Excitement is building here as I prepare for the release of my latest novel The French Escape on the 20th September. The book’s been written, edited and the cover has been designed – I can’t wait for you to see it, let alone read it!
The official launch will take place at Camelford Library in Cornwall, UK, where I’ll be talking about my writing journey, taking part in a Q & A and there’ll be a chance to mingle with a glass of wine and a few French nibbles. Of course you’re all welcome, so if you find yourself in the area please do come and say hello.
In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to invite a few friends round to talk about their own French escapes and today we have the lovely Diane Jeffrey. A fellow author, I recently reviewed her novel He Will Find You for The Central Brittany Journal and what a book it is. Needless to say, if you like domestic noir I highly recommend it.
I’m always interested to hear what brings people to France, our journeys here are all so different. Maybe it’s the inquisitive writer in me, or maybe I’m just nosy… Anyway, without further ado, here’s Diane talking about hers.
My French Escape by Diane Jeffrey
I’d spent holidays with my parents in the Camargue and Brittany and I’d been to Normandy as part of the school French exchange when I was a child, but I first came to France on my own as an English assistant when I was 20 years old. As part of the course for my French & German degree, I had to spend a year abroad, and as my German was considerably better than my French, I ended up in a nice French lycée in a terrible French ville with the daunting double mission of teaching teens and getting my French up to scratch.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, so much, in fact, that I decided to move permanently to France, although for anyone who has been to Thionville, the grey, industrial town where I lived and worked that year, this decision might seem rather surprising!
So, after finishing my degree in Nottingham, I sold my clarinet, piano surfboard and soul to pay for a one-way ferry ticket from Dover to Calais and a few months’ rent on a flat I was to share with three other students. I arrived, somewhat miraculously in one piece, after blitzing several kilomètres down the autoroute in my right-hand drive VW Polo, in the lovely city of Strasbourg. I studied there for a year, working as a supply teacher at the same time, and then managed to pass the competitive exams you take in France to become a teacher.
All this happened 25 years ago. I still live in France, in Lyon now, where I’m still teaching English.
The real reason I came to France was that after spending a year here as an assistant, I knew I wanted to teach, but I didn’t feel my language skills were good enough for me to teach French to English students. So I thought I’d do it the other way round. And, as I’m sure you’ll appreciate, I was also keen to get away from the weather at home – it rains an awful lot in North Devon, where I grew up!
What I love about France
My husband, who is French – yes, I kissed a frog and married him – and my children, who have both British and French nationalities.
France is a beautiful country. The landscapes are very varied. Mountains, sea, moors… and there are many amazing cities. It’s a great country to holiday in, to get to know and to live in.
I love the language. Even when people shout or swear at me in French it sounds musical!
I love the food and for that I’m in the best city as Lyon is the gastronomical capital of France.
I’m very fond of the wine and the champagne. Obviously.
What I miss about the UK
I’ve been able to compensate for a lot of what I missed at first. For example, my parents sent me boxes full of Dairy Milk chocolate and I now order it online (it just doesn’t taste the same when you find it in Auchan!) I also bulk buy PG Tips tea bags every time I come back to England on school trips. Now I’ve got an electronic reader, I can read as many English language books as I want – this was harder before when there was only a limited choice of English novels in the FNAC and you had to pay a lot of postage to have books shipped from the UK. I missed British TV terribly – French comedies just don’t measure up to English standards, for me (I used to think I didn’t get the jokes because of my French, but I’ve since realised that I just don’t get the French sense of humour!!!) – but I now have Netflix and a satellite dish on which I can get all the free channels from UK television.
I miss the sea. I grew up on – or perhaps more accurately in – the Atlantic Ocean and Lyon might be near the ski slopes, but it’s a long way from the sea.
As I get older, I seem to get more and more homesick. I simply miss home. It’s strange really, as I’ve now spent over half of my life in France. So, I go back to the UK whenever I can. A few years ago, we went on a family holiday to the Lake District, an area I’d never visited and which I fell head over heels in love with. It’s the setting for my second psychological thriller.
And since my first novel was published in 2014, I’ve been able to afford to go back to the UK for more visits, so I now regularly go to England to meet up with authors I’ve got to know on social networks or for literary events. Right now, for example, I’m typing this article in the train on the way to Theakston’s Old Peculier crime writing festival in Harrogate.
Ideally, I would love to have a house in France a pied à terre in England, but sadly my royalties won’t stretch that far! Maybe one day…
Diane Jeffrey grew up in North Devon, in the United Kingdom. She now lives in Lyon, France with her husband and their three children, Labrador, cat and kitten. THOSE WHO LIE, her debut psychological thriller, was a Kindle bestseller in the USA, Canada and Australia and in the top 100 Kindle books in the UK. HE WILL FIND YOU, set in the Lake District and Somerset and published in August 2018, is her second novel. Diane is an English teacher. When she’s not working or writing, she likes swimming, running and reading. She loves chocolate, beer and holidays. Above all, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends.