Hometown: I was born in London and spent my childhood between my mother’s family farm in Ireland and an Irish convent in Kent in England.
Current Residence: I live between Paris and on an olive farm above the hills of Cannes, overlooking the French Riviera.
Favorite Read: there are so many and they have changed at different stages in my life. One or two that remain eternal for me are The End of the Affair Graham Greene, The House of Spirits—Isabel Allende, The Lover—Marguerite Duras.
Fiction-how-to-book You’d Recommend: I have never read a fiction how-to book. I occasionally teach workshops for Memoir/Life Writing. I do not think that writing fiction or non-fiction is so different. In all cases, a riveting story is what counts. Stephen King has written a fine book on the art of writing—On Writing. There are many such books but I single this one out because it is also autobiographical and so proves its case succinctly.
Pet Peeves: Many!
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…I was first and foremost an actress. I continue to work in film, having written five documentary films – series entitled The Olive Route – inspired by two my books The Olive Route and The Olive Tree. I regularly record the narration for some of my husband’s documentary films.
Up Next: I have my second Kindle Single being published in the next few weeks entitled Hotel Paradise. The first The Girl in Room Fourteen reached number one in Kindle Singles both sides of the Atlantic so I am excited for this new one.
I have a young adult, First World War love story entitled The Only Girl in the World being published in April.
When you think of your childhood in Ireland, what book-related memories immediately come up in your mind?
I read very little back then and my life was very much an outdoor one. The wonderfully evocative stories of William Trevor and Edna O’Brien always draw me back to that early life.
When you’re writing…does the filmmaker and actress in you ever interfere with the novelist in you?
They are all part and parcel of the same creative process. My acting training was very comprehensive and the college, now part of London University, offers an MA that includes the study of classical drama in the widest sense. It was an excellent grounding for all that I am doing now
What sort of writer are you? The type who allows her characters to call the shots…or the type who leads her characters into the plot?
I tend to allow my characters a full voice once they have ben semi-realized. I think this is also the actress in me. I do begin my stories – fiction and non-fiction – with a direction in my mind. Sometimes I even know the ending but not always. However, as the stories progress, the characters’ roles become more dominant and they will frequently change the direction of the story and sometimes really surprise me. I love that. Personally, I find it more vibrant but each writer has his/her own methods and there is no wrong or right about it.
How did the idea for the Olive Series occur to you?
I fell in love with a Frenchman who asked me to marry him on our first date. Yes, it is true – I did not make it up. This very romantic man then invited me to Cannes for the film festival—he is a film producer—and there we found a very rundown Olive Farm which we could not afford. Somehow, we scraped together the funds for the deposit and began an adventure, a love story on many levels, that has lasted, so far, over twenty years. The Olive books are all love stories, tales of adventure and a celebration of nature and life.
From feedback you’ve gotten from fans, how do they usually hear about your books?
I am not sure. The ball has been rolling and some hear from friends, others look me up on the internet to see what the ‘actress Carol’ is doing now…articles in papers, on the internet…it is a big mix.
I was reading that you were on a TV series called “All Creatures Great and Small”. Did you feel stifled around this time of your life, because the other creative parts of you weren’t being fulfilled?
Yes, I would say so. I loved playing Helen in the series and it made me internationally recogniZed for the television role but I was itching to write, to travel, to challenge myself in other ways too.
What would you say to someone who’s having difficulty with writing a book. Let’s say, he or she started off really nicely and out of nowhere, the creativity got stalled.
This is difficult. Firstly, never give up. Keep at it. Be very disciplined. Believe in yoursel. Give all your passion and juices to the project. It has to be a subject that you love or you cannot stay the course with it.
What do you think of the internet and social media and their use in promoting books?
Terrific, and thank you for inviting me here! I love this international exchange of ideas and the opening up of new and unknown avenues.
[Author photo credit: Michel Noll ]