Thursday, April 10, 2014

Guest post from author Julia Stagg

Today is an exciting day for anyone who has been virtually taken to the Ariège-Pyrenees through the pages of Julia Stagg’s novels set in the small mountain commune of Fogas as it is publication day for A Fte to Remember (Fogas Chronicles 4) . Although I have not yet read it I remember snippets of the other three books with fond holiday-like memories and I’m sure I won’t be disappointed with this one. It’s been too long since I had a mini break in Fogas. A few years ago Julia wrote a guest post for me about her beloved Ariège-Pyrenees region and I thought today would be a good day to repost it. (The original disappeared into the black hole that opened up when I transferred from iWeb to Blogger).

french village diaries guest post Julia Stagg The Fogas Chronicles
Julia Stagg at the auberge
The Ariège-Pyrenees is a remote département in the southern corner of France, which snuggles up to Spain and Andorra. Relatively unknown, even by the French (the number of people who called us in haute saison to ask exactly where our auberge was while en route to stay there was staggering), it has retained a lot of its traditions. Time moves slowly. Strangers stand out. And Paris seems a long, long, way away.

When we first moved there in 2004 we felt at home from the first. The locals were welcoming, glad to have the auberge up and running again (my first novel L’Auberge is not based on fact!) and the scenery took our breath away. It still does – those mountains really do make your soul sing. But being newcomers, of course we stood out in a community where genealogy needs no internet access, old Madame Rogalle able to trace the ancestry of every family in the village. And happy to supply a few choice details no web search could ever unearth. What surprised me though was that we weren’t the only ones who were viewed as foreign.

During our first season running the auberge, it was amusing to see the second-home owners, who descended from Paris, Bordeaux, Montpellier, being put in the same bracket. In fact, because we were working those long summer days, we were regarded as honorary insiders and were therefore party to the moans and grumbles about the visitors who had come to our region. Visitors who were French.

It set me thinking about the meaning of ‘outsider’; how we all perceive it to mean something different. And how the label is made redundant over time when that which was unfamiliar becomes everyday. This became the focus of my second book, The Parisian’s Return, where the newcomer to the small commune of Fogas is French and brings with him all the preconceived ideas he has about this little known area. Likewise, he is met with all the prejudice that people living in a rural community can harbour for anyone from the bright lights of a metropolis.

Despite having lived most of my life as an ‘outsider’, I have no magic formula for making a move to another place work out; no secret to the success of becoming accepted. But I like to think that we achieved a level of ‘local’ status during our time running the auberge. And I like to think that when we go back (as often as we can), we are welcomed as returning residents. Of course, that also means we are now part of Madame Rogalle’s news updates. A small price to pay in my book!

Thanks Julia. To read more about her first three novels see my reviews here: L’Auberge, The Parisian’s Return and The French Postmistress.

I have been a BIG fan of Julia’s work since first coming across L’Auberge about four years ago and last month I was lucky enough to meet her in person! Despite busily scribbling away on book five of The Fogas Chronicles, she packed her notebook and pen, hopped on a train for the two hour journey to York where she treated me to lunch and we chatted like old friends for hours. She really is a lovely person as well as a great writer; so do please check out her books – I’m sure you will love them.

If you haven’t come across Julia’s work before you can find her on Facebook, Twitter and on her website, plus read my interview with her here.

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