Meet the Authors: The Girl in the Baker’s Van by Richard Savin

Today we welcome Richard Savin to Meeting the Authors as we travel to a village in the South of France and the seaside in the South of England. We’ll see how journalism, strong women, Bugs Bunny, and bears align to create the landmarks of Richard’s journey up to this moment in time. Slip on your driving gloves and let’s go …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I started my working career in the City of London, training to be an underwriter; for me it turned out to be the world’s most tedious job. It was a compromise and after three years I quit.

From there I moved into journalism, my real love. Virtually the only channel available to most writers at the time was freelancing and so, as I was then involved in motorsport as an enthusiast club racing driver, naturally cut my teeth on articles for magazines like Autocar and Motorsport. From that stepping stone I landed a job as an agency journalist, working in the Middle East and Asia for a number of years before ending up as features editor on an education tabloid in Surrey.

In the 1980s I took a break from writing and threw myself into another of my passions: I opened and cheffed my first London restaurant, finally ending up with three.

I live with my wife in the South of France, where we have a house in a village midway between the cities of Narbonne and Carcassonne, and in the South of England where we have a seaside apartment. We commute as the fancy and commitments take us, driving the thousand miles between the two. Driving has always ranked among the great pleasures in life so we rarely do the journey by air.

In which genre do you write?

I write across genres but with a tendency towards recent historical mysteries. In particular I find the thirties and forties an interesting period for the world. Two world wars were shaping social thinking and women were beginning to emerge as an independent force; slowly but it was there. I watched my sisters kick over the boundaries of convention, and as such I write strong, competent women into my plots.

How many published books do you have?

Four with two more scheduled for later this year. My first (non-fiction) was published in 1980 by Canongate: it was autobiographical and recorded my time in Iran during the opening period of the Islamic revolution. It is now out of print but still extensively available in university and public libraries around the world. The other three are all novels and written since 2015.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

Curiously as a child I used to fret over who would write the books after the grownups had died. I was at college when I first started to write. Things like short pieces for the college magazine. Occasionally these were controversial and I was not popular with my tutors. I had made up my mind that I wanted to be a journalist by the age of 17. I started out freelancing then later moved on to become an agency hack.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

Not sure I have one.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

No contest – a brown bear. Bears have such a sense of humour, especially when drunk. It’s not widely known but bears can get quite squiffy in the Autumn when fallen fruit begins to ferment into alcohol on the ground. I always include a reference to a bear somewhere in my novels. If it was good enough for Shakespeare then its good enough for me.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

A table, chair and a laptop.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve recently finished Sebastian Faulks’ ‘Where my heart used to beat.’

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

Cook, drive long distances and go for walks.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

The US Secretary of State for War who wrote to Orville Wright telling him he could see no future either militarily or commercially for his new invention: the aeroplane. I’d like to ask him what he was smoking when he came up with that one!

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

That I can actually get the job done.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

Not any longer; I did in my earlier life and it was certainly useful when writing the Iranian book.

What is the most amusing, crazy or inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

Being alive.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking? Or, what do you do to prepare yourself?

Nothing, I’m a natural blabbermouth.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I’ll let you know when I grow up.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

Bugs Bunny – I’ve always wanted to be able to say ‘what’s up doc’.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

Red Joan – I like Judy Dench as an actor.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

You need treatment’; I’m hallucinating.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

No, everything is random.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

What the hell are you doing here, I don’t have a pet, maybe I need help.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

Anywhere by the sea – I’m attracted to water.

Tell us about your most recent book.

The Girl in the Baker’s Van: set in France in 1941, Evangeline Pfeiffer is on the run; her brother has been arrested by the Gestapo and now they want her. Taking the van from the bakery where she works in Alsace, she heads south for the Pyrenees and escapes into Spain. In Lyon she meets Grainger an SOE agent and asks him to help her get over the mountains. Grainger is reluctant; he has his own mission. Evangeline will have persuade him…

Thanks for joining us on Meeting the Authors Richard. It was incredibly interesting visiting a few of the landmarks along your journey! –Camilla

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