Diane Condon-Boutier from Bay City, Michigan, US, lives in the countryside near the lovely port city of Dieppe in Normandy, France, where she “revels in a daily dose of history and the unique culture the French take for granted. She shares a creaky old house with a few too many spiders and two cats…”
She came to France for an internship to perfect her French language skills and fell in love with the country and the way of life and was inspired to write her debut novel “Through These Doors, the Manoir at Bout L’Abbé”. Her book tells of lives spent in her part of Normandy, from contemporary times back through the pages of history to the Middle Ages.
Diane says that she has a “penchant for long walks on sunny beaches and crazy rollercoaster rides in theme parks animated by very large mice”.
French book worm wanted to know more and asked her some important questions!
I started writing when/because….
I ran a shop for twenty years, selling nautical decoration and silver jewelry in Dieppe, and when an interested party with the right pocketbook came along, I sold up. At once, I knew I wanted to do something very different, but didn’t have a clear cut idea. I took some time, living off the proceeds of the sale and dabbled with on line sales etc. Nothing clicked. One day I found myself with my notebook and pen at hand and no obligations whatsoever. I had always wondered what could have happened in the old house I live in. One year, a long while beforehand, some workmen had ripped out a wall made of old “torchis”, and by that I mean the authentic ancient mixture of straw, mud and cow poo. Embedded in one wall was a piece of Allied mortar shell. Living in the middle of the countryside, with no strategic buildings in the vicinity, I was more than intrigued by what they could have been aiming for. That fact had been dormant in the back of my mind for a long time. I decided to invent a plausible answer.
The hardest part of writing a novel is…
Keeping the voices of secondary characters from taking over the show. As I write, new people crop up all the time, and since everyone has a story to tell, I tend to get sidetracked by what they have to say.
I work best when…
I’m warm. I find that when I write my body temperature drops significantly and I have the hardest time staying warm. Tea helps.
I wish I’d written…
The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I have serious admiration for that woman. I think she’s a genius.
If you could have dinner with French celebrity/historic character-living or dead who would it be?
Marie Antoinette. She needed a good talking to. Her mother lived too far away and I think a bit of nagging could have made a difference.
If you were to cook for that person-what would you prepare?
Toast. Enough cake already.
Desert Island book – if you could take three books to s deserted island what would they be?
“Gone With the Wind”, the first work of historical fiction I fell for. “Les Misérables” because, because, because, and “1000 years of annoying the French” for a laugh.
I am kept awake at night by…
My cat: Fat Thelma, who tries to sleep in my hair, and by the gallivanting of the characters I’m presently working on. They tend to do the craziest things when I’m trying to get to sleep. Most of it I have to let fall by the wayside.
My guiltiest pleasure is…
Lying in a hammock on a warm summer day with a bottomless bag of potato chips, sorry, crisps, and a good book.
Red or white wine?
Both, and throw in some rosé….
If I could go back in time I would…
Most definitely…just as long as it’s either here or in England and sometime after the Romans left for home.
See our review of Diane Condon-Boutier’s book “Through These Doors: The Manoir at Bout L’Abbé”