From the Writing Desk of Jennifer Bohnet (with Django)
From the writing desk, of Jennifer Bohnet
Welcome to the French Village Diaries interview feature, From the Writing Desk, where to coincide with the release of Summer at the Château I am delighted to be (virtually) joining author Jennifer Bohnet at her writing desk in France.
A bit about Jennifer
I find it hard to believe but I've lived in France now for twenty-two years. After eleven years down on the Cote d'Azur where Richard was a guardien for a villa, we moved from the Mediterranean coast to a small quirky cottage in the depths of Brittany. A bit of a culture shock to say the least! I've sold hundreds of shorts stories to the women's magazine market in the UK, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark - I even had my own newspaper column in a group of local Devon papers at one time. My 16th novel Summer At The Château is published by Boldwood Books and I have another four book contract with them.
Your writing space
Jennifer, how important is your desk space to your writing? Is it tidy and well-organised or creatively cluttered?
Jennifer: Creatively cluttered is a good phrase! It’s a large desk with my iMac computer sitting in the middle and I do try and keep it tidy and organised which is relatively easy when I’m writing a book but come the editing it becomes covered in reference books, scraps of paper and post-notes as I print out the manuscript to go through it. In this photo I’ve just finished a book and about to start the next, so it is reasonably tidy!
Does your desk have a view? If so, does this inspire you or distract you?
Jennifer: We’ve lived in our small quirky cottage up here in Brittany now for ten years and eighteen months ago we finally had the new roof we’ve needed all that time. New roof meant the bedrooms in the attic now had head room - and the smallest one is my office cum guest room. It’s a lovely light room from the new two dormer windows back and front and my desk is directly in front of the windows overlooking the front gate and garden. The view when I’m sitting is sky and the large oak tree in the garden which is fine by me and when I stand up I can see the lawn and several containers of flowers by the front drive and down towards my favourite willow tree, the pond and the chickens pecking around.
Do you try and write at regular times of the day, every day?
Jennifer: I find the best time of day for me to write is for a couple of hours before lunch. I can answer e-mails, do promo and social media any time but I do find it hard to get words on screen in the afternoon. So after breakfast, a half hour walk with the dog followed by coffee I head for my desk with the sole aim of getting at least one thousand words written. Real life does often get in the way though, although rarely housework.
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?
Jennifer: Definitely. Our daughter and her four children are in the UK and she has two cafes to run in Devon. Watching the pandemic unfold over there via the TV was as worrying as watching the French news. The first lockdown here was a different experience for us too, because our son and his fiancé (now his wife!) who had both finished a contract on Sea Shepherd in Mexico, returned to Europe just before everything shut down that first time and as they had nowhere to go and no income, they lived in a cabin in our garden that we hastily fitted out for them. Having them around for so many months was a bonus for us. They’ve been back over there between Mexico and Florida since September and that is a worry still.
Do you think living through the pandemic will influence your future writing projects?
Jennifer: There’s a lot of discussion about this in writing groups! Personally I have made the decision that my future books will either be set pre 2019 or after 2021 because for so many people it has been a traumatic time and if they read for escapism then reminding them of that time would maybe trigger some dark memories.
With a release date of 13th May 2021, was Summer at the Château your pandemic project and did having a focus help with life in lockdown?
Jennifer: Summer at the Château was the new book I wrote mainly during 2020 but I also revised, tweaked, added about 20K words to One Summer in Monte Carlo which was a reissue of one of my back list, Follow your Star. They both gave me a much-needed focus during 2020.
Summer at the Château by Jennifer Bohnet
Your latest release
I’ve got used to strong independent female characters in your novels, can you introduce us to who we are going to meet in Summer at the Chateau, and tell us a bit about their story.
Jennifer: Pixie Sampson is the heroine of the story - although Gwen her 83-year-old mum has her own storyline too. Almost ten years ago Pixie and her husband Frank bought a château in Brittany under the viager scheme which is popular in France. (You learn about it in the book but basically it’s a scheme that allows older people to stay in their homes without any money worries, as the new ‘owners’ pay them a ‘bouquet’ of money and then monthly payments until they either move out or they die. It’s all done legally through notaires and there is benefits for both parties.) When Frank her husband is killed in a road accident, Pixie learns that they have actually owned the château for over a year, but Frank hasn’t told her because he’s been keeping a secret from her. Pixie and Gwen go for a visit over Easter in order for Pixie to put the château on the market, but things happen, and she decides she will spend one summer there before selling it on. Needless to say, it is an eventful summer. Readers who have read A French Affair will also meet up with a character or two from that book who have cameo roles in this one.
How would you normally celebrate the release of a new novel, and will things a bit different for Summer at the Chateau?
Jennifer: In the past when I’ve had a book published in the summer, I’ve invited friends for a glass of champagne and nibbles in the garden on release day, a sort of English garden party. In the run up to May 13th when Château was published, I wasn’t sure what the ‘mixing and meeting’ rules would be like at that date, so I didn’t organise anything and Richard and I celebrated with a bottle of champagne on our own. I do plan on having a garden party to celebrate though as soon as the rules are officially relaxed for gatherings.
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?
Jennifer: In summer joining Richard downstairs, and sitting out on our sheltered terrace and enjoying a glass of wine. In winter it’s a cosy drink by the log fire.
You have set your novels in many beautiful locations in France, from Brittany in the north west to the Côte d’Azur and Monte Carlo in the south east. Where in France will you be taking us to in you next book?
Jennifer: At the moment the next new book will be back down somewhere in the south of France. Even in these days of Google see all maps, I need to have at least visited if not lived in the locations I write about.
Thank you for taking the time out of your writing day to let me join you at your writing desk.
Jennifer: Jacqui the pleasure has been mine. Thank you for inviting me.
You can read my reviews of some of Jennifer’s novels here:
Rosie’s Little Café on the Riviera
Jennifer Bohnet's Social Media Links