Having parked the car, in Tourrettes sur Loup, I grabbed my multi-coloured handbag and huge sunglasses. Carol Drinkwater had spotted the frantic tourist trying to manoeuvre the oversized BMW, and waved at me from the other side of the road. She was dressed in jeans and a T shirt. Her handbag was a chic bright mauve sporting a Giorgio Armani label.
Strolling along the cobbled streets, I admired how the weather and time had sculptured each building in the medieval village, perched on the hilltop. We realised the streets would have looked identical post World War Two; one of the eras presented in The Lost Girl. Our conversation moved to Carol’s novel, The Lost Girl.
Jessie: I am looking forward to reading The Lost Girl, but I am saving it for the winter months, back in Wales. Can you capture the essence of the novel in a few sentences?
Carol: The Lost Girl is a heart-rending story of loss and enduring love. November 2015: Kurtiz, an English woman in her forties, is searching for her missing teenage daughter who she believes is living in Paris. In a café on the right bank Kurtiz falls into conversation with an eighty-year-old actress, Marguerite, who, when the terrorist attacks of that weekend begin, takes Kurtiz under her wing and together, through shared stories of their past, they find what they are both looking for.
Jessie: I can’t wait to immerse myself in the narrative. Can you tempt me with a few sentences?
We stopped outside of a terracotta house where every stone seemed to have been artfully placed. Carol retrieved the novel from her designer bag.
Carol: This tiny section is set very close to where we are now, just outside Grasse. It is the young Marguerite with a young man at her side, an ex-British soldier. He is about to buy the plot of land where they were lazing in the grass, and about to ask her to marry him.
‘… The afternoon was silent save for the humming insects. She heard a cart’s wheels turning in the distance, the bray of a donkey, but there was no one in sight, just the two of them and the perfumes emanating from the hills around them. …’
As Carol read aloud, she attracted an appreciative audience. The audience applauded, and we decided to seek sanctuary in a café. Carol bowed her head graciously then smiled at the group of people.
Jessie: You paint the scene beautifully with your words. Tell me, how do find inspiration for the language choices? Does it take you a long time to shape the choices?
Carol: I work through the text of my books over and over. I need to feel the language and sometimes after having made a ‘clever’ choice I go back to a simpler edition. As I grow older and have been at my desk for more and more years, I find the direct approach is better. Clean simple text usually paints the best pictures.
We found a bistro in the main square. An elderly, French lady, resplendent in her finery, was about to leave and presented her table to us. Her theatrical manner was reminiscent of Marguerite Courtney, in the Lost Girl: such a contrast to the elegant, kind and unassuming Carol Drinkwater. I ordered a mineral water and Carol ordered a citron pressé.
Jessie: The spontaneous positive response of your appreciative audience, earlier, speaks tomes about the quality of your work. How has your book been received by the reviewers?
Placing her glass on the table, Carol then searched on her phone for a link to The Lost Girl, on Amazon.
Carol: OK. Here are some reviews:
‘wonderful story, beautifully told, and with a great ending!!!’ -Reader review on Amazon
‘Mesmerising, haunting and extraordinarily relevant. The Lost Girl is one of Lovereading’s novels of the year.’- Lovereading
‘A brilliantly told story set against that dreadful night. The characters are superbly written . . . I couldn’t put it down.’ – NetGalley Reviewer
Jessie: As the reviewers indicate, the characters in your novels are always so real and engaging – it is obvious that you become attached to them. How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?
Carol: I missed both of the two principal female characters. I felt as though they had both become my close friends and I longed to spend more time with them. I still talk to them, one of them in particular.
Jessie: I’m intrigued and wonder if that means another book.
Carol: I am writing a new novel now. Also set in France and also moving between two time frames.
Pausing for thought, Carol laughed aloud before speaking.
Carol: The brilliant lovely producer who sees The Lost Girl as a film and makes it happen.
Jessie: You write scenically and draw the audience into the tension. And in The Lost Girl, you have captured a bleak event, through your imagination forever – it is a story that must be told.
Carol: Yes, I agree, it is a story that needs to be told though I also appreciate that for some the events are too new. Having witnessed the real thing, I needed to recount those events giving them flesh and blood…
Jessie: The Lost Girl is safely stored in my handbag. Why should I keep your book in my handbag?
Carol: Because it is a story with a miracle at its heart and, from time to time, we all need one of those. Through the bleakest of days, though we may not be aware of it, hope and redemption are always present. The light always returns. The sun always rises.
Jessie: Beautiful, inspirational message. You are so blessed with your ability to craft words: your books will be a legacy to generations of readers. What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?
Carol: It has nothing to do with The Lost Girl. It is for the novel I am writing now. Here goes:
‘N B and R B were lovers for fifty years.’
Jessie: You have intrigued me yet again. There are so many delicious possibilities in this sentence. You have told many stories, work so hard and have success that many aspiring writers can dream of. What is the biggest challenge for an author?
Carol: To keep going, to write every day, to keep the faith during the slow and arid patches, to believe in oneself. (I wish I could follow my own advice sometimes!)
Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?
Carol: Turn up at your desk every morning. No one else is going to write your book for you.
Jessie: It must also be a challenge to combine your writing with the work on your olive farm. Having devoured your wonderful memoirs from the Olive Farm series, I am curious if your olive crops have survived the terrible drought.
Carol: Olives are not too susceptible to drought because it is a drought resistant tree. Our biggest challenge is to remain organic, and so far we are winning that battle.
Jessie: Your memoirs indicate you have survived tough times. What have your learnt along the way?
Carol: I have found that life can be heart-breaking. I have known emotional rejection and loneliness. Through the journey of so many ups and downs, I have come to realise that kindness and laughter are two of the richest gifts I can share and enjoy.
Carol Drinkwater is one of my all time favourite authors, and I suggest you check out her work – you won’t be disappointed. I am currently reading The Lost Girl and will blog my review in the future. My reviews of some of Carol’s other novels can be found at: Books in Handbag
About Carol Drinkwater:
Carol is an award-winning actress and Sunday Times bestselling writer. She was probably most famous for her role of Helen Herriot in the fantastically popular TV series, All Creatures Great and Small. She lives on an olive farm in the south of France with her husband, Michel, and several dogs.
Carol’s Contact Details: