Today I am interviewing Ashley Davidson-Fisher the author of a great new book entitled La Petite Josette En Provence: Children’s Book- Bilingual English and French.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? One day at university, after I had returned to the US from being in France for two years, my college advisor approached me and asked me if I wanted to write a blog/website about my time in Provence as a foreign exchange student. She was interested in using it as a resource to advertise the Cal State student exchange program. I had never blogged or written anything about my life, but I found that I was eager to do it because by writing about my experiences in Provence, I could continue to relive them, and they were two of the best years of my life. So, I started this website called Living in Aix-en-Provence and delved headfirst into writing nearly everything about my time in Provence. I had a unique experience in that I was not a single college student, my husband and four small children came to France with me while I studied there. I spent 9 months working on the website and I got really into it. I absolutely loved it. After it all came together and was finally finished, I was so pleased with the final project. It was the very first time I started to think that I might have a knack at writing.
How long did it take you to write your book? From start to finish, the book took 3.5 years. This was mostly due to me having a full-time job and because my daughter has a teaching job, plus she runs her own freelance business, plus she has other side jobs she does. Also, I am in France and she is California and we weren’t able to meet to work on the project. It was all done by long distance. Additionally, as you can see, my daughter’s work is extremely detailed and one illustration took a lot of work hours for her to do, and there are about 20 illustrations. Once all the illustrations were finalized and I put everything together in the first draft, it took about another 6 months for me to organize it all in the publishing software and come up with the final book. Another factor was that since this was the first time I had ever written a book, a lot of time was spent on research.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? How much I truly love the freedom of working in an environment where the only limit was my imagination!
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? La Petite Josette en Provence is the first book I’ve ever written. No matter how many books I write in the future, I think this one will always be my most favorite because it’s the first one. It’s the one where I learned that I had some creativity in me for writing fiction, the one that taught me about the world of self-publishing, the one that took me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to do something that I had been thinking about doing for a long time. So many new experiences came out of writing and publishing this book that it, undoubtedly, makes it the most special.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they? Keep at it. No matter how long it takes. If it’s your dream just keep it alive. Don’t pressure yourself because you must take the time to form the ideas and then be able to put them down on paper. If you are self-publishing, take the time to investigate everything. Don’t make a time limit. This will just cause too much stress. Above all else, make sure you know what your goals are in writing your book and know who your target audience is. This will help everything else flow.
What do you think makes a good story? One thing that would resonate through all genres would be characters that are believable, that I love, that I can root for and that I can relate to. Now, of course, I don’t mean every character in the book has to be that way and I don’t mean that one character has to embody all four of those, but there must be some sort of realism or attachment to the people that I am reading about. The other thing is that the story takes you away. It makes you forget the real world, even for only a moment, and you are able to get wrapped up in it and just enjoy it.
What was your favorite book as a child? Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, by Eugene Field. In fact, I still have the book. I always loved the beautiful illustrations and the poem.
What made you decide to pick this location to write about? I live in Provence and I went to university here. It’s a place that gets in your soul. There is so much history, so much beauty and so many places here that are amazing and wonderful, but not many people know about them. I chose Les Baux-de-Provence as the village setting of the book because it’s one of my and my husband’s favorite places to visit. In fact, when we have friends and family stay with us, we always take them there, if time allows. There is just something about that village, something that words can’t really describe. It has everything, ruins of an old castle and fort, a beautiful view, cobblestone streets, building that are centuries old, it’s simply, fantastic. It’s a corner of the world that people know about if they’ve been to Provence, but for those who haven’t traveled to this area, it’s something they need to discover.
The illustrations are beautiful in your book. What made you decide on the illustrator for your book? That was, by far, the easiest decision out of all the decisions I made concerning the book. I chose my daughter because she is the most amazing and talented illustrator that I’ve seen. She has a gift for bringing to the canvas exactly what is envisioned in a project. I could describe to her what I was thinking about when it came to the illustrations, and she just knew how to make it all come together. It was, for lack of a better word, like magic. She’s just that good. There was never a shred of doubt or hesitation, I knew she was the one that could bring La Petite and her family alive.
Why did you use French in your current book? Since the story takes place in France, I figured it would be a fun way to incorporate learning the French language with having an adventure in a newly discovered place to visit in the world.
Would this book be useful in the classroom? How so? I definitely believe it would be useful in the classroom and in a multifunctional way. Teachers of young children will find that the sweetness and gentleness of the illustrations and the simple storyline help to guide young children to start speaking and reading in a foreign language. The short words and phrases in French will easily engage young readers, ages 6-11, and pique their interest in learning a new language or help to reinforce a language they already have knowledge in. It also introduces them to a beautiful and historical place in this world.
Do you plan on writing any additional books? Yes, I do, but that has been a recent decision. Originally, when I wrote this book, I made it so that it could either be a stand-alone or part of a series because I wasn’t sure what I was going to do in the future. However, I’ve had an overwhelming response from people either requesting it to be a series or telling me that they would love for it to be a series. I plan on starting the next book at the beginning of the year. I have two different settings in mind but haven’t quite decided which one will be for the second book. I’m in the outline stages right now, so we shall see which new adventure wins out!
Ashley Fisher-Davidson’s Book La Petite Josette En Provence: Children’s Book- Bilingual English and French is available through Amazon at: https://amzn.to/2PphRTs