Bestseller Katie Fforde's life is a family affair
When I catch up with Katie Fforde she's in the throes of helping her sister find a house in the Cotswolds.
Although she's only moving from Oxford it's providing fascinating material for Katie's next work in progress, which is going to be all about estate agents, the spirited, flirtatious Kirsty Allsop and Phil Spencer kind, she confides.
Katie is looking forward to having her only sister on hand for big family get-togethers, something she loves, as two of her children and her adorable grandchildren all live nearby too.
The successful author, who lives in Rodborough, first started writing as a young mum while her children were fast asleep and now she's relishing her role as a grandmother to Otis, three, Tallulah, one, and Teo, 18 months.
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Katie's daughter, Briony – who works for Stroud Valleys Artspace – lives just down the road and her son Frank, who is a chef, lives in Tintern, in the Wye Valley so she gets to see plenty of the favourite people in her life.
"Some people's grandchildren are away in New Zealand so I feel very lucky," she admits.
"It's very different being a grandmother than a mother. If Tallulah starts opening all the cupboards and getting everything out all over the floor I think it's fine, but when you're a mother it isn't the same.
"I just think it's rather sweet."
Katie was brought up and married in Wimbledon but has lived in Gloucestershire for more than 30 years. She moved into the family home, where she writes her best-selling novels, with her husband, Desmond. They had two young boys and Briony came along shortly afterwards.
To celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, the couple are travelling to Australia and New Zealand for two months in the spring. Katie's husband was in the Merchant Navy and spent a lot of time there as a young man and they are looking forward to going back together.
"It's very exciting," Katie says. "It'll be my first time and a trip of a lifetime. I'm doing some literary events while I'm there. I won't know until I get there if I've got any Australian fans. I'm not sure anyone will come or if anyone's even heard of me over there."
Katie's first novel Living Dangerously was published in 1995 and she is busy writing number 20.
This week, she won the Contemporary category of the Romantic Novelists' Association's annual awards for her novel Recipe of Love. It has been put forward for the 2013 Romantic Novel of the Year award which will be announced on May 16.
Katie's new book, A French Affair, was published on Thursday, and tells the tale of Gina and Sally Makepiece who have inherited an antiques centre in the heart of the English countryside, something they know nothing about.
And of course, like all of Katie's novels, there is an intriguing love interest as Gina is determined to drag the French House and its grumpy owner, Matthew, into the 21st century.
"I've wanted to write a book about antiques for a long time," Katie says. "I ended up writing about auction houses in Flora's Lot but always wanted to write about antiques.
"It was only when I started that I realised what a big subject it was, there are so many of them, and then I started to feel I didn't really want to write this story at all."
It was only when Katie met a PR who told her about an antiques business she had taken on with her sister, that she changed her mind.
"I thought it was a wonderful story and a lovely idea for a book," she said.
Part of the narrative is set in France and Katie wrote it while she was on a writers' retreat near Bergerac.
"I really like to go away, preferably with other writers, as you don't have to answer the phone, open the post or take the dogs out," she says. "You can't do anything except write and in the evenings you get together and talk about what you're writing.
"It's always very inspiring."
A French Affair by Katie Fforde is published in hardback by Century and costs £16.99. It's also available as an eBook.