I'm delighted to welcome Tottie Limejuice, the best selling author of Sell The Pig. She has agreed to answer some questions for us, which I'm sure you will enjoy reading about. Tottie has very kindly offered to donate, and post a signed copy of her book, which will be our raffle prize for tomorrow.
Are there any other authors in your family?
Not an author, as such, but my late father was a newspaper editor, president of the Guild of British Newspaper Editors, film, theatre and book critic and food critic. So writing was a big part of growing up.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Nantwich, Cheshire, but moved to Stockport when I was about two and lived there until I was twenty-one. I attended Stockport High School for Girls.
What inspired you to write "Sell the Pig"?
With people increasingly living much longer, more and more of us are facing having to look after elderly parents and other relatives and sadly, more and more seem to be afflicted by dementia in various forms. My mother had vascular dementia, mercifully not Alzheimer's, and because of many problems we encountered with the healthcare system in the UK, with home care, hospitals, care homes and nursing homes, my brother and I decided to move to France with her and I became her full-time carer. Despite the dementia, Mother had a very happy time living in France and was still very funny. She became like a naughty child and used to love to use words like 'bum' and 'bugger' all the time, although she knew it was wrong. She also had lots of funny sayings. I thought it would be nice to preserve all those memories and to share my experience of being a full-time carer and what led us to relocate.
What is the best thing about moving to France?
France is a large country, of course, so I can't speak for all of it. I live in a very rural part of the Auvergne, in the Massif Central, and it really is like the UK I remember from my childhood in the 50s and 60s. The pace of life is much slower, people are still much more connected to nature than is generally the case in the UK. For example, it's still very common to base the planting on your fruit and vegetables on the phases of the moon, and you can buy a special almanac each year to show you when to plant root veg, when to plant bushy ones, etc.
What are you working on right now?
I recently published the sequel to Sell the Pig, entitled Is That Billinge Lump? I have now started on the third part of the trilogy. I tend to write in the winter as we often get a lot of snow and quite harsh weather so there's not much to do outside, it's nice to sit in the warmth and write. There are plans for a prequel, once Part III is finished.
How do you relax?
I have two rescued border collies and I love walks with them. All three of us love camping, in all weathers. I'm very interested in wildlife, nature, anything of that kind. I go on lots of guided walks and talks to learn about the wonderfully diverse local flora and fauna, and have discovered all sorts of fascinating remedies on a talk given by a 'hedgewitch.' Like an infusion made from ash leaves is brilliant for arthritis – I can vouch for that! I also enjoy reading, of course, and am an active member of my local library. Every year they do a 'classé polar', a critique of set detective novels, to a different theme each year – this year it's serial killers. It's all in French, of course, so it's a great way to improve my vocabulary. We have five books to read within a set time then we get together to discuss and rate them. As part of it, we're also doing a little whodunit game where we have to break witness's alibis by checking their stories against information online and on iPads, so the technically challenged, like me, can learn to use an i-Pad. I also spend an obscene amount of time on Facebook, where I run a Book Group. And I do like a bit of telly of an evening, both French TV and my UK favourites like Coronation Street, Holby City, Downton Abbey and Last Tango in Halifax.
Who are your own favourite authors?
My taste is incredibly varied! It goes from Tolkien and C S Lewis, via John Steinbeck, to detective novels like those of Craig Johnson or Harlan Coben. I also like discovering new, upcoming Indie authors, like myself, especially those whose story shows great determination and courage in the face of difficult circumstances. People like Jill Pennington and Janet Holt, for example, both of whom I've 'met' through literary groups on Facebook and now chat to frequently.
What are the best and worst things about being a writer?
It's a way of life and a living for me, as when I'm not writing my own books, I work part-time as a freelance copywriter and copy editor. Because of the changes to the pension age for pensions in Europe, I can't get mine till next year, when I turn sixty-two, so have to continue to work for a bit longer. The best part is I can usually (depending on client deadlines) choose what time of day I write, so I can benefit from the best of the weather to do stuff with the dogs, or gardening or whatever, and then write in the evening. The worst part, as a freelance writer and independent author, is the uncertainty of the income.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be a writer?
Grow a very thick skin! Seriously, you are putting yourself in the line of fire for all sorts of remarks and feedback which, unless you are a certain type of person, you may not like. Also be realistic – it is like any other job, very hard work, with lots of boring bits and not anything like as much glamour as you might imagine. There's the added problem that every man and his dog thinks they have a book in them, and in these days of very easy self-publishing, a great many of them are inflicted on the unsuspecting public when they really shouldn't see the light of day. You need to do it because you love writing, then it is a wonderful profession. I have met lots of lovely people through my books, from all over the world. Some are really kind and send me little parcels of gluten free treats as I am a recently diagnosed Coeliac and gluten free shopping is still in its infancy in rural France.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me Tottie. This concludes the interview. I wish you every success with your future books.
Tottie's newest book Is that Billinge Lump? is also available here.