Friday morning, Place des Vosges in Paris.
I am excited as I make my way towards the Place des Vosges.
Sharon Santoni is the author of the blog, My French Country Home and recently published My Stylish French Girlfriends. Sharon and I meet up whenever we can in Paris and regularly chat. We have become great friends through our love of France and our passion for our websites. I think we are kindred spirits in many ways.
Sharon and I have so much to talk about.
One of those conversations where thoughts leapfrog between two, as there is so much to say; I am excited by her book, I want to know all and as many of you know by now, My Stylish French Girlfriends is a super success. Sharon is warm, she is bright but what I love most about her is her dry and cheeky sense of humour. She has lived in France longer than she hasn’t but there is still a strong sense of British about her. Expats are the most fascinating of characters; their sense of self and their origins are never lost and yet they build so many varied layers into their personalities. Sharon is one such woman.
The hours come and go at Carette, our place to meet, and the delicious thé au jasmin refilled as our morning turns into lunch. We talk much about our day-to-day lives in the digital world, what we create and how we can hopefully work together one day. We muse on ageing and how as women, as empty nesters we are blessed to be working each and every day in a world we love. Our energy is focussed into the future and the challenges and excitements we face. We talk about our grown up children because first and foremost we are mothers and mothers always have so much to say to each other. Across oceans, across continents much is the same when it comes to parenting.
That’s what I love about Sharon; she is positive, forward thinking and energising. Her ideas know no limits and her can-do nature makes everything possible.
We talked about her book, the making of it and the memorable experiences – I asked her a few “behind the scenes” questions.
I thought that’s what you would like to know :)
In Conversation With Sharon Santoni
Did you ever imagine yourself being a published author?
Oh my goodness no! I already had a couple of children’s books published, and that was emotional enough, but to imagine that one day I’d be holding a big book full of beautiful photos of my friends!
How did you feel on that first day when you sat down to write?
Definitely a daunting moment! I had a big pile of notepads in front of me, and although I had written tons as I interviewed and spent quality time with each girlfriend before and during the book process, there was certainly a fleeting instant (or two) when I thought that I’d never manage to write well enough to do them all justice
What is your favourite time in the creative process? Was it the interviews with your girlfriends, the photography or putting your text together?
It was hands down the travelling around France and staying with each of the girlfriends. My photographer Franck Schmitt is excellent company, and we laughed a lot as we went, but most of all I was in awe of the way each girlfriend welcomed us into her home and her family life. We were fed delicious meals, led down mountain paths to swim in deep torrents; taken to dinner in beach front restaurants; toured underground champagne cellars; we picnicked with Les Invalides as a backdrop; and walked through woods full of bluebells. Each girl was totally different, and each photo shoot holds special memories.
Did you have any unexpected surprises while photographing the book?
The shoots were full of laughter and fun, and I have hours of video rushes that I filmed while Franck was taking the pictures, so there are many happy moments that I can revisit whenever I wish. I particularly remember the husband of one of the girlfriends, a very good-looking man, very stylish. I asked him if he’d pose with his wife for a portrait shot. He replied “Non”, and proclaimed that it was impossible to take a decent picture of him. I presumed that he was joking, or maybe fishing for compliments, and ignoring his protests, coaxed him into the shoot …….would you believe that we tried for almost two hours to take his picture?!. The results were hilarious, and he was right! Not one single photo that we could use! I have video of us all (including him!) literally bent over in two as we look at the pictures with tears streaming down our cheeks
Did you find the balance between home, family life and work a challenge with the addition of the book?
I am very lucky to have a family that supports me in everything I do – I often say that my kids are pleased I have the blog and the book because it means I am not on their back! My husband is a star, and while I was travelling for photo shoots, he took over the day-to-day running of the house without a hitch. Without their encouragement, I don’t think the blog would exist.
Does, My Stylish French Girlfriends in print feel the way you imagined it would?
I knew it was going to be a big book, but I hadn’t expected it to feel as heavy and luxurious as it does. I am thrilled with the way the Gibbs Smith team handled the page lay out and design, and very grateful that they let me help choose the pictures for each girl; definitely a specialized area of expertise.
I have to ask,
If I spent the day with you in Paris, where would be our first stop?
Breakfast at Le Meurice, you cannot beat the kindness of their staff and the delicious feeling of being pampered in their luxurious décor – I don’t often hang out in palaces, but this one is definitely my favourite!
I’d swap your designer loafers for a pair of boots and take you for a walk in the forest with the dogs rushing ahead, and we’d walk and talk for a couple of hours, surrounded by beauty and fresh air.
Your favourite interior designer?
May I have a garden designer instead? …. I often visit the Jardin des Agapanthes, not far from me in Normandy, because I am in awe of Alexandre Thomas’s eye for landscape design … I try to go each season and I’m actually going back there with a friend next week.
Your favourite floral creator?
That’s easy, my girlfriend Clarisse Béraud at Atelier Vertumne in Paris, wonderful talent combined with the sweetest nature.
The latest interior design book you read?
Brook Giannetti’s, Patina Style – just love the way she blends Californian living with antique European furniture.
If you haven’t already read Sharon’s, My Stylish French Girlfriends, you are in for a really wonderful treat. xv
Getting to Know Sharonmy stylish french girlfriends by sharon santoni