Q&A with Carol Drinkwater – author of The Forgotten Summer

Carol Drinkwater

Carol Drinkwater

Q: Tangled relationships permeate your book. Is that born out of a personal experience?

A: I think everything is born out of some personal experience, yes, although the particular entanglements depicted in this book are not my own. The depth of love Jane feels for Luc is born of my love for my husband, Michel, although I did not meet him until my early thirties. So, it is a bit of reality fleshed out with imagination and/or observations.

Q: The Cambon family are former Algerian settlers also known as ‘Pieds Noirs’. Why did you choose this particular aspect of French history?

A: I was travelling through Algeria for my Mediterranean travel memoir The Olive Tree. There I saw all these stunning abandoned vineyards with crumbing mansions and I learned that they had belonged to French ex-pats, known as Pieds Noirs. When they fled for their lives at the end of the Algerian War of Independence, these properties were left standing empty and remained so for many years. The images haunted me, stayed with me long after I had completed the book I was there to write. I wondered what had happened to all those families. When I began to research the history I discovered that most took refuge in France and that they were very unpopular with the mainlanders. It set the seed of the story for me.

Q: Clarisse Cambon is the mother in law from hell. Is her character completely fictional?

A: Yes. I have never known anyone who resembles her. She does have redeeeming qualities though, I like to think. She has great inner strength, until it fails her. She has had a tough set of cards to negotiate and she has her own very individual integrity, I believe.

Q: Jane is a difficult character to like at first, because of her somewhat lack of courage to confront her mother in law. What purpose did you want to achieve by making her so?

A: I am not aware of this. That she is not likeable at first. She grows through the book, through her experience and her losses. THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER is intended as a story of growth, regeneration and forgiveness/healing. So, she could not start where she was going to end up, if you see what I mean. She suffered early trauma and that has created a vulnerability within her.

Q: Even with all her flaws, once the whole truth is known about the Cambon family past, one cannot help but feel a tinge of sadness toward Clarisse. Why was it necessary for her to have those redeeming features?

A: All characters if they are not to be two dimensional need redeeming features. I love her. I intend for you to feel empathy with her later in the book. Many readers tell me that her outcome (which I won’t mention here) makes them weep. I wept when I was finished with her.

Q: Dementia is becoming quite prevalent in old people and it is one of the topics in the book. How familiar are you with the disease?

A: I researched the subject in great detail. I have never personally been involved with anyone at close range who has dementia, but it fascinates me as a disease. I am also deeply interested in its growth rate and what is causing it. Many say because we are living longer but I have other thoughts on this subject. I am fascinated by the vulnerable state dementia leaves us in. There is nothing I fear more than the loss of my mind and my ability to function autonomously.

Q: Women dominate the narrative in your book. As a female writer, is it easier to write about women than it is men?

A: Women dominate my books because I am a woman and because there are more than enough male writers creating male characters. I love women and the intricacies of their inner selves. I want to write about women; I am impelled to. The book I am writing now also has two female protagonists. It is not a conscious decision; it seems to be how it plays out for me and my stories. At the moment, that is, but it could all change. That is one of the joys of writing. I choose who exists in the universes. It might also be, looking at it from a Jungian point of view, that these are various sides of me. Who knows?!

Q: You live a charmed life in France. What will you say is the secret of a happy marriage?

A: Do I have a charmed life? I work exceedingly long hours. My husband and I are frequently apart (which might be the secret to a happy marriage!). I could not afford to stop work even if iI wanted to. Fortunately, I love what I do. I love my husband though we have had some very difficult patches in our marriage, but we have weathered them. I believe in sticking at things;I don’t quit when it gets tough. Of course if I think something/a project will never work then I might be forced to give it up. M and I are both loyal and because we are apart a fair amount, trust is an imperative. We have also learned to give each other the space each needs to be an individual.

Q: What advice would you give women who cannot have children and believe they will never be happy because of it?

A: I was there. I believed that I was an incomplete woman because I was never going to be a mother. I have worked through that. Acceptance is important and then looking about to see what you do have rather than dwelling on the negatives. It is a BIG issue. It takes a lot of coming to terms with. Hopefully, you have a partner who supports you and loves you for who you are and not what you might have delivered to the marriage. The world is full of lost and parentless children If parenthood is an essential then open your heart to some poor child who needs you. We considered adoption but eventually I/we chose to live our lives the way we do. M has daughters from a first marriage so it was not a visceral need for him, to be a father again. I still occasionally wonder what a child born of M and I would have been like, but I am content. I don’t dwell on it. I have made a life and given those energies to others in very different ways.

Q: You are a prolific writer and an award-winning actress, what is your next project?

A: I am at work on a new novel also for Penguin. We are planting up new olive groves and next year an almond grove and I have a couple of other ideas/schemes/projects up my sleeve. I also want to do lots more travelling. Food for future books and/or films.

Thank you for choosing to read THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER. I am honoured and really hope you enjoy it.


Discussions on The Forgotten Summer will begin on Monday August 1st. Here is the link to the forum where the discussions will take place.

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