Carol Drinkwater Lives the Good Life in France (and Writes About It Too)

The Thin Reads Interview with Carol Drinkwater, Author of “Hotel Paradise”

Anglo-Irish writer/actress/filmmaker Carol Drinkwater lives the good life. She and her husband live outside of Cannes, France, on a property dotted with dozens of ancient olive trees. Drinkwater is best known for her role as Helen Herriot, in the British television series “All Creatures Great and Small” (1978-1985), where she played the wife of an English countryside veterinarian. She’s also a published author with almost two dozen books under her belt, including a series devoted her experiences growing olives on her farm. That also led to a documentary series “The Olive Routes.” Lately, Drinkwater has been focusing her considerable creative energies on Kindle Singles. She just published her latest Kindle Single, “Hotel Paradise,” about a songwriter visiting Cannes (where else?) who is invited to the newly refurbished Hotel Paradise. We caught up with Drinkwater and conducted this email interview.

Thin Reads: Your new e-book single “Hotel Paradise” is set at the Cannes Film Festival. How many times have you personally attended?

I can ALMOST see the dazzle of the film festival from our home terraces, which is an olive farm overlooking the Bay of Cannes. I have attended the festival on many occasions and will be attending again this year. Because it is a really crazy circus and Cannes hosts over twenty thousand extra visitors during these ten days, my husband and I used to drive down by moped. One of the festival rules is that if guests are attending an evening screening, full evening dress is required. It was great fun flying down the Riviera hills on a moped in long dress and high heels. My favorite hotel for drinks and soirees is the Martinez with its Art Deco style and excellent piano bar. However, we never stay in any of the hotels because we really are fifteen minutes away.

Thin Reads: You seem to set many of your stories on the Riviera. First, let us compliment you on your great choice of settings. And please explain why you are drawn to write about that part of the world.

Because I live here on the Riviera, or a few kilometers inland. Fifteen minutes inland is quite different to the glitz of the Cannes coast. We farm three hundred olive trees and grow all our own veggies and yet we have the sun and sea on our doorstep and the Alps are right behind us and we can be skiing in less than hour. Pretty good reasons why. It is an inspirational environment.

Thin Reads: French Riviera or Italian Riviera? Which one is better?

I love them both but I prefer the French Riviera and if I were to choose a coastal destination in Italy I would prefer the Amalfi coast. One of the great joys of where we live is that we can drive to Italy in about fifty minutes and have spaghetti and Italian ice cream for lunch and be home for a late afternoon swim or cocktails on the terrace. La Dolce Vita, whichever way you look at it

Thin Reads: Why have you chosen to write for the e-book single format? You know that makes you something of a digital pioneer.

I think this is a really exciting revolution that is taking place with these e-novellas. I like writing short stories as well as full-length books and when my agent called to say that someone at Amazon had approached to know if I might be interested, I jumped at the idea. It opens up new markets and it is doing wonders for the short story art form. Regular publishers were afraid of publishing books of short stories because they said they never sell. Suddenly, they see that there is a terrific and very exciting market out there. These are complete stories or essays that can be read in an afternoon, a day at the beach or while commuting, for example, and people seem to be lapping them up. Now, traditional publishers have to rethink their stance. I love the idea that I am a pioneer! Thank you.

Thin Reads: It’s obvious that you are quite artistically inclined. What artistic endeavor is your top preference: acting, writing or filmmaking?

I am delighted that I have the opportunity to jump between one and the other. I was brought up in a family of entertainers. Showbiz ruled the house and although I wanted to follow in the family footsteps, I chose a more classical route and trained as an actress and then went on to join the National Theatre in London. I discovered film work through television, mainly when I was working in “All Creatures Great and Small.” I love working with cameras, on either side of the screen and I love being on location with film crews. Travelling gypsies. I have been writing since I was about eight but I came to it professionally after cutting my teeth in British TV drama. I am hugely fortunate.

Thin Reads: From reading your excellent blog, it’s clear you fight for the protection of bees. What led to that interesting choice as a personal cause?

I am an organic olive farmer. Well, we farmed the olives on the ruined farm that we bought in the south of France as a young couple (I have written about this story in the book The Olive Farm) and then I decided to go organic and keep bees and when we lost so many of our hives due to the local use of pesticides, I jumped into action. It is a big issue for me now and in the last decade the plight of the honeybee has, of course, become an urgent issue.

Thin Reads: What’s the next piece of e-book single fiction we can expect from you?

I am writing another novella now as well as a full-length novel. Both are more or less set in the south of France. The e-book single is titled “Chateau on the Rocks”… I will say no more for now.

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Buy “Hotel Paradise” at: Amazon

Posted 3/31/14