My guest in the Author Spotlight this week is no stranger to my blog. Helen Pollard, contemporary romance author, was my first guest in my Author Spotlight series all the way back in May 2015! I think it’s fair to say that a great deal has happened in Helen’s writing career in that time and she’s here to tell us all about it today and to celebrate her latest book published just a few days ago. Welcome Helen!
Summer at The Little French Guesthouse – Helen Pollard
A feel good novel to read in the sun (La Cour des Roses Book 3)
Summer sun, chilled, white wine, and a gorgeous fiancé. Nothing could upset pure bliss … Right?
Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.
The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.
But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?
This summer, escape to the rolling vineyards of France for an utterly uplifting read. Fans of Jenny Colgan, Debbie Johnson and Nick Alexander will want to join Emmy for a pain au chocolat in the sun-drenched garden at La Cour des Roses.
And now for my interview with Helen:
Since you were last on the blog, you’ve been taken on by Bookouture. How did that all come about?
The first book in the La Cour des Roses series was a change in direction for me, veering away from ‘sweet’ romance towards chick lit. I’d written the first draft five or six years before, and kept revisiting it and rewriting. I really wanted to find the right home for it, where I could express my ‘voice’ and sense of humour.
I submitted to Bookouture as I’d heard that they are a very dynamic digital publisher. When I got the e-mail to say they would like to publish the book, I was thrilled that they had such confidence in the story I’d worked on for so long!
You’ve published two books in your La Cour des Roses series, with the third one just published last week, can you tell us more about your inspiration for this series?
I’d had the opening scene for The Little French Guesthouse in my mind for years – how would someone feel if they caught their boyfriend with an older rather than a younger woman – but I wasn’t doing any writing at the time (young family, no time, too tired!) Then, one summer, we were on holiday in a gîte in the Loire area of France, and I suddenly thought, ‘This is it! This is where that scene takes place!’ Once I could picture the setting in my mind, I was desperate to get that opening scene down, so I started writing again . . . The creative floodgates reopened, and the characters took on a life of their own. Could Emmy gain strength from that catastrophic start to the first book? Make new friends who might help her through it? Contemplate a different life for herself?
I had to be more disciplined with the second and third books, obviously, to set up plot points and to tie everyone’s stories together – there were so many secondary characters clamouring to have their stories explored alongside Emmy’s adventures.
Was this always going to be a series or did it develop into one along the way? How different has it been to write a series compared to a standalone book?
When I submitted the first book to Bookouture, I mentioned that I had ideas for a sequel, but they were so taken with the setting and the central character that they suggested a series. We agreed between us that three books would be the perfect number to cover the stories to be told.
Writing a series has been quite an experience, and yes, very different. With a standalone book, I’m inclined to see where the characters want to take me. That isn’t possible with a series – you have to plan more, so that everything ties together and there are no contradictions between books. Of course, you already know your characters really well, so it’s easy to get right back into the groove with them, but it also makes secondary and incidental characters more important, so the reader doesn’t become bored.
Will there be other books in this series or have you got something else planned for your next book?
So no, no further books in the La Cour des Roses series. It’s been an exhausting ride, so I’m hoping to take a good long break and recharge my batteries!
You have an incredible 705 reviews of The Little French Guesthouse on Amazon at the time of writing! What’s the secret do you think to getting so many?
Bookouture would have to take credit for getting the ball rolling on that score. They have an incredible publicity manager, Kim Nash, who is a book blogger and knows that online community well. Bookouture put the book on NetGalley, Kim got the word out, and many book bloggers kindly reviewed and – thankfully – enjoyed the book 🙂 I guess it’s had a snowball effect from there. I still can’t believe the number of reviews on Amazon myself!
Are there any other places you’re dreaming of setting another book, and if so, why?
I’d love to set a book by the sea sometime, either in Cornwall or North Yorkshire. Those coastal villages have a lot of atmosphere and the scenery is spectacular. The perfect backdrop.
I read on your blog that one of your favourite things to do with your spare time is to watch old TV shows from the eighties. One of your favourites is Starsky and Hutch, which also happens to be one of mine. And now this is a really important question…Which one of them did you love the most: Starsky or Hutch??
Oh, I was SO in love with Paul Michael Glaser. Spectacular smile, hairy chest, tight jeans … I wanted trainers like his and a chunky woolly cardi like his! But I do confess I possessed a David Soul LP, and I still have (and still listen to) a CD of his 🙂
I know you love to read as much as you can as well, naturally. So who would you say is your favourite literary hero from any book you’ve read?
Crikey! That’s a difficult one! I think I would have to go with Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. He really resonated with me when I read the book as a teenager.
If I had to go with someone more modern, I would say Mma Ramotswe from Alexander McCall Smith’s books set in Botswana – a wise, gentle, grounded woman.
Thanks so much for being on my blog again, Helen. I hope you’ll come back sooner next time! By the way, in case anyone wants to know, Starsky was my favourite too 😉
As a child, Helen had a vivid imagination fuelled by her love of reading, so she started to create her own stories in a notebook.
She still prefers fictional worlds to real life, believes characterisation is the key to a successful book, and enjoys infusing her writing with humour and heart.
When she’s not writing, Helen enjoys reading, scrapbooking and watching old seventies and eighties TV shows.
Helen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.
Find out more about Helen here: