The Writing Life of: Beth Haslam
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Beth Haslam. Beth will be sharing with us detail of her writing life, telling us all about her first book ‘Fat Dogs and French Estates – Part 1‘, which was re-released on 25th November 2018 (her latest book is Fat Dogs and French Estates Part IV) and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Beth Haslam was brought up on an estate in Wales. Deep in the countryside, her childhood was spent either on horseback, helping the gamekeepers raise pheasants, or out sailing.
A serious car crash in 1991 ended Beth’s full time career, so she set up her own Human Resources consultancy business. As semi-retirement beckoned, Beth and her husband, Jack, decided to buy a second home in France. This has become a life-changing event where computers and mobile phones have swapped places with understanding French customs, and wrestling with the local dialect.
Beth is now occupied as never before. Raising and saving animals, writing, and embracing everything that rural France has to offer.
She’s loving it!
1) As a child did you have a dream job in mind?
Absolutely. A jockey. Almost born on a horse, I grew up wanting to ride like the wind. Sadly, my aspiration didn’t last long. Worried I might get too fat to make the weight (jockeys have to be pretty skinny), I would sit in a hot steamy bath for ages. One day my mum caught on. “Darling,” she said, “you’re looking like a boiled shrimp again. Why not think about a different career?” I did.
2) Who was your favourite childhood author (s)?
That’s a tricky one. I guess it has to be Anna Sewell for her Black Beauty series and Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five stories. Their venturesome natures, accompanied by Timmy, the dog, gripped me from an early age.
3) Was there a particular point in your life that you realised you wanted to be a writer?
Not especially. Although I have always found writing compelling, work got in the way and tempered my early enthusiasm. When my career took a different path, I made sure it included the opportunity to write.
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any special routines, word count, etc?
I am a naturally routine-driven person, so I try to stick to a schedule. Try being the operative word. We share our lives with several animals. Each has an entirely different agenda to the others, none of which seem to include staring at me scribbling.
When possible, I’ll work at my desk for around two hours in the morning. Brutus, head mouser, will be purring on his cushion next to the keyboard. He’s a pawsome sounding board. Once the afternoon chores are done, in the summertime I’ll write outside in a shady spot, during the winter it’ll be at the kitchen table. I’m always surrounded by dogs on these sessions. There’s no word count target, I just go with the flow.
5) How many books have you written? Any unpublished work?
I have seven published books and am working on the eighth, which is as yet unpublished.
6) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
When I’m writing, I’m a plotter. The very thought of starting a book without a detailed chapter plan would bring me out in hives. Outside of that, yep – quite a lot of pantsering goes on. It has to in our part of France, as unexpected things happen on an uncannily regular basis.
Concerning your book:
Publisher – Ant Press
Pages – 234
Re-Release Date – 25th November 2018
ISBN 13 – 978-1505998283
Format – ebook, paperback
Buying a country estate in France seemed such a simple thing to accomplish. When Beth, her irascible husband Jack, and their two fat dogs set off, little do they know that it will become such an extraordinary adventure. Surviving near-death experiences, they drive thousands of kilometres around French estates steeped in history and crazy aristocrats.
Will they find their dream home, or return to Britain defeated?
This is the hilarious first instalment in the Fat Dogs series.
7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
Fat Dogs and French Estates Part 1 is a memoir. The primary research came from recording our experiences before, and as we lived them. Afterwards, I learned more about each of the key locations we visited. It’s been a great learning process.
8) How long did it take to go from ideas stage to writing the last word?
Actually, it wasn’t a planned process. As we staggered from one bizarre situation to another, my husband eventually said “You know, you should write about this.” and that’s how the series began. The first draft took about four months to write, the editing, much longer.
9) How did you come up with the title of your book?
Our two portly dogs accompanied us on our domaine-hunting efforts in France. I wanted the title to be fun and descriptive. Fat Dogs and French Estates was the solution.
10) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
Aside from me, there are three main characters. First, my husband, Jack. He’s alarmingly bright, appallingly grumpy and lacks any form of diplomacy. However, a spot of digging under that gruff exterior reveals the most loyal, generous and soppy man I have ever met.
Then there is Sam. He’s an ageing Australian Shepherd we have shared our lives with since he was two months old. Sam is the canine love of my life. Biff is the fourth main character. He’s a Norfolk terrier with an impish demeanour and homicidal tendencies, the much-adored hand-me-down from my mum.
11) What process did you go through to get your book published?
I submitted a synopsis to several publishers and accepted an offer from Ant Press. I have never looked back. They are a fantastic team, and I would encourage any would-be memoir author to make an approach.
12) What’s next for you writing wise?
When our current crop of pheasant juveniles is old enough to fend for themselves, I’ll continue writing Part V in our French adventures.
1) If you could have any super power for the day which would you choose?
Great question! Hm, to fly for a day. I’d zoom all over the place.
2) Do you have any pets?
Oh yes. Aside from two main dogs (plus extras as abandoned mutts come and go), three cats, several chickens and assorted partridges, we have a pet-like relationship with a three-legged male boar (long story) and his family. We’re also currently rearing lots of pheasants. When they’ve passed the teenage stage, we’ll release them into the secure environment of our forest where they’ll live alongside the deer and boar. Life would not be the same without our animals.
3) If you decided to write an autobiography of your life, what would you call it?
Interesting question, I haven’t considered it. It would probably be something like Whiskers, Paws and Boardroom Doors. That just about sums up my life.
4) Your book has been made into a feature film and you’ve been offered a cameo role, which part would you choose, or what would you be doing?
That’s a toughie. I’d probably have to develop a character, perhaps another aide to the Count, our eccentric estate agent. I’d loved to have seen what was going through his aristocratic mind as he showed us yet another disaster.
5) Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Close your eyes and imagine this: A bohemian seaside town. A place where chilled-out surfers smooth over crested waves, seagulls fly sideways in the breeze and breakers crash down on miles and miles of pristine sandy shores. You can find crabs and shrimps in rock pools here too. Beachside bistros radiate character, teasing the senses with wafts of sizzling seafood. Now, open your eyes, and you’re in Capbreton on the south-west coast of France. I adore it.
6) A baseball cap wearing, talking duck casually wanders into your room, what is the first thing he says to you?
I would like to say a big thank you to Beth Haslam for sharing with us details of her writing life and for a wonderful interview.