On the release of her new book The Girl, the Dog, and the Writer in Provence, author Katrina Nannestad shares with readers the time she spent in Provence with her family.
Some years ago, I spent a wonderful month in Provence with my husband and our two small boys. We stayed in the hilltop village of Claviers in a skinny four-storey house across the road from an olive grove – just like Freja and Tobias do in my book! There were wonky streets and covered walkways and worn stone steps and faded shutters and weathered doors and pots of geraniums. There was a village square with a café and a church and shady plane trees. There was a petanque court, a communal laundry trough and a weekly outdoor market. Claviers was a safe place where my boys could scoot off on their own – scrambling through the olive grove, taking trips to the bakery to buy baguettes and fougasse, playing soccer on the tiny hillside court with the local children. It was also a great base from which to explore other parts of Provence – the French Riviera, Grasse, the Gorge du Verdon, Moustiers St Marie and many other charming hilltop villages.
The Claviers of my family holiday seemed like the perfect place upon which to build my story. You will recognise the details above in The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Provence. But there’s so much more that I have added to create the world of Freja and Tobias’ adventures – including the merry-go-round, the patisserie owned the world famous Monsieur Diderot, Isaac Forest, the heavenly Joly farm and Mimosa Astérisque’s pink mansion. The Claviers of my book is where beloved reality and indulgent fantasy collide! The characters, too, are all brand new, created by me. Although I do wish Pippin Perrier was real. Silly as it sounds, this sweet, clever little boy loomed so large in my imagination and my heart as I was writing that I find myself missing him now Freja and Tobias have moved on from Claviers.
Since that first wonderful family holiday, my husband and I have returned to Provence and visited new parts of the region, but again, the things we loved best were those things that feature in my novel – the hilltop villages, the fresh food markets, the wide valleys, the clear blue skies, the baguettes and croissants, the daily slump of siesta and the family-centred lifestyle. To me, Provence feels like a moment caught in time – a place where the best has been preserved, protected from change in a world where everything else is being continually ‘upgraded’. That makes it unique – a truly wonderful place to set a story and discover some quirky, adorable characters.
Katrina Nannestad is an award-winning Australian author. Her books include The Girl Who Brought Mischief, The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome, the Olive of Groves series, the Red Dirt Diaries series, the Lottie Perkins series and Bungaloo Creek.
Katrina grew up in country New South Wales in a neighbourhood stuffed full of happy children. Her adult years have been spent teaching, raising boys, perfecting her recipe for chocolate-chip bickies and pursuing her love of stories. She now lives near Bendigo with her family and an exuberant black whippet called Olive.