bur you are in france madam

Meeting Catherine Berry, author of But you are in France, Madame

This week, we have writer Catherine Berry on the Thursday Throng. Catherine was introduced to the French language at high school in Australia, but had no idea that this would dictate many of her life choices.  Her French love affair re-emerged several years later due to a series of lucky coincidences. These ultimately led her and her husband to set out on their French adventure with their three children in tow. ‘But you are in France, Madame’ is their story.

What is one thing that no-one would usually know about you?

My mother is guardian of a small ebony cross, which according to family legend belonged to King Charles X of France. This used to be kept carefully wrapped in cotton wool along with a miniature portrait of said King with a lock of his hair in the back. Both, we’d like to believe, were given to his Scottish mistress – my forebear. My frivolous great aunt, in debt and needing some quick cash, sold the miniature, but the story goes a long way to explaining my deeply sentimental attachment to France. Of course, definitive proof of my regal ancestry would be nice. In the meantime, my imagination obliges.

What did the best review you ever had say about you and your work?

‘A loving memoir of a family’s joy in France and in each other’

I don’t have many reviews and the first few came as a pleasant shock. Each time, I was taken aback that somebody would bother to comment but equally as surprised that good things might be said. As my book is a memoir, I knew my story intimately, personally, precisely. For a reader to make mention of the love that was present throughout moved me immensely.

How did you choose a title for your book?

Many of the books in my genre are set in France, so the cute word play titles that came to mind had already been used. Instead, I went for an unwieldy, decidedly unattractive option ‘You don’t eat sushi outside Paris’ in reference to the cultural difficulties that we encountered when we were first attempting our transition to French living. Once abandoned, I thought that I was on to a winner with my second title attempt ‘ Five go to France’. As a little girl, I read and loved Enid Blyton books, but predicted copyright issues so that, too, was shelved. The title I eventually chose was a line from a conversation that I had with one of my daughter’s teachers, where after a lengthy back-and-forth discussion, he produced a final, unarguable response ‘But you are in France, Madame’.  Sometimes, there was no other reason to explain away our confusion.

Have you ever wished that you could be or do anything else instead of writing, and if so what?

In 1977, my family moved to Scotland to live. It was my first big adventure and undoubtedly the beginning of my incapacity to stay for long in any one place. It was also the year that Virginia Wade won at Wimbledon. I wanted to be Virginia Wade. I had the ambition. I just didn’t have the talent.

Who would you like to play you in a film of your life?

Amanda Seyfried. She is young, beautiful and can sing. Or, perhaps more realistically, Meryl Streep. Not surprisingly, Mamma Mia! is one of my favourite movies, and when my two daughters watch it with me I am one very contented Mamma.

What is the single biggest challenge you faced when writing your book?

Self-doubt. There were days when I would look up from my computer and not recognise the outside landscape, so engrossed was I in the landscape of my story. They were comforting days, allaying marginally the sadness that I felt when we left France and returned to Australia. The self-doubt; nonetheless, was never far and being turned down by traditional publishing houses didn’t help. Would I do it all again? Without a doubt.

What has been the best experience you have ever had in your life?

Aside all of the standard moments of pure joy; marriage, children, job promotions…moving to France and proving to myself that I could do it was emotionally exhilarating.

What is the book that you wished you had written?

Harry Potter. Yes, I’d have loved the financial recompense but I love the back-story of J.K. Rowling battling alone in her little flat, facing rejection and still triumphing. It gives hope to us all.

Tea, Coffee, Water, Juice, Wine or Beer … which do you prefer when writing?

Tea and coffee in the morning, wine in the evening. Not sure why my best writing seems to be done late in the day.



You can find  in But you are in France, Madame  in paperback format here:

You can also catch up with Catherine on her website here: http://butyouareinfrancemadame.blogspot.co.uk



These posts are called The Thursday Throng in honour of the throng that waits eagerly outside the book store when a new author is doing a book signing event or appearance. On this website it takes the form of a ‘Meet the Author‘ online event with some information about our author’s latest book and an interview. If you would like to take part in the Thursday Throng then why not visit Thursday Throng Author Interview Guidelines to find out more.

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