Camilla very kindly featured me some many months ago on ‘Meeting the Authors’ and so much has happened since that interview, that she suggested I update you all about the two new books I’ve had published, what I’m writing at the moment and a little more about me.
Well, since I was a little girl living in Scotland I have wanted to farm. Having been frustrated in my attempts to attend agricultural college by my parents, I never gave up my dream, but got on with the business of life and put it on the backboiler for many years. After marriage, kids and a string of interesting but not riveting jobs, I divorced and met the most wonderful supportive man. Since we married he has quietly encouraged me to finish my university degree, and then to live my dream, and in 2005, we bought a run-down agricultural bungalow in Cornwall and began smallholding.
Then, I retrained as an agricultural lecturer and landed the most wonderful job, putting together training courses for smallholders and farmers. Still smallholding, I began a small, but successful commercial cider making business on the smallholding, won a prestigious Sustainability Award in Cornwall in 2014. My first book, The Sustainable Smallholders Handbook was published in 2019, my second, How to Live the Good Life in France, in March 2020, just as Covid was beginning to dominate the world, and my third, Living off the Land: My Cornish Smallholding Dream, was published in June 2020.
I began writing as a teenager, but had my first article published in Smallholder Magazine many years ago, when I was living in Cornwall. The thrill of seeing my words in print was matched when readers got in touch directly. I realised there were so many interested readers that I’d be stupid to miss the opportunity of writing a full length non-fiction book. There were so many other smallholding based books, all aimed at teaching people how to keep animals that I wanted to do something different, and the idea of helping people to look at their smallholding or rural business as a business seemed to be the way forward. Yes, it’s a ‘Good Life’, but aspiring smallholders need to appreciate it’s a hard life too. I’m delighted with the success of the book, but as a non-fiction work, realise that updates and coverage of many new situations need included, and so I’m currently aiming to make the new version even more popular.
My book, Living off the Land is autobiographical, and with an introduction of my early and teenage life, quickly moves to Cornwall, and the highs and lows, debt and final success we had on our smallholding. This was a very difficult book to write, as previously non-fiction never really touched on the personal. In this book I lay bare my stormy relationship with my mother, who developed dementia and came to live with us, eventually setting fire to our house one night as we slept. Whilst some members of my family have found it disturbing to read, I have to admit that the process really helped me move on from this incredibly hard period of my life. I have no regrets, and hope my experiences can help anyone else in similar circumstances.
Here in France, lockdown was at first frustrating and to channel my boundless energy, John encouraged me to set a strict pattern of writing every other day. The discipline has been fruitful and has become the ‘norm’ for me now. Current projects are a new and expanded version of my first book, and I’m thoroughly enjoying writing a black comedy set in an agricultural setting in my native Scotland. Who knows what my future career as a writer holds? Meantime, I haven’t given up the ‘Good Life’. Here in SW France I have a small apple orchard, a few walnuts, an acre of woodlands and a field where I keep my beloved sheep. I’ve just started to grow pomegranates, have far too many apple trees, and am trying very hard to resist the idea of getting some ducks.
It was wonderful to learn more about you and your background, Lorraine. Thank you for sharing with us. I’m adding ‘Living off the Land’ to my reading list. It sounds like a great book! Wishing you all the best! – Camilla
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