Canadian author Patricia Sands is in love with the French Riviera, a region she visits every year.
Her Love in Provence series, which includes three books to date, perfectly captures the beauty of the place we call home.
To get to know Patricia and her work better, we sat down with her to ask a few questions.
First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I am Canadian, with a home base in Toronto. I was a busy and happy stay-at-home mother for thirteen years until my husband suddenly died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 49. Our sons were 12 and 13. Needless to say it was a devastating time for us all.
I returned to university and became an elementary school teacher for a few years before I remarried. That was 20 years ago, and now our happily blended family consists of 7 adult ‘kids’ and six grandchildren. We all live near each other and spend a lot of time together. I play golf and tennis and still get out to ski from time to time, but my husband and I spend most of our winters in south Florida now. We try to spend a few months in Europe between May and October. It varies from year to year.
What brought you to France, and Antibes in particular?
I first fell in love with France when I backpacked around for a year when I was 21. The love affair has only grown throughout my life as I was fortunate to return often on holiday. For the past twenty years, my husband and I have spent at least two months there each year.
After renting a house in Biot one year, we discovered Antibes and that was that! My heart will live there forever and we return every year, although we also like to spend time in Nice as well.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I began writing seriously quite by accident! Ten years ago I started writing a book called The Bridge Club just for fun, for my real life Bridge Club. Eight women who have been friends for almost fifty years. As people began to read bits of the novel, they would say that their book club wanted to read it and that I was telling stories that most women would relate to in many ways. So I looked into publishing and decided to do it myself in 2010. After its success, I knew I would continue writing because I loved the whole experience.
When my husband and I were living in Antibes for 5 months in 2011, I wrote the first draft of The Promise of Provence, published in 2013, and the reader response was tremendous. So out of that novel grew the Love in Provence trilogy. In 2014, Book #2, Promises To Keep, was published. To that point I was publishing independently. However, Amazon discovered my books and signed me to a contract with their women’s fiction imprint, Lake Union Publishing. Lake Union then published Book #3 of the series, I Promise You This, in May 2016.
Being an author is never easy and it consumes my life, but when you love what you do, the effort is worth it.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the series?
In Book #1, 55-year-old Katherine Price’s husband of 22 years suddenly leaves her. She moves in with her elderly mother for a few months. The character of her mother, Elisabeth, is based on my late mother-in-law and much of her story is factual. It was important to me to share that. I hope readers will think about preserving their own family history when they read that part.
Then, Katherine or Kat, as she is often called, is persuaded to go on a home exchange to the Luberon and her life begins to change from her first day there. The location moves to Antibes as the story progresses. Book #2, Promises To Keep, continues her journey with a bit of drama added. Book #3, brings the trilogy to a close as Kat makes choices that will change her life forever. The story is in many ways a coming-of-age in middle age, and encourages readers to see that it’s never too late to take chances, make changes, and realize dreams.
In some ways the series is my love letter to France. I focus on location a great deal as I want my readers to see, smell, taste and savour life in the south of France. Many readers tell me they felt they were right there with the characters, and that’s very satisfying to me as a writer.
Was it obvious for you to set the story in Provence?
Absolutely, no question! After the success of The Bridge Club and the realization I was going to keep writing about older women for the rest of my life, I knew my next book would be set in Provence. Little did I know it would become a series!
And do you have anything in common with the main character of your love in Provence series, Katherine Price?
I’ve never had to go through a divorce. However, having been widowed I know how it feels to suddenly begin to face life on your own at a later stage in life. Certainly, some aspects of Katherine’s personality have similarities to mine, but for the most part I would say she is her own person. We are both optimists and share the same values. It was great fun feeling her grow in confidence and outlook as the story unfolded.
Can we expect a fourth book in the series?
Funny you should ask! I receive emails from readers on a regular basis asking me to keep writing about the characters in the series. I would love to do that! So, right now I am working on a stand-alone novel … also set in France, but the Bouches-du-Rhône department rather than the Côte d’Azur. Hopefully that will be published early in 2017, and then I will return to Kat and friends. I can’t wait!
You have a blog and you also lead tours of the French Riviera with the Women’s Travel Network. Does this help create a strong bond with your female readers?
Yes, I have a website with a lot of information about my books, about France and a lot of photography about France. I try to post once a week but don’t always manage that these days. Readers can also sign up for my monthly newsletter.
I’ve led two tours based on the locations in The Promise of Provence and we will do one in June 2017. I believe there are two spots left as we speak. There will be 16 women in all and it’s a fabulous trip. We spend 6 days in Nice and 6 in Avignon, with day trips to many of the wonderful villages in the story, including lavender fields. It’s great fun and lovely to get to know my readers in person.
In general, what is for you the hardest part about writing?
This may sound crazy, but I love everything about the world of writing. I guess the hardest part is knowing when to say a first draft is finished and ready to go to an editor. Writers always find ways to keep tweaking a story to make it better and better. I’m definitely guilty of that.
And the most rewarding?
This was a surprise to me. I never anticipated hearing from so many readers and the emails they send are wonderful. They are inspiring, motivating, satisfying and rewarding. The advent of ebooks has made it so easy to communicate with an author and I love hearing from readers. I try to respond personally to each one, but some times this is not possible and that’s why I began writing a monthly newsletter. It helps me feel like I am talking to readers who want to hear from me. I only send it to people who subscribe to it.
The other rewarding part of writing is the amazing, supportive, caring international community of writers I get to associate with and learn from. What an honour to be part of it.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read Stephen King’s book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”. The most important advice I took from it when I was beginning to write The Bridge Club is this: if you feel so strongly that you have a story to tell, sit down and write it. Make mistakes. Find your voice. TELL YOUR STORY IN YOUR OWN WAY! Then work with a good, reputable editor (not a relative or friend) who will help you hone your style. Write, write, write!
Finally, as you spend some time every year in Antibes, what do you like so much about the French Riviera?
Where do I begin? I like the people, the history, the language, the food and wine, and, of course, the beauty. Since photography is a big part of what I do, the visual beauty of that part of the world offers endless opportunities.
I feel incredibly blessed to spend time there and to be able to share my love of that part of the world with so many readers.
Thanks so much for inviting me to visit with you.
Many thanks to Patricia for taking the time to talk to us. To find out more about the Love in Provence series and Patricia’s other activities, you can visit her website, her Amazon Author Page, or connect via Instagram.
All photos courtesy Patricia Sands except final image via Amazon