Julia Stagg has lived in Japan, Australia, the UK, the USA and now divides her time between France and the UK. She has worked as a waitress, a ‘check-out chick’, a bookseller, a pawnbroker and as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language.
In 2004, tempted by a love of cycling and a passion for mountains, she moved to the gorgeous Ariège-Pyrenees region of France to run a small auberge with her husband where she was able to add chambermaid, receptionist, cleaner and chef to her CV all in one go.
Here she added another title to her list of achievements – best selling author. Her books tell the story of the lives, loves and machinations of the inhabitants of the small commune of Fogas in Ariège-Pyrenees. Whilst the village is fictional it is very much based on the beautiful towns and hamlets that Julia explores in her lovely French region.
With three books in the series (L’Auberge, The Parisian’s Return and The French Postmistress) and a fourth on the way, Julia has established herself as a much loved author and French Book Worm was thrilled to ask her some questions…
At school I was terrible at …
French!! I really didn’t take to it and much preferred staring out of the window – a bit like my character Chloé in the Fogas Chronicles. I’ve made up for it since then – I hope.
I started writing when / because…
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I kept a diary from a very young age – detailing an odd mixture of arguments with my sisters, football scores and books I was reading. I like to think I’ve progressed since then.
The hardest part of writing a novel is…
For me it’s the isolation. While I’m happy to be alone, I have always worked with the public – waitressing, retail, teaching, running an auberge – and on occasions I really miss that buzz of people. So now, when I need a dose of society, I take myself off to the nearest town, sit in a coffee shop and write away while watching the world go by.
I work best when…
Ooo – difficult question. Work can be ideas generation, plot development, the trickiness of transferring an amazing vision into words or even the sheer mechanics of editing. So it’s hard to say. But I know that I often have my best ideas when I’m running or hiking – it’s as though getting away from my desk cuts through all the clutter and releases me somehow.
If I wasn’t a writer I would…
Be an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher. It’s what I did before running the auberge and I would be more than happy to return to it should the Fates decide that my books no longer sell. Hopefully it won’t come to that though!
If you could have dinner with a famous French person – living or dead, who would it be?
I’m tempted to say Sébastien Chabal, the long-haired lock for the French rugby team whose tenacity always impressed me. But he’s alive and I still have a chance of meeting him in real life – however infinitesimal – so I’m going to say Pierre Curie. But only on the condition that he brings his wife, who was Polish. I read a short story about Marie Curie in one of my mother’s annuals when I was a kid and I’ve been fascinated by her ever since.
If you were to cook for that person – what would you cook?
It ought to be a microwave dinner – ha ha! – but actually, I’d make Marie Curie a cassoulet because she always looks like she needs feeding up. I’d use the finest haricots from Pamiers, confit de canard and sausages from Toulouse. I wouldn’t dare use tomatoes for fear of incurring the wrath of René Piquemal from Fogas who is particular about his culinary heritage.
Desert Island book – if you could only take three books to a deserted island what would they be?
Sorry – I can’t answer that one. I would just refuse to go. I balked at being restricted to three books as a kid in the library and can’t bear the thought of it now.
My guiltiest pleasure is…
Being an author. I wake up enthused. I work happily. And I still can’t believe I’m fortunate enough to make a living doing something I totally enjoy.
Red or white wine?
Red. Although on a hot day in the Pyrenees, a glass of chilled white goes down a treat.
If Steven Spielberg sees this interview on The Good Life France website and decides to make it into a film who would he get to play the parts of Mayor Serge Papon and Véronique the post mistress?!
Hmmmm…tricky. Serge Papon needs to be crafty with a twinkle of devilment and he’s got to have a way with the ladies. I’m leaning towards Jean Reno even though he’s still a bit young for the part.
As for Véronique, it’s not an easy one to cast as so many of the actresses her age are waif thin and fragile. Mademoiselle Estaque is far from that! So someone with personality, a full figure and amazing shoulders. Because Christian Dupuy is fairly besotted by her shoulders.
When Steven Spielberg’s film The French Postmistress hits the silver screen – how do you think your French friends and neighbours would react to your fame?
I don’t think it would change them one iota! They’re a very down to earth bunch – which is part of the appeal of the area.
What are you working on now?
I have just submitted book four of the Fogas Chronicles – keep an eye on my Facebook page for details of the title coming soon. And I will now start on the fifth book – time really has flown in the company of the good people of Fogas!