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Interview with Carol Drinkwater, author of the Olive Series

Carol Drinkwater

Carol Drinkwater is a British actress and author who lives in France. She is known globally for her much loved Olive Farm series, her tales of life on a run-down olive farm with a new love in beautiful Provence.

In 1986 Carol made a life-changing decision to buy a house and olive farm in the hills near a village in the south of France. Having been a successful actress in film and TV receiving several awards for her roles, she lived an urban life where everything was to hand – heating, water, lighting, transport and all mod cons and life, though always a challenge for an actress, was mostly a known quantity.

Read our review of The Olive Series

Giving it all up, risking financial security and throwing caution to the wind, she and her partner Michel (now her husband) fell in love with a wreck of a home long abandoned and jungled land, with no mod cons.

When Carol wrote about their lives, the rites of passage of becoming olive farmers, and the way of life in a rural community that still respects its heritage, the book became a bestseller and Carol went on to write several more best sellers known as the olive series. Carol says she’s been writing since she was a child and won a competition in a girls’ magazine and her philosophy is to “Live life to the full. I try to treat those I love well, telling them ‘I love you’ regularly… Each night before I close my eyes I run through the day and remind myself of all the miracles I have encountered. I try to tell the truth – the birds’ nests growing on Pinocchio’s nose scarred me for life!”

Recently Carol has been on the other side of the camera, doing a little directing for her new Olive Route series of films for which she also wrote and narrated, The Good Life France wanted to know more about this multi-talented writer…

The Olive Farm

TGLF: At school what were you terrible at?

Sports, I hated them all except for swimming. We were forced out in all weathers to play hockey, netball etc. and to run round the land. I used to hide in a cupboard so that no one could find me…

TGLF: What is the hardest part of writing a novel?

All of it! There is no easy part… Sometimes the story tells itself for a short while and then one is ‘on a roll’ as we call it but otherwise, it is an exhausting but ultimately exhilarating process

TGLF: If you could have dinner with a writer – living or dead, who would it be?

There are many dead authors I could cite – Shakespeare, of course. Graham Greene and Georges Simenon, Marguerite Duras, Hermann Hesse, Elizabeth Bowen to name but a few, but I think for this particular game, I will opt for someone living so that we could exchange ideas about the modern world, the world as we are perceiving it today. I will also choose women because I think that we will have more in common about our modern-day concerns… So, I might invite several in the hope that one will accept my invitation and if they all turn up all the better, we can have terrific discussions: Maya Angelou, Isabel Allende, Edna O’Brien, Pat Barker, Carol Ann Duffy, Doris Lessing. What a great dinner party we would have…

Olive Groves Carol Drinkwater

TGLF: If you were to cook for the writer – what dish would you choose?

Well, we would begin with fresh bread and olive oil newly pressed from our farm: green, fruity and peppery.  A glass of champagne with organic, Irish smoked salmon and then I might roast some poultry… Chicken perhaps stuffed with lemon and bitter oranges grown on our land. Cooked in our olive oil with lots of herbs from the garden… A fine red Bordeaux to accompany the main dish, a Saint-Julien, for example. [Ed’s note: Carol is a pretty good cook – see her recipe for French beef stew, it’s scrumptious!]

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

Would I be allowed the Complete Works of Shakespeare as one book? Certainly, I must have his sonnets…Isabel Allende, probably The House of Spirits…Oh, I hate this limitation… I would secrete a few more in my kit somewhere! Last choice if you are being strict with me will be… Fernand Braudel’s masterpiece The Mediterranean in the Ancient World (also known as Memory and the Mediterranean).

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

I have over 2,000 CDs here at Apassionata [Carol’s Olive Farm] and I have 365 days’ worth of music on my computer and iPod.  I listen to music all the time except when writing and then I need silence. Jazz is my favourite genre but obviously music can be mood-related or indeed, mood-creating…

Carol Drinkwater Olive Farm

TGLF: My guiltiest pleasure is…?

It’s a secret!

TGLF: Red or white wine?

Wine! In summer chilled Chablis but I am predominantly a red wine imbiber.

TGLF: What are you writing the moment?

Having just finished the five Olive Route films, I am just embarking on a novel set in France.

TGLF: Can you tell us more about the Olive Route films

There are five films in a series that might include another five. It depends on time and budget and the possibility of being able to film in North Africa and the Middle East… The five we have made so far are set in:

Sicily, Lesvos/Aegean coast of Turkey, Italy/Spain, Andalucia in southern Spain, The Holy Land

Each film concentrates on the stories of people living in that particular region. Folk who in one way or another have the olive and the olive tree at the heart of their lives. There is some history and of course some visually remarkable scenery to colour the films. A recipe or two plus secrets of the olive and its extraordinary qualities but most importantly the films are human stories, told by the protagonists themselves. I have travelled for years to meet these people and to find ways of linking them together to create a theme that works for each film.

Please note that all photographs are copyright  ©Carol Drinkwater and no unauthorized copying or use of them is permitted.

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