Carolyn Bear, known by many as Chloe Rayban, reveals to us how her beloved home, Manoir La Gozinière, provided inspiration for her latest novel.
What inspired you to create your special place to stay?
We had bought a house that was really larger than we need. We share it as much as possible. I have a group of painters who come and stay for a week every summer and a young opera group who spend a week rehearsing with us every summer and give a performance in return. When my mother came to live with us, we made an apartment for her. When she was no longer with us it seemed a pity not to continue to use it, so it became our Sawday’s gîte.
What were you both doing before you moved to France?
My husband was in advertising and I started out as an advertising copywriter but soon realized that what I wanted to do was to write books. I have had twenty five or so published over the past twenty years, mainly for teenagers, written under my pseudonym: Chloe Rayban. Why a pseudonym? I didn’t want our two daughters to be teased at school.
What were the challenges you faced getting started with Manoir La Gozinière?
The roof, the plumbing, the heating, the electrical wiring, the lack of bathrooms, the need for a new kitchen (or two), the jungle we were trying to turn into a garden. Oh, and putting in a swimming pool!
What inspired you to write a book about the place?
The first few months I spent alone in the house. Peter, my husband, was travelling for work. The house was empty and seemed to have slipped back into the 18th Century (when it was built). During the renovations I found various objects that had been lost or hidden or buried by the previous owners. It was as if the house was trying to tell me something. A trip to the Departmental Archives uncovered the family tree of the petit nobles who had lived in the house for two and a half centuries. Each of the objects I’d found seemed to tell me a story about these people from the past. So I wrote the stories down.
What is your book ‘Lost and Found’ all about?
‘Lost and Found’ weaves the stories of the people who have lived in the house into a modern day love story. Julia, the heroine, has inherited the house after the sudden death of her father. She’s had an unhappy love affair in London and arrives in a miserable state. Gradually, the house heals her and she decides to stay on and renovate it. A meeting with her enigmatic neighbour Jacques involves her in a conflict that means she could lose her precious house. In solving this she discovers a lot about herself (and him).
What was your favourite part of writing the book?
Walking through the wood at the end of our land and imagining the voices of the people from the past. Peter, my husband, tells people I’m “talking to trees”.
What tips would you give anyone else looking to get into writing?
Work out what time of day you are at your brightest. Leave the washing up, take the phone off the hook, ignore your email, turn a blind eye to Facebook and use this time to write. You can always catch up on the boring old chores later.
What do you think makes Manoir La Gozinière such a unique and special place to stay?
La Goziniere has a warmth to it that you don’t usually associate with old houses. With its conical tower, long windows, Eighteenth Century paneling and double doorways it’s trying to be a château. But its pigeonnière, rustic
barn and vast attic tell a different story – it’s actually just a farmhouse with pretentions.