014, followed by Hot Basque in 2015. They’re contemporary romances following the adventures of a group of women from different backgrounds, with different lives, different passions, who all at some point fall under the magical spell of le pays basque. (Go visit!)
If you didn’t decide to become a writer, what else would you like to be when you grow up?
I was torn between librarian and actress. The hermit loved the idea of becoming a phantom of the library, flitting about those warm, hushed spaces, surrounded by thousands of books opening up worlds of fantasy. The extrovert wanted to be on the boards, declaiming and showing off.
At one time or another, we’ve all received a poor review. How do you think authors should respond to them?
The minute we agree to let our precious ‘baby’ out into the big bad public world we must be ready for anything. But…ouch, the first one’s like a personal insult, isn’t it? A kind of slap out of nowhere. Who is this unknown person who hates me so much?? Then a blackbird tunes up in the garden and puts it all into perspective. After a while you notice there are two kinds of critical review. There are those where the reader says something genuinely helpful that enables you to do better next time. The others? I think ideally we should be noble and remain silent. Genetically speaking I’m supposed to have an advantage (the British stiff upper lip).
If you could meet any character you’ve written, who would it be? Why?
It’s got to be Antoine Arantxa, the Hot Basque himself, naturellement! Handsome, funny, warm, caring, spontaneous, generous, loyal, a sympathetic listener, a shoulder to lean on. Not to mention other assets, as heroine Jill reminds herself:
‘Antoine is waiting for you, in his wetsuit, with his smouldering eyes and sexual techniques known only to the Basque nation.’
Obviously I would only be meeting him for a friendly cup of tea and a literary chat. (Just in case the Master of the House is reading this…)
What comes to mind when you think of France?
France seizes the global imagination like no other country. It manages to combine the best of earthly delights-its cuisine, its fashion–while moving and inspiring us intellectually and aesthetically. In November 2015, after the 2nd terrorist attack on Paris in which 130 were killed and 368 injured, tributes poured in from across the world. I wrote a blog ending with a true story. During World War 2 Allied planes flew over Nazi-occupied France dropping weapons for the maquis, the resistance fighters. But not just physical weapons. Fluttering down from the sky came thousands of copies of a poem. Its title was ‘Liberté, j’écris ton nom’ (Freedom, I write your name). Written by poet and resistance member Paul Eluard, its famous celebratory stanzas end with the following lines:
And through the power of one word
I begin my life again
I was born to know you
To name you
(And I cry every time I read it!)
In regards to writing, what are you working on now?
Last summer I made a start on the final book in the French Summer novel series, Villa Julia. Then I got side-tracked by the idea of a prequel, a novella, which is now in the editing stages. It tells the story of Alexandra, the mother of the two main female characters in the series, Caroline and Annabel. It’s been very challenging to write. Apart from the constraints imposed by the novella form, it’s almost like aanother genre, more dramatic, darker, a different narrative style. A lot of it is seen through the eyes of Caroline, aged 7. I am feeling afraid, very afraid…(Any tips about multi-genre writing, Denise??)
Where in the virtual world can people find you and/or meet for a chat?
I’m on Facebook. But the place I like to be most of all is my blog. That’s where I chat about things that really get me going-books of course, but also animals, planets, art, music, aviation pioneers… It’s a real pleasure to hear from readers sharing their own passions.
Why do you like gardens?
Gardens are part of English nostalgia. There must be hundreds of songs about them, lilacs, apple-blossom, nightingales. Here in France, when we moved from city flat to country house in 2011, we finally got our ‘garden’. Actually it was a sort of warzone, impenetrable brambles and nettles covering a dauntingly steep slope. We had it cleared by a fearsome machine, then scratched our heads: can we really turn this into a dream, not an English garden but a Mediterranean one, full of lavender, rosemary, cypresses, poppies? We attacked. My partner ended up with a new shoulder and me with a new hip. But it was worth it. Watching things grow, sitting in the middle of all those colours and scents, there’s nothing like it. Endlessly fascinating. My favourite flower would have to be lavender (the perfume, the healing properties, the associations with the south, with the ancient world). At this time of the year we let it go mad. It’s home to an orchestra of bees and a dazzle of butterflies.
In conclusion I’d like to say a big ‘merci!’ to Denise for inviting me to chat with you all on her blog. If you’re ever in SW France there is a beautiful garden waiting, with a glass of bubbles to say ‘Santé!
Writing, Conversation, and Wine,