Author Interview: Helen Pollard, The Little French Guesthouse

Today on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be welcoming the wonderful Helen Pollard to the blog for an author interview. Helen's debut novel with Bookouture, The Little French Guesthouse, arrives exactly one week today, so I'm sure the excitement is mounting. I was lucky enough to nab an interview with Helen, so that's what I'll be sharing with you today, lovely readers. Rather than rabbiting on, let's get straight to it.

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Firstly, I'd like to congratulate you Helen, on signing with Bookouture. Could you tell Becca's Books' readers about everything that led up to that moment? How did you feel when you were contacted?
I had two 'sweet' romances published by a digital press in the US over the past couple of years, but then I decided to change direction slightly and veer into chick lit/women's fiction, where I would have more scope with the characters and be able to express my 'voice' and sense of humour... always allowing the romance to creep in, of course!

I submitted the manuscript 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 absolutely thrilled that they enjoyed my story and had such confidence in it.

Helen, your debut with Bookouture, The Little French Guesthouse, sounds like a dream, and looks like one too. Could you tell us a little bit more about the story behind the cover?
The story is told from the point of view of Emmy Jamieson, who books a quiet holiday at La Cour des Roses guesthouse in the Loire region of France in the hope it will revive her stale relationship with her boyfriend Nathan.  She certainly doesn’t expect him to run off with an older woman! Nor does she imagine she will end up looking after Rupert, the temporarily-incapacitated guesthouse owner, and his business . . . and then there are the added complications of a muscled young gardener and an annoying but rather attractive French accountant, and a motley bunch of Rupert’s friends and acquaintances to handle. But as Emmy struggles to keep up with events, she discovers an inner strength and begins to reconsider her future path.

Where did your inspiration come from when it came to writing your novel? Have you been to France yourself?
I had the opening scene in my mind for years (what would happen if you caught your boyfriend with an older woman rather than a younger woman. How would that make you feel?) - but I was at a point in my life when I wasn’t writing (young family, so no time and too tired!) We used to take the kids camping in France nearly every summer – Normandy, Brittany and the Loire region, mainly – and when we’d had enough of faffing about with the trailer tent, we started to stay in gîtes instead. One year, we were staying in a gîte where the owners lived in a house in the same grounds, and suddenly a light bulb lit up and I 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 on paper - and because I hadn’t done any writing for a few years, it was like opening the floodgates, and I couldn’t stop.

I noticed with rather a lot of excitement that beside your book, there are brackets (book 1). Does this mean what I think it means? Are readers able to look forward to a series involving your characters or the guesthouse itself?
Yes! It is planned as a three-book series! The second book is due out later this summer.

On a more personal note, have you always dreamt of having your writing published? What does it mean to you to know that your novel will be out there with readers in just a few months’ time?
As a child and teenager, I dreamed of being published, and I did send off a couple of manuscripts in my early twenties that were rejected. But then I didn’t write for years, what with bringing up a family and later getting back into the world of work.
When I started writing again – maybe six years ago – I decided that it was now or never, and that I would aim for publication.
This story is particularly close to my heart, and I love the fact that it will soon be ‘out there’!

Are there any authors who you particularly enjoy reading?
If I want a romantic read to lose myself in, Nora Roberts is my go-to author. 
I love Alexander McCall Smith’s tales of Mma Ramotswe and the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, set in Botswana – his books are so gentle, yet so wise - and P.G. Wodehouse’s Blandings and Jeeves & Wooster books - he had a wonderful turn of phrase.
I will occasionally read a thriller – perhaps Michael Connelly or Harlen Coben – but I can’t cope with anything too upsetting!

In The Little French Guesthouse, readers will be introduced to your heroine Emmy, who I really can’t wait to meet! Could you tell us some more about your leading lady?
Emmy is thirty-one and has been with her boyfriend for five years. They are both stuck in a rut, but neither have really acknowledged it. Their holiday acts as a catalyst to that realisation.
Emmy is thrown in at the deep end at La Cour des Roses, but it allows her to recognise her own inner strengths and think about what is important in life – an unexpected journey to self-discovery, if you like. And she is down-to-earth and has a great sense of humour that sees her through.

How did you feel when you first set eyes on your wonderfully evocative cover for The Little French Guesthouse? Was it everything that you’d hoped for?
Oh yes! I thought it was gorgeous – perfect for the setting described in the book. I couldn’t have wished for anything else!

Emmy’s time spent at the guesthouse is intended as a holiday, although from the blurb, it sounds as though things don’t quite go to plan. Tell us, Helen, what is your own idea of a perfect holiday? Do you have any dream destinations?
I used to like storming around sightseeing years ago, but nowadays I prefer to have ‘a day on, a day off’, relaxing in between cultural jaunts. I wouldn’t like to sit on a sun lounger for hours on end, and I can’t stand too much heat, which has always limited where we could go in the kids’ school holidays (hence our holidays in France!)
I wouldn’t say I have a specific dream destination, but for me that would mean the coast. I love the sound of the waves on the beach. It instils me with a real sense of calm.

When it comes to writing itself, are you a planner? How do you begin to pull together your ideas?
No, I wouldn’t say I’m a planner. I don’t usually do a detailed outline at the start – I’ll have a basic premise in mind, and certain points or events that I definitely want to get to, but beyond that, I tend to allow my characters to take me where they want to go. It's more fun and certainly more interesting that way … until they get out of hand!
Having said that, I’m writing as part of a series now, so obviously I have to plan ahead more. It’s taking some getting used to!

What’s your ultimate must-have while writing? A nice cup of tea? A plate of biscuits?
One really decent ‘proper’ coffee in the morning (the kids bought me a mug for Christmas that says ‘I’ll start working when the coffee does’ – very apt!) and several cups of tea in the afternoon. And, unfortunately, chocolate invariably comes into play.

How do you feel about publication day? Nervous? Excited? Both?
Yes, both! I’ve invested so much time and energy in this book, it’s wonderful to see all that hard work come to fruition - but of course there are nerves about how well it will be received.

And last but not least, what do you hope readers will take away from The Little French Guesthouse?
So many of us get stuck in a rut, and it’s important to recognise and acknowledge it and try to do something about it, even if you can only change things in small ways. Not everyone can ‘do a Shirley Valentine’, can they?!
We also have an inner strength that we forget about until we are forced to use it.
And I think it’s good to remember not to take ourselves too seriously!

Helen, I can’t thank you enough for being here on Becca’s Books today. I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of your Bookouture debut! I wish you every success for the big day and hope it’s everything you hoped for!
Thank you so much for having me as a guest and for your kind wishes!

About the Author

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.

Helen is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association.

You can find Helen Pollard on Facebook | Twitter | helenpollardwrites.wordpress.com









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