Born in Scotland, celebrated chick-lit author, Jenny Colgan studied at Edinburgh University before working for six years in the health service.
During this time she moonlighted as a stand-up comic.
On her website Jenny explains that “I live mostly in France, which sounds show-offy but if you saw our house you would realise it really isn’t.
My husband Andrew is a marine engineer and works a lot round here, and we have three children.
Wallace is four and likes calamari, trampolining and making loud announcements about just how he will run the world when he is Spiderman; Michael-Francis is nearly two and likes singing lalala, tucking bears under his arms and peering dubiously at new food, and Delphie is brand new and likes sleeping and the way the sun moves across the tree leaves.”
Fair enough! On to the important stuff…..
Jenny is the Sunday Times top ten bestselling author of West End Girls, Amanda’s Wedding, Talking to Addison, Looking For Andrew McCarthy, Working Wonders, Do You Remember the First Time? Where Have All the Boys Gone? and Operation Sunshine.
She has written short stories for Girls Night In, Tart Noir and Scottish Girls About Town.
Jenny has also worked as a columnist for The Guardian and a regular contributor to BBC Radio 2, 4 and 5, on such programmes as Woman’s Hour, Simon Mayo and Jeremy Vine.
That must make her the poshest person yet to be interviewed at A Taste of Garlic (and likely to stay that way until Carla Bruni answers her email!)
I wanted to ask her what made her whether working for the health service was good practice for being a stand up comedian, whether being a stand up comedian was good practice for moving to France and whether Beryl Brainbridge is in for a good duffing up (you have to be the sort of weirdo who reads the Bookseller to understand that last bit but, believe me, she deserves one!)
1). What prompted the move to France?
Jenny Colgan – Hi there! Well my husband is a marine engineer and there are lots of big yachts down here for him to fix, so it was that really- I can work anywhere, and we wanted somewhere lovely to bring the children up. We were living in the Netherlands before that, which is a great place to live, but the weather was on a par with Scotland so we made the shift.
2). You also maintain a house in London. Which do you prefer, Bangers and Mash or Saucisses Frites?
Jenny Colgan – I know I’m so lucky to get the best of both worlds. In France I love the garden, cycling with the children, cooking on the outdoor oven and going to the beach or skiing; in London I love going to parties and the theatre and catching up with old friends. So we are very lucky. Also I can guarantee at any given point that whatever particular thing I need is in the other flat.
3). What advice would you have for anyone thinking about jacking in a good job, selling the house, packing the wife and kids in the back of the Volvo and moving to France to write chick lit?
Jenny Colgan – I would say do bear in mind the hideous exchange rate! But apart from that, there’s no point in not trying something you really want to do; you only get one life! I tried loads of things before I wrote novels – stand up, poetry, children’s books- and I failed dismally at every single one of them. You just have to keep trying.
4). On a very serious note, you have three children. Will they be brought up as French children or as British children? Or, is there a common place in between the two that provides the best of both worlds?
|Jenny Colgan – It’s a tricky one.
Where we live – on the Riviera – certainly isn’t France profonde; it’s quite possible to get by without speaking any French at all; there’s lots of Italians, Brits, Spaniards, Russians.
It’s not unlike London actually, with the mix of nationalities.
But we want to fit into the local community and the children go to the local school in Juan-les-Pins .
I would love to say, as I heard lots of people telling me before they started, ‘oh yes, they’ll pick it up in no time’ but I will say the four year old started maternelle last year and it took him from September to Christmas to start to get the hang of it and right into summer term to really start to actually speak French.
We read French books at home and they watch French DVDs but it has taken a while. Although Wallace’s accent is absolutely delightful. He says ‘maMONNNG’ and ‘ChanSONNNG’ My French teacher is horrified when he says ‘ouais’ instead of ‘oui’ but I think it’s cute.
I suspect it’s probably the equivalent of sounding like he comes from Somerset. The two year old, Michael-Francis, is at a garderie and I will tell you does not like it one little bit but hopefully he’ll be better prepared when he starts maternelle- Wallace still had a bit of Dutch when he started. And hopefully Delphie will get it all from her big brothers.
Getting two languages is obviously a huge bonus, but I know I’ll find it difficult when they do their childhood reading in French or get onto geography and history- I’ll be unable to help with their homework much earlier than I expected! Plus I need to fit in English lessons on top of everything else.
But I really respect the French system at primary level- our school is is very traditional and has an old fashioned approach to the three Rs which I like a lot. When we get to the secondary stage we may have to have a rethink.
5). Apart from Johnny Hallyday, Johnny Depp and me, who is the sexiest man living in France today (and please don’t say Brad Pitt ‘cos he’ll get all big headed and then he’ll never agree to be interviewed by A Taste of Garlic?)
Jenny Colgan – I think Mathieu Almaric and Vincent Cassel are both foxy in a very gallic fashion.
6). What book most changed your life, and why?
Jenny Colgan – The book that actually had the greatest influence on me is highly embarrassing. By mistake, aged 11, I borrowed Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People from our local library. I realised self-consciousness, while an unavoidable part of adolescence, isn’t really necessary, but good manners always help. It’s helped me immeasurably in life. I think everyone should read it.
7). If the BBC invited you to Desert Island Discs but then told you that, due to cutbacks, it would have to be a rainy afternoon on Canvey Island and, unfortunately you could only take one record, which would it be?
Jenny Colgan – I have a sneaking suspicion it would be some Kate Bush. I never seem to get tired of listening to her.
8). What do you say to people who believe t