Working title: The ffrench Event
Written when I was twenty-two, stuck a job in advertising I hated (the dodgy media sales side, not the glamorous two-bottle-lunch Saatchi one), this was my first novel. As a recent drama graduate with enthusiastic but moderate acting skills, I wasn’t qualified to do much apart from having pretentious conversations in the Barbican foyer. But I’ve always loved inventing characters and stories, so when I was stuck for a fun book to read on the commute into work, I decided to start writing my own. The idea behind French Relations came about when my godmother Susie hosted a party for my weird and wonderful multi-generational family, and I wondered what would happen if we were to all go on holiday together. Twelve months later, after a lot of prodding from family and friends to send it off, and thanks to an extraordinary literary agent called Carol Smith who spotted my manuscript on her ‘slush pile’, I was signing my first book contract.
Trivil fact: I hadn’t ever been to the Loire Valley when I wrote the first draft, and most of the original descriptions were mugged from Peter Mayle’s huge hit of the time, A Year in Provence, which was like setting a book in the Lake District and using a New Forest travel guide as research. I then spent an eye-opening week in and around Saumur and fell utterly in love with the area, rushing home to rewrite every section.