Alice Calwin finds herself without purpose in life after the death of her mother, whom she’d been caring for following a stroke. Theo Edwards, a literary journalist, has a sour outlook on life, bolstered by his ongoing divorce, and is feeling the pressure to revitalise his column in the newspaper. They encounter one another at a writers’ retreat in France, but Alice’s shameful past and Theo’s deceptive reasons for being there end up affecting them both in very different ways. When someone finally acknowledges their mistakes, is it ever too late to make amends?
Where did the initial idea for Garlic and Gauloises come from?
I lived in France for six years, which inspired me to write a story located there. But I also needed the loneliness and starkness that can accompany living in London (I lived there too), so I used both locations. I had the vision of a rambling chateaux run by a British couple, who advertised it as a retreat for writers and guest house, hence the writing group taking a vacation there. Alice just developed in my imagination, as did Theo, and the story blossomed from there. I let the characters develop and guide me through the story.
What was your favourite part of writing this book?
I loved developing the cast of characters – they all brought me much joy in so many ways, albeit tinged with a soupcon of sadness. That’s why a writers’ retreat was a dream to write, as I could have a diverse group of people who perhaps would not normally meet, all in one location – rather like a play.
I love writing characters with depths of sadness, and flaws that required overcoming. I’m attracted to the arena of mental health due to my background in forensic mental health nursing, and I like the complexities it can bring to a story.
What is your favourite part of being an author?
Removing myself from reality and immersing myself in a world born from my imagination. I love devising new characters, or developing ones that are part of my crime series. People fascinate me, which is why I’m usually people-watching when out and about. Some people would just call me nosey.
I also love the solitude, although that can be hard to find with a semi-retired husband in the house, and when my daughters return home from university for the holidays.
What made you decide to set this book in France?
After living in the south of France for six years, I have a love and affinity for the country and the people. I lived in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, although I did visit Bordeaux which I felt was a more fitting setting for the story. I still love France, and was deeply saddened by recent terrorist atrocities.
What is your favourite place in France? (if you’ve ever been!)
Oh tough question, as there are many places I love. Paris offers so many cultural delights, Aix-en-Provence and Marseille were my homes for a few years (between the age of 16 and 21, hence my 18th and 21st birthdays were celebrated in France – oh the memories) However, I will answer your question by saying Juan-les-Pins as it was the first beach I braved sunbathing topless with a female French friend who encouraged me!
Are you writing another book?
I’m currently writing the fifth book in my DI Eva Wednesday crime series. I enjoy writing two genres as I believe it keeps my mind and my writing fresh.
Are you a planner or a panther?
Crime novels take a lot of planning – I use a mind map to keep track of characters and their movements, especially with regards to the crimes that take place. I have to do a lot of research with regards to the method of killing someone – I have a pile of books on poisons and forensic methods next to my bed, and my search history on my laptop is quite eye-opening. My husband believes if he dies suddenly, I would be the first suspect thanks to my reading material and research history!
If you had to describe your book in 140 characters (a tweet) how would you describe it?
Garlic & Gauloises – set in London & France. When someone finally acknowledges their mistakes, is it ever too late to make amends? #women’scontemporaryfiction
Hemmie Martin spent most of her professional life as a Community Nurse for people with learning disabilities, a Family Planning Nurse, and a Forensic Mental Health Nurse working with young offenders. She spent six years living in the south of France. She now writes full time.
Hemmie created the DI Wednesday series, featuring DI Eva Wednesday and DS Jacob Lennox, set in and around Cambridge, with fictional villages. There are four books in the series so far. Hemmie has also written a psychological thriller, Attic of the Mind, and two contemporary women’s fiction, The Divine Pumpkin and Garlic & Gauloises. Mental health often features in her novels due to her background of forensic mental health nursing. Hemmie is a member of The Crime Writer’s Association.
You can find out more about Hemmie and her work on her website (here),
Twitter account (here)or
Facebook page (here).