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A French Book: EXCLUSIVE Interview with Susie Kelly “Best Foot Forward”

Susie Kelly's book Best Foot Forward

Here at The Good Life France offices we were all very excited about getting an interview with Susie Kelly.  We recently reviewed her best selling book Best Foot Forward, a 500 mile walk through France, and I have been the envy of everyone here being the one who gets to do the interviews!  We all thought the book that I reviewed was great and that Susie Kelly is a funny, eccentric and lively lady and we knew that an interview would be fun and that she would come up with some great answers.  We weren’t wrong!

TGLF: At school what was you terrible at?

At school I was terrible at everything except English and French. I hated school because I was so hopeless at maths and science and art and gym, and found history and geography utterly boring. When I think back to those interminable lessons they must have been as monotonous to the teachers as to the pupils. Somehow they managed to erase every scrap of excitement and romance from our lessons leaving only dry, dull facts and figures. Quite an achievement, really. It was only when I began exploring France that I fell in love with history.

TGLF: When did you start writing?

I tried to write novels when I was in my twenties, but I was never satisfied with what I wrote and didn’t finish anything.  It wasn’t until I came to live in France during the 1990s and began keeping a diary that I started to write seriously, based on my experiences here. As well as Best Foot Forward, I’ve written Two Steps Backwards about coming to live in the shell of a farmhouse with hordes of animals and no heating; Travels with Tinkerbelle, driving around the whole perimeter of France with our dogs, and The Valley of Heaven and Hell –  cycling in the footsteps of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI through the Marne valley, tracing the route they took in their vain attempt to escape the guillotine [Editor’s note: I’m reading this one at the moment and I can’t stop laughing at some of it!].

TGLF: What’s the hardest part of writing a novel for you?

The hardest part of writing a novel is something that I haven’t yet discovered, as to date I have only written non-fiction. However, there is a novel simmering on the back burner, which I hope to write next year once I’ve finished the two non-fiction books I’m working on at the moment.

TGLF: If you wasn’t a writer what would you do?

If I wasn’t a writer I would probably not be found wandering around still in my pyjamas in mid-afternoon, as I tend to get up with good intentions of having a quick coffee, checking my email and getting dressed. But then I open up the manuscript I’m working on and become lost in a world of words, unaware of the passing of time. I think the postman and the meter readers imagine I live permanently in my nightwear.

Abbe Pierre
TGLF: If you could have dinner with one living or deceased Frenchman/woman who would it be? 

No contest. It would be Abbé Pierre, founder of the Emmaüs movement and a charismatic and tireless champion of the under-privileged. He is my hero.

TGLF: If you were to cook for that person – what dish would you prepare?

Well, as a vegetarian I wouldn’t be cooking meat, but I’d like to treat him to something special, so it would be Dover sole, with La Bonnotte potatoes from Noirmoutiers and some samphire, served with melted Normandy butter and a squeeze of lemon juice.

TGLF: Desert Island book – if you could only take three books to a deserted island what would they be?

Such a hard choice! I’d certainly take Rohinton Mistry’s “A Fine Balance,” one of my all-time favourites that I could read over and over again. As there’s a possibility of being on the desert island for a long time, I’d need something to stretch my mind and last, so “Teach Yourself Arabic” would be useful. Most of my reading at the moment is done in snatched moments to fit in with our chaotic life style. I’ve started Bill Bryson’s “At Home” several times, but it deserves to be savoured and read somewhere without interruption, so a deserted island would be a good place, and that would by my third choice.

TGLF: If you listen to music when you write what do you usually put on?

Tracks from French musicals like Notre Dame de Paris, Romeo et Juliette and Le Dix Commandements, or Italian pop from the 60s and 70s. But I prefer to write in silence, as I’m easily distracted and not very good at multi-tasking. [Editor’s note – we recommend radio Paris Chanson – French classics just right for a writer! The button’s just to the right!]

TGLF: What’s your guiltiest pleasure is?

Parmesan cheese. I’m trying to break the habit of buying a great chunk and then sitting in the car park and munching my way through it.

TGLF: Red or white wine?

White, preferably an Alsace wine like Gewürtztraminer, or a nice crisp sauvignon from the Haut Poitou vineyards who are producing some excellent wines.

TGLF: If you could go back in time what would you do? 

I’d go back to when I was seven and had to make a decision that would shape my future life. I’d like to go back to that point and change my decision, so I could see what would have happened had I made a different choice.

TGLF: If Steven Spielberg sees this interview on The Good Life France website and decides to make Best Foot Forward into a film who would he get to play you and who would play Jennifer?

I’d love to be played by Helena Bonham-Carter, and for Jennifer I think Katharine Hepburn would have been ideal. However, as she isn’t available any more, Sigourney Weaver would do very nicely.

TGLF: When Steven Spielberg’s film Best Foot Forward hits the silver screen – how do you think your friends and neighbours will react to your fame?

They have always been massively supportive, and I know that they will be delighted, although the neighbours will be worried about our peaceful little hamlet becoming overrun with paparazzi and autograph hunters.

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