Susie Kelly has lived in south-west France since 1995 and is currently surrogate mother to two pgymy goats, two dogs, one parrot, three French hens and a partridge in a pear tree. She loves travelling, writing, reading and cares about human rights and animal welfare. The qualities she most values in other people are courage, compassion, loyalty and a sense of humour. She is the author of 6 books about her life and travels in France, plus a memoir about growing up in Kenya, published by Transworld and Blackbird Digital Books.
We were delighted to talk to Susie about her life and her writing.
What initially attracted you to France as a place to live and which region did you select and why?
At school, when I was twelve, during a French lesson we listened to Edith Piaf singing Je Ne Regrette Rien. Although I lived thousands of miles away from France, in Kenya, I promised myself that one day I would live in the country where they sang like that.
When we decided to move to France, we wanted to live in a region with a temperate climate and easy access to England and our children. The Poitou-Charentes offers both.
In Travels With Tinkerbelle you drove 6,000 miles around the circumference of France, l’hexagone as the French call it, and in Best Foot Forward you walked solo from La Rochelle to Lake Geneva 500 miles across the centre. You know the country more than most! So what is your favourite destination in France for your own holidays?
Our holiday choices are governed by our dogs – we want to go somewhere they can enjoy the freedom to run and enjoy themselves, so we head for the coast. The beaches of Brittany are glorious when the weather is good, and the Atlantic coast south of Arcachon is magnificent.
We see from your books you are passionate about food and a vegetarian. Do you have a favourite restaurant in France?
There are so many to choose from. But for quality and price, Le Bistrot du Boucher chain never disappoints. It’s an odd choice for vegetarians – The Butcher’s Restaurant – but we generally find something suitable on the menu, or they will prepare a vegetarian dish for us.
Would you recommend France as a retirement destination in today’s Euro/economic climate?
I wouldn’t let the current economic situation influence me. Nothing is certain except death and taxes! Property prices are very low now, it’s a good time to buy. The quality of life here is excellent, as is health care.
When did you start writing your travel books and how did you go about getting them published?
I self-published my first book Best Foot Forward after collecting 40 rejections. I gathered some good reviews and approached the wonderful, much-missed agent Maggie Noach, who sold the book within three weeks to Transworld Publishers. She subsequently sold another two titles for me. After Maggie died I was delighted when Blackbird Digital Books picked up The Valley of Heaven and Hell. They now publish all-but-one of my titles in paperback and digital format.
Do you have any hot tips for aspiring travel writers in the 50+ age group?
Forget the popular tourist destinations. They’ve been written about ad nauseam. Go and explore lesser-known parts. It’s far more fun to discover places and people for yourself, rather than following in the footsteps of others. And the slower you travel, the more you enjoy.