Back to France this week, la Provence to be precise. Patricia Sands takes her protagonist from Toronto to Provence (check out the pin on the map), and there seems to be a promise of cheese! Doesn’t get more French than that.
How did the setting of your story impact your writing?
We rented an apartment in Antibes for five months while I wrote the first draft of The Promise of Provence. So I lived the sights, sounds, smells and every other aspect of the Provençal culture in all my words. Each morning I would write from 7 to 8:30 and then take my camera and walk through the old town and along the ancient ramparts overlooking the Mediterranean. I would visit the market and choose from the vast array of delicious products for our daily meals. One of the fromagers in the market became the role model for the primary male character in the story, Philippe. I met with him several mornings at 6 a.m., before the market opened, to learn about cheese and about being a fromager. He’s a delightful man and I learned a great deal from him.
How or why is the setting important to who your character is?
The story actually begins in Toronto, Canada, where the protagonist, Katherine, has lived her entire life. As she falls in love with France, her character undergoes change just as do her habits. Initially, Katherine is rather conservative and has only visited Europe once before, thirty years earlier. Before she ever makes a romantic connection with a man, she falls in love with the countryside, the people, the customs … and, surprisingly, a yellow Lab that teaches her a great deal about trust and love.
Which location did you enjoy writing the most in your story? Why this one?
It goes without saying that I love to write while I actually live the life in the south of France. For the past twenty years, my husband and I have spent at least two months each year there. I first fell in love with France fifty years ago and the love affair has only grown. I also do love Toronto, which is my home town, and it was a pleasure to write about that beautiful city. Many readers commented on the fact that a Canadian city is seldom featured in novels and they enjoyed getting to know more about Toronto.
However, the majority of my readers are true Francophiles and they can’t get enough of stories set in France. They love all the details that I love to include in my stories … so it’s a win/win situation. This sharing of details is part of the brand I have established. It’s important to me to have the reader feel the story took them to the location.
Most reviewers mention how they love this aspect of my novels. However, once in a while I receive a review that complains about all the details. Those reviewers should not bother to read my work! I’m always going to share details like that with my readers.
When you visited France, which location did you prefer?
I have to admit I love all of France. It’s so diverse and each region has its own distinct personality, cuisine and scenery. However, Provence has always called to me more than the other areas. From the perched villages to the pastoral countryside of lavender and sunflower fields and vineyards to the dazzling sun-kissed shores of the Côte d’Azur, my heart lives there.
Which part of the French archetype did you discover to be wrong? Right?
The common complaint that the French are grumpy and unfriendly, I found to be absolutely false. They are not prone to walking around with a big grin, advising strangers on the street to “Have a good day.” However, every shop or restaurant, market stall worker greets you when you enter before they ask what you would like and, likewise, they all wish you goodbye when you leave the premises. Courtesy is extremely important to the French. We have never had an unpleasant experience.
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