Escape to France this weekend with a Sunday book launch at Bungalow, in the Estevan Village.
Oak Bay author Laura Bradbury takes readers back to the beginning with her latest title, My Grape Year, the third in her Grape series but the start of the story she’s been weaving, to the delight of fans.
Crediting a writer’s brain, “I’m not a very linear thinker,” Bradbury acknowledges. “I just wrote the story that was speaking to me (at that time).”
Bradbury’s first book, My Grape Escape, follows a 26-year-old newlywed, who while on the path to a prestigious legal career in London, instead opts to buy a decrepit, revolution-era ruin in the tiny Burgundian village of Magny-les-Villers with her French husband. My Grape Village, set five years later, finds Laura and Franck back in Burgundy to tackle their newest and rather daunting project, a derelict 16th-century winemaker’s cottage behind Franck’s family home, and this time, they do it with two preschool daughters in tow.
Now, in My Grape Year Bradbury goes back to the beginning, when after a last-minute twist of fate, she’s sent to Burgundy, France for a year on an international student exchange. “She arrives knowing only a smattering of French and with no idea what to expect in her first foray out of North America. With a head full of dreams, Laura falls head over heels in love with a charming Frenchman. Does she decide to follow the rules or follow her heart?”
While Bradbury had always wanted to write, full-time work in the family business, three children and a fear of putting her words out there for everyone to see conspired to prevent her pursuing it seriously. Then, 3 1/2 years ago, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune liver disease that sidelined her from work while she awaits a transplant, news that put her fears of writing into perspective.
“They day after I was diagnosed, I sat down and started writing My Grape Escape,” recalls the second-generation Oak Bay resident.
With the book finished in 11 months, Bradbury didn’t want to wait for the lengthy process of working through the traditional publishing process, so opted to self-publish, enjoying the business side of the job as well.
Meeting with a receptive audience, the book hit No. 1 in the France section of Amazon.com, which also includes a lot of traditionally published titles as well, she notes.
Bradbury also appreciated the freedom self-publishing provides. While several publishers had expressed interest in the book, they advised her that certain truths – such as her battle with anxiety – wouldn’t play well with readers. It seems they were wrong.
“I think there’s a lot of honesty and vulnerability in there (that resonates with readers),” she says, noting the letters she receives express thanks for talking about those tougher topics. “Defintely, that’s what keeps coming back from readers.”
Of course, there’s also Burgundy, wine, cheese and a whole host of colourful characters. “I do try to make them real page-turners,” Bradbury says.
From a personal perspective, “it’s really been a lifeline for me.”
In addition to the Grape series, Bradbury has also published a book of anecdotes and funny conversations between her daughter and niece, shared in a minivan on the way to preschool.
“I just started to pay attention to the little things, the little joys and sorrows,” she says.
Today, the author is working on a paranormal romance she started a decade ago and, for fans of the Grape series, don’t be surprised if more tales are still to come, says Bradbury, who is currently working on a tale of a certain Grape wedding and remains intrigued with France. “We still have four vacation rentals in Burgundy and we try to go back and forth as much as we can,” she says.
Join Bradbury at Bungalow, 2525 Estevan Ave., on Sunday, Nov. 8, from 2 to 4 p.m.
For information about Bradbury, visit laurabradbury.com