by Sheila Curran, author of EVERYONE SHE LOVED, wishing that photo to the left was her own!
It is such a pleasure to give you a sneak preview of Bridget Asher's newest novel! I adore the cover. I cannot wait to get my hands on the book. Julianna has offered me a free copy but I believe friends should order other friends' books. I got a super price on Amazon. Of course I would pay full price if I could make myself get into the car to go to an independent bookstore, but first, we don't have one in our small town, and second, the chaos of the world right now makes home shopping seem so much more attractive. So why am I so eager to get my mitts on this book? No, it's not about me. It's just that I desperately NEED a read that will allow me to escape from my own research on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the possibility of nuclear meltdown in Japan, a new conflict in Libya, and the fact that my fifteen year old is on Spring Break with 150 of her closest friends. Need I say more?
Julianna (ahem, Bridget) is such a smart, funny, entertaining writer that I read her last book in the midst of my gruesome treatments for cancer and laughed out loud. I have read all her books. I am always yelling at her to write another. (Meanwhile, I crawl along at my tortoise pace, cracking the whip on her to write yet another book, just for ME.)
Here is our interview:
Where, my dear, did you get the idea to write this book?
The idea was twofold.
One. I love France. Why -- oh why -- was I setting my novels is places I didn't love -- Bayonne, New Jersey, a fictionalized Morgantown, West Virginia, Baltimore (which I do kind of love for its gritty industrial edginess) again and again? I have four kids and live with the suffocation (and joy, of course, there's lots of joy -- I'm not an ingrate) that comes with that life. Dave and I decided that we should save up and go to France for the summer. At first we thought we'd rent an apartment in Paris -- not in our budget -- then in a little smaller city in the South of France -- not in our budget -- then in a tiny ancient row house in a tiny village in the South of France -- $60 a day for a month. We brought five kids -- our own and a niece, ranging in age from 13 to a one year old. In total, we were in France for six weeks. We had our share of adventures -- which exist in the book -- one kid ran into a plexiglass wall protecting the bones of Mary Magdalene; we tended an injured swallow; we got robbed ... The entire experience, though, felt like we were coming back to our senses -- the tiny white snails on the roadside flowers, the world of Cezanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire, the lilac fields and vineyards -- our full undiluted senses.
Two. "Grief is a love story told backwards." That's the first line, and that is what I wanted to do in writing the novel -- tell a love story from the place of grief and moving beyond it. In writing fiction, I often get to confront my greatest fears. My husband and I have been together for eighteen years. We met and were engaged in a couple weeks, married in less than a year. When he's late, I panic. I immediately envision fiery wrecks. In this way, THE PROVENCE CURE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED begins as a love letter. Heidi is a widow who's supposed to be able to move on now, but can't. Over the course of the novel -- and because of the house in Provence that's been in her family for generations -- she finds joy again.
I got to eat much of my research -- so much so that we put recipes in the back of the novel, along with an essay on the foodie aspects of the novel. It felt cruel not to include recipes after such lush descriptions of meals. (I specifically suggest the Provencal chicken in cream sauce -- a recipe that, like the house in Provence, has been around for generations.) I wanted to write a character who was coming back to senses, and now one of my favorite sense to research is -- and forever will be -- taste.
I love the cover of this novel. How did it come about?
I love the cover, too. In fact, THE PROVENCE CURE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED has many foreign versions, and, I have to say that across the board, this novel has inspired some exquisite covers. The first time I saw this cover, it didn't yet have the butterfly. I felt like I wanted one little touch of whimsy, something to show that this novel was going to bring in some small magical element. The butterfly is important in the multi-generational stories about the house that Heidi has to bring back after a fire. I love family stories passed down, and I wanted to show this house's magical presence. The butterfly hints at that element of the novel.
So that my friends, is my interview with the prolific, fabulous, famous and ever so generous Julianna Baggott aka Bridget Asher.