We are happy to welcome Sylvie Granotier—author, actress, traveler—to this blog. She wrote La Rigole du Diable, which is now being translated. Here, she talks a little about what has influenced her life as a writer: growing up in several places, her father’s death, an encounter with Grace Paley, and finally settling down between Paris and Creuse, a remote area in central France and the setting for her latest novel.
I spent my childhood in Paris, my early teenage years in Morocco, and when we finally settled in Paris, I had unwittingly become a nomad.
At the age of 16, I passed my baccalauréat [French secondary education final examination, marking the end of high school]. The same year I won a first prize as a budding stage actress. Still, I had to earn a living because I had decided to live on my own and go to university, so I did odd jobs—supermarket cashier, bank clerk, teacher, babysitter. I studied a bit of philosophy, a bit of law and mainly French literature.
My father died in his forties, and as if an anchor had broken, I went on the road.
I fell in love with an American, who is still my closest friend, and we lived together for seven years. We lived in New York and San Francisco, had a spell in Afghanistan, and then came back to Paris where I became a model. That made traveling easier. I worked all over Europe, spent some time in Brazil and finally, totally by chance, because the director had seen my picture as a model, I was offered a part in a TV film. I hated modeling and was ecstatic to be back where I had started: acting. I acted on stage and did a lot of movies.
My life was soon to change again.
I had read Grace Paley’s short stories while in the States. She had never been translated into French. I wanted to do a stage adaptation and began by translating her in French. Well, I ended up doing the whole book Enormous Changes at the Last Minute. My translation got published and Grace came to Paris.
I admired and loved her even before meeting her, so when she seemed to like my small apartment better than a hotel, I was overjoyed to sleep on my couch and spend so much unexpected time with her.
I had never dared even think of becoming a writer, yet suddenly, the idea of producing a small pebble seemed possible. The dare—there always is one, I think—was to write a thriller, one of those books I loved, a page-turner that cures you for a few hours of all the worries and anxieties that darken our days and nights. Grace flew back to New York and I started my first novel: Courrier Posthume. Writing and getting published was hard work, but I loved every minute of it. I felt I now knew where I truly belonged.
Meanwhile I met my husband, a great stage actor, and we had two boys who are now both students—one in acting, the other in graphic arts. My husband and I are now separated, but I still admire and like him enormously.
So I wrote novels, went on acting, though less when the kids were small, and I got more and more engrossed in the process of inventing stories, finding the right way to tell them. From time to time I work on film scripts, because I love movies, but I’m very cautious. They demand a lot of time and energy, the same kind I need for my novels, which remain my priority.
I’ve published fourteen novels, written many short stories for magazines, and three years ago, I bought my house in Creuse. I’ve lived in Paris most of my life, and never tire of its beauty. My friends are here, my agent, my publisher. I love its museums and galleries, its numerous bookstores, the amazing variety it offers in terms of movies and plays. In Creuse, I’m in the middle of nowhere, a nowhere filled with nature both tamed and wild. I fell in love with that part of France 18 years ago. It is the only place, I felt, that could make this nomad sedentary. As with writing, I feel I belong in that mysterious place. Time flows at its own pace, nature overpowers our attempts to discipline it, it puts life back in the right perspective, for me at least.