Today I’ve been joined by Dorothea Shefer-Vanson, author of ‘Chasing Dreams and Flies’ which follows the travails and triumphs of English expats in France. Salut Dorothea! Thank you for joining me today, to start let’s discuss the basic bones of the storyline. Can you start by describing the form of the story skeleton for us.
Sophie and John Williams decide to escape crowded, rainy Britain and retire to France. They finally settle down to fulfill their dream but obstacles keep cropping up, among them a hostile neighbor and their own ignorance of the French language and culture. A young woman from England gets romantically involved with the expat handyman who is helping Sophie and John. The book ends in an unexpected way that has all the characters involved.
That idea of escaping to the foreign lands of a European countryside holds a great appeal for many people from all over the world. Have you personally pursued the expat lifestyle, or have you spent extended time travelling in France?
My husband and I spend our summers in France and have experienced various situations ourselves. We have met people who resemble the various characters in some ways, though of course no character in my book is based on any real person.
So you’ve used your personal experiences!
That’s great! Was your personal experiences enough, or did you also need to do some research to support your story?
I had to research to get my geography right, though names of the places have been changed.
The books draws in aspects from the geography and culture of both England and France. Are the people that inspired these characters likewise and both based from these two countries?
Yes, from both in England and in France.
As you’ve based your characters on people that you have met in real life you must have felt strong connections with the characters. Did you have a personal favourite you would like to revisit in the future?
The young couple took on a life of their own even though they were not in the first draft of the book. Who knows? Maybe they’ll warrant a book of their own one day.
I hope that they inspire a new adventure for in the future :). Was the adventure that your characters address this in this book underpinned by an underlying theme?
The theme of the book — that reality sometimes (often) impinges on dreams — is not one that came initially into my mind, but of course, as the title shows, it certainly does.
Speaking of dreaming have you developed a strong enough connection with your characters that has led them to visit you in the your dreams?
That’s a shame, I always like hearing about the character connections that continue into the midst of dreams. Since your characters haven’t visited you in dreams, how about if they came to life? Are there any characters that you would like to socialise with?
I’d like to sit down for a cup of tea or coffee with any of the characters except one, of course.
I like the peace of connecting over a cup of coffee. Looking back on this book, what did you find the most fulfilling aspect?
Reviving memories and reliving experiences, both funny and sad.
Have you already started exploring experiences for a new book?
I am now engaged on promoting this book, and I plan to start writing my next novel early in 2017.
Good luck with your new novel when you start next year. One of the things I love to delve into is how different writers approach the writing process for their books and how wonderfully varied it can be. What are your techniques that you use to make sure you keep to your writing targets?
I try to write something every day, at least one page. That way I should have 365 pages at the end of the year. But then the editing process begins, and that can take another year.
For the most part are you able to write fairly easily, or do you use little tricks when your sitting down to write?
The minute I sit down at my computer something happens in my brain and the words just seem to flow. I type quite rapidly. I imagine conversations in my head.
Has you spent much time writing professionally?
Yes, I have worked all my life as an editor/translator/writer.
Do you think this has allowed you to elicit the words to flow quickly?
I think it has made me very conscious of the importance of good, clear writing and adherence to the rules of grammar.
As a stickler for grammar do you take a strong presence for editing your work?
I edit my books myself, but a friend who is a brilliant editor also went through the chapters and gave me some very good advice.
Are you also involved with the design process for the covers of your books?
Yes, the cover of this and my previous books are based on my own watercolor paintings. To date my son has helped me with the Photoshop aspect of getting the cover ready for publication.
From the cover of this book we can see that you’re very lucky to be both a talented artist and writer. Do you have a favourite author or authors that you aspire to write like?
Virginia Woolf and P.G. Wodehouse. I wish I could write like them, but I just can’t. So I have to accept that I’m simply inferior to my literary heroes.
Those are some pretty impressive inspirations, but I think that you might still have time to reach their finesse with language. And now we’re onto my favourite section of the author interview, the quick fire round where I try to show our authors in a different and fun light by firing lots of questions to the author as quickly as possible.
What is your zodiac sign?
Can you stand on your hands unassisted?
Do you have any tips for self-publishing for other authors?
Just keep going.
If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
The Kohinoor diamond.
Now that’s a nice strong choice. Can you curl your tongue?
How did you feel when you got your first book review?
Over the moon!
What was your favourite book as a child?
‘Curtain Up!’ by Noel Streatfield.
Who is your favourite literary character?
Which are cooler? Dinosaurs or Dragons?
What’s the most unusual name you’ve ever come across?
What are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch,’ and I am now reading James Shapiro’s ‘1606: Shakespeare and the Year of Lear.’
What is your favourite word?
What is your favourite line, quote or statement from your book?
There is a tide in the love affairs of women….
Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
I live a blessed life, with husband, children, grandchildren, a roof over my head, enough food to eat, friends and relatives.
Dorothea, thank you very much for allowing me a little bit of time to glance into your writing world and I wish you the best of luck both with your promotion of ‘Chasing Dreams and Flies; A Tragicomedy of Life in France’ and with your new literary adventures in 2017.
Want to find out more about Dorothea Shefer-Vanson? Connect here!