I’m really pleased to welcome one of my favourite authors onto my blog today. Beth Haslam, author of a series of books about her life in France.
Hello Beth and thanks for visiting my blog today. Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself
Hello, Caryl, it’s lovely to be here and chat with you on your super blog.
I was brought up on a farm estate in Wales. My childhood was idyllic and spent either on horseback, helping care for our menagerie of animals, or out sailing on the Menai Straits.
From school I went to York University and graduated with loving memories of this fantastic part of the world and a degree that took me into a very busy career in Personnel Management in London and the Midlands.
A serious car crash in 1991 which resulted in multiple bone fractures caused me to leave full time employment and set up a Human Resources consultancy business. This worked well and complemented my later decision to serve as a Magistrate.
As semi-retirement approached my husband, Jack, and I decided to buy a second home in France. Or at least that was the plan. Our house-hunting turned into an unforgettable adventure and ended up as a life-changing event.
We now spend the majority of time here in the depths of rural France, living on a country domaine (estate).
I’m happy to say that, in the main, computers and mobile phones have swapped places with understanding French customs, and wrestling with the local dialect. I’m now occupied with raising (and sometimes saving) animals, writing, and embracing everything that rural France has to offer. It’s a wonderful lifestyle.
When did you first realise that you could write?
Great question! I spend so much time admiring others’ writing, and learning how to express myself in better ways, that I have never considered it. I suppose it was when readers told me how much they enjoyed my stories and asked for more.
Were you surprised that so many people enjoy your books and that you’ve now built up quite a following of fans all eager to read the next book in the ‘Fat Dog’ series about your life in France?
I was both surprised and very relieved. Probably the biggest worry I had was that readers wouldn’t share my sense of humour. My books have serious elements to them but they are intended to be a light-hearted read. If readers didn’t share the amusing elements then I knew they would fail.
Do you write every day?
Yes, but that includes small pieces such as social media posts, occasionally magazine articles, and work on my monthly blog. If I am working on a book I will try to dedicate a minimum of two hours a day to writing.
Do you keep a journal to jot down things that happen for later inclusion in your books?
Not in a conventional sense. I take photos every day and these, together with the memories I retain, become the basis from which I plan my books.
I follow you on Facebook and I know that you post a lot of fascinating updates, videos and photos about the animals and birds that live on your domaine. Including your beautiful dogs and cat Brutus
Could you tell us a bit about the wildlife on the domaine and the work you and your husband do to introduce more numbers of certain species.
Thank you very much for your lovely words. As you know I am hopelessly devoted to our animals, and especially our Australian Shepherds, Aby and Max, and portly cat, Brutus. Aside from them we are blessed to share our domaine with a rich variety of wildlife.
The woods provide home to roe deer and wild boar, both species are extraordinary in their own ways.
We have hare that are as big as dogs and the occasional bunny too. Among the nocturnal furred brigade there is a fascinating animal called a genet. We had never seen one before coming to France. It is a gorgeous, cat-like looking animal.
Bird life is equally diverse. Nightingales pop in to shout their heads off during the night, annoy the bats and compete with the resident owl population who may fly silently but they chat very noisily. We have several different types of raptor too, in particular buzzards, which are stunning animals.
Smaller rodents include the usual suspects and one in particular which has caused us lots of problems: the loir or glis glis. Despite looking pretty cute, this squirrel lookalike is a pesky critter, capable of causing general mayhem in the home by munching on chunks of it.
We share our buildings with a variety of reptiles and amphibians. Grass snakes, for example, might enjoy living in fields but we’ve learnt that they’re also partial to masonry. Part of our property dates back to the 16th century – it’s pretty holey in places and provides ideal nesting conditions for a home-loving snake. We’re used to them now, but they do have a knack of popping out to hiss ‘bonjour’ at the most inopportune times, such as during visits from friends.
Around two thirds of our domaine is surrounded by an eight kilometre (five mile) fence. It is mainly mixed woodland and completely private. Our plan is to preserve this land as a wildlife sanctuary where we are introducing new species, which we hope will naturalise. So far we have raised pheasant, partridge and quail, and tried to re-introduce a rabbit population. Each has its own challenges and our learning curve has been steep. Natural predation has been one of the main problems and, with the rabbits in particular, the dreadful disease myxomatosis is rife. But we are making steady progress. Our aim is to manage the natural habitat so the wildlife can thrive in a safe environment and be enjoyed by ourselves and others.
It all sounds really wonderful Beth. What are your future plans writing wise?
I am currently involved in producing an anthology of cat stories with Zoe Marr, a commissioning editor with my publisher, Ant Press. She and I share a deep love of cats and decided to collaborate on the project last year with a superb charity called International Cat Care. We’ll publish sometime before the summer and donate 20% from each copy sold to the charity. It’s a great project to be involved with, one where we have met some terrific people in the cat world.
One our Completely Cats book is published I will begin work on Fat Dogs and French Estates Part 4.
I can’t wait for that one!
What would be in your room 101?
Long lengths of hose pipe. Although essential for supplying fresh water to penned birds every day, these wretched hose pipes conspire against me. Despite my best efforts at reeling them in neatly, they coil around tree stumps, develop kinks and trip me up. They’re maddening!
What kind of books do you like to read?
Ooh gosh, that’s a tricky one. I read all sorts of books! Memoirs, yes definitely. I love books about animals and also thrillers, especially historical ones.
Do you have a special place in your home to write?
I have two special places. Why? I’m really not sure. The first is at the kitchen table with our dogs sprawled over my feet and cat usually too close to the mouse pad. That’s where Fat Dogs Part 3 was written. But also on the lawn in the garden – I love that too.
Thanks for visiting my blog today Beth. Your replies are really interesting and thanks for sharing the wonderful photos of the other inhabitants of your domaine in France. I’m really envious!
That’s a great pleasure, Caryl, please keep the blog going, as you know I’m an avid fan.