Coffee with Barb and Patricia Sands
I’m so glad that I’m finally sitting down to (virtual) coffee with Patricia Sands, who writes beautiful books set in one of my favorite places on earth, the Provence region of France. Since you can’t talk about France without talking about food, I asked Patricia what Katherine Price, the heroine of her Love in Provence series, would be drinking if she joined us this morning. And what special treat would she bring along to share with us?
Patricia says, “Kat only drinks coffee with chocolate in it, so she would have a café mocha or a mochaccino. But hold the whipped cream! Sometimes she likes to have tea with lemon. I’m quite certain she would have stopped in at a boulangerie and picked up some fresh croissants and, of course, some pain au chocolat. Enjoy!”
For myself, since chocolate = oxygen, I think of it more as a necessity of life than a food. That leaves the green stuff I had in Provence as my favorite food ever. You have to understand that I come from the US Midwest, where haute cuisine involves jello or mayo. (Or, with alarming frequency, both.) France was a religious experience for my tastebuds. One day we stopped at a little restaurant and I pointed to the set menu. The first thing they brought was a glass sphere clouded with steam. When it was opened, I realized that somehow they had used dry ice to ‘smoke’ the green stuff inside. I took a tiny bite. Can you imagine tasting something that’s a combination of the best chocolate and wine and sex you’ve ever had? You can? Well, I’m sorry but that’s just weird and I’m not going to be coming to dinner at your house.
But this stuff was an absolute mouthgasm. The only thing preventing me from licking the insides of the globe was the presence of the other diners, and even that wouldn’t have stopped me if they hadn’t taken away the globe (despite my begging). I tried to ask the waiter what I’d eaten. He turned over the menu and I thought he pointed to a small paragraph on the back. Since I don’t speak French, I took a picture with my phone. When I got back to our hotel, I looked it up in Google Translate. Apparently, my mouth nirvana was “The Ladies toilet is the third door on the left and down the stairs.”
I wish I could offer you green stuff today, but at least Kat brought these lovely croissants. (I’m very sorry, but I took the last pain au chocolat while Patricia wasn’t looking.) So please pull up a chair, let me pour you a mocha, and get comfortable while we chat with Patricia.
In any book the setting is important, but your books seem to raise that to the level of one of the main characters. Why did you choose France (and in particular, Provence) as your setting? You are right, Barb. I do feel location is like a character. I first went to Europe for a year with my ‘bestie’ in 1967 when I was 21. Everyone our age was backpacking around Europe in those days. My love affair with France, and Provence in particular, … the scenery, the culture, the language, the food, … oh just everything … was instant. I went back at every opportunity. During the past 16 years, my husband and I have been fortunate to spend a great deal of time in the south of France. In 2011 we lived in Antibes on the Côte d’Azur for five months. The urge to write a book set in that beautiful part of the world, and also in the romantic countryside of Provence, became irresistible.
What is the single biggest challenge of creating the settings in your novels? I only write about places I have visited myself. I think the biggest challenge for me in that regard is not blathering on too long with details. I want to make certain that the reader can experience everything … the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes … and sometimes I need my editor to tell me “That’s quite enough.” The good news is that many readers write and tell me they felt they were there with the characters. That’s the best reward for me! One woman wrote, “Thank you for taking me somewhere I know I will never go in my life.” That brought tears to my eyes.
Where did you grow up, and what do you think of as home? I grew up in a few small mining towns in northern Ontario, Canada as we moved a bit with my father’s job as a metallurgist. Toronto is “home” and our children and grandchildren are all nearby. But we travel a lot now and definitely when we arrive in the south of France each year, that feels like we belong there too.
Best guilty pleasure ever? Chocolate! Now and forever! At some point, practically every day, I have to satisfy the urge. Actually, I have another relatively new guilty pleasure that might sound kind of crazy, but it’s Instagram. I’ve been a photographer all my life and I love sharing my photos and seeing the work of others. I just joined Instagram last year and it’s the last thing I do every evening before I go to sleep. You get to see amazing photography from all over the world! It’s great fun.
Are the names of the characters in your novels significant? I often use the names of friends (usually just the first or last and not both together) or family, just for fun. I also invite my newsletter subscribers to offer names that they would like to see in stories and am surprised at the number of suggestions I receive. It’s another way they can get involved in my stories.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard? When I began writing seriously, one particular book was recommended over and over. It was Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft“. I recommend it to everyone now. The advice he offered that really made a difference for me was this … and I paraphrase … if you feel strongly that you have a story to tell, sit down and get writing. Find your own voice and tell the story your own way. Then find a professional editor and work with that person. He also said, “The best way to develop your writer’s voice is to read a lot. And write a lot. There’s really no other way to do it.”
What are you working on right now? I am in the middle of developmental edits for I Promise You This ~ Book 3 of the Love In Provence series. I love the editing process because it always make stories that much better. I find it a very satisfying and exciting part of writing. Book 3 will be published by Amazon’s Lake Union Publishing in Spring, 2016.
Thanks so much for joining us today. Patricia has given the first two volumes of her Love In Provence series a gorgeous update and and is celebrating their relaunch by Amazon. I hope you’ll all come back tomorrow for my review of the first two books of the Love In Provence series, which follows Katherine Price from Canada to Provence. When her carefully built life faces devastating betrayal, can she take another chance on a promise?
For more info about Patricia Sands and her books:
Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads