Patricia Feinberg Stoner
The wonderfully witty author of At Home in the Pays d’Oc arrived on a perfect summer’s day. Purdey, HRH the Dog, also accompanied Patricia.
My esteemed guest admired the scones that I had baked for the occasion. Purdey was not amused so decided to take a nap. The scon / scohne debate lasted until Purdey awoke from her slumber in my favourite armchair.
Patricia had brought some pork pies as a tribute to my northern roots and a limerick to mock my obsession with handbags. The limerick below is now proudly displayed on my website. Apparently, Patricia is writing a book of limericks
Our Jessie’s bit of a wag:
She doesn’t think reading’s a drag.
Her authors, excited
To be so invited
All send her their books for her bag.
Patricia hopes that ‘the Little book of Rude Limericks’ will be out in time for Christmas. Her illustrator has gone missing…
After much hilarity, tea and scones were abandoned for a good bottle of Picpoul de Pinet. It was a hoot to listen to Patricia’s anecdotes about her experiences and I could have listened to her all day. Finally, we managed to get back on track commence the interview.
Jessie: Summarise At Home in the Pays d’Oc in two sentences.
Patricia: A humorous memoir that is largely, but not entirely, based on fact. It’s the story of how my husband and I became expatriates in the south of France for four years – without really meaning to.
Jessie: Your book is probably the funniest book that I have ever read and everyone should read it. What do others say about your reviews. At first, Patricia was hesitant to share the reviews until I insisted.
‘Laugh-out-loud funny, always engaging, a great read.’ Ingénue Magazine
5.0 out of 5 stars. What a delicious book! Patricia’s telling of Himself – and Herself’s – life in the Pays d’Oc is so well written. Funny in places, poignant in others, and exasperating too sometimes, as they deal with their new life in southern France. A joy to read. Elfyn Morris, Amazon
‘Patricia writes with a warm engaging tone, great to read if you fancy an escape in the sunshine. A very enjoyable read – highly recommended!’ TJ Green, NZ book reviewer
Jessie: Read an extract from your book that will tempt a reader.
When I first met my husband, he announced casually, quite early on in the relationship, that he didn’t like France. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘this will not do.’ I decided to change his ways.
Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book?
I felt a mixture of things. Relief, of course, at having finally finished it. But a little sadness too. I had been living with these stories for a decade: they started out life as a series of sketches for a French property magazine. Turning them into a book brought back some wonderful memories, and quite a bit of laughter. I had lots of stories left over, so I immediately started planning the next book.
Jessie: I do hope that you write a sequel.
Patricia: It was suggested I should write ‘At Home in West Sussex’, which is where I live now. After some initial excitement, I decided this was a non-starter. I have returned to France instead and am writing a collection of short stories provisionally called ‘Morbignan Tales’.
Jessie: Have the people in your book read your novel, and did they recognise themselves?
Patricia: My best friend recognised herself instantly when I called her ‘the acquisition queen’. Luckily, she saw the funny side. A lot of the people in the book are French, though, and I doubt if they will have read the book. Apart from my lunatic neighbour I think I have been kind about everyone: the book is written with a lot of affection. And I hope to goodness no-one will think it is patronising or condescending, as some other books about living in France can be.
Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why? This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.
Patricia: That’s a poser. Language barrier aside, I’d be happy if some of my neighbours from the village read it, and I hope it would make them laugh. In particular I’d like M. Alibert, who took a chance on us and let us have Purdey, to know she is well and happy and still with us at the ripe old age of 15. It would be quite nice, too, if the BBC came knocking…
Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?
Patricia: Look at the state of the world! If we are all going to hell in a handbag, then wouldn’t it be nice to have something light-hearted to offset the doom and gloom?
Jessie: What is the last sentence in your writer’s notebook?
Patricia: I have a thing called the Owl Book. I’ve had one since I started work on a local newspaper back in the dark ages – the first one just happened to have an owl on the cover and the name stuck. I write in everything that happens: thoughts, phrases that might come in useful, limericks and also memory-jogging stuff like groups I’ve joined and review copies I’ve sent out. The last note I made was ‘A Dog Called Useless’ which is a reminder to re-think the title of my next book…
Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an independent author?
Patricia: The fact that you can never, never stop promoting. There are some wonderful exceptions, such as Ingénue magazine which is immensely supportive, but on the whole it is extremely difficult to get publicity for an independently published book.
Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?
Patricia: Well, it’s a bit tongue in cheek, but when I first started work I as a journalist I had a wise old news editor who once looked at one of my more fanciful pieces and remarked ‘Never spoil a good story for the sake of a few hard facts.’ I interpret this as being true to the spirit of what happened, rather than the letter.
It was wonderful fun to interview Patricia. She has an instinctive dry sense of humour and is warm and engaging like the narrator in At Home in the Pays d’Oc.
Patricia is a words person: she loves reading, writing and dogs (and some people). She can be lazy, though: like a lot of writers she will do anything – even housework – to delay sitting down at the keyboard. She has a keen sense of the ridiculous and is prone to compose daft limericks at the drop of a hat.
I sincerely hope that the BBC will make a series out of the warm-hearted, funny and poignant book. Alternatively, Patricia should go on a theatre tour to perform her limericks, present anecdotes and engage with the audience.