Cynthea Gregory

Cynthea Gregory began her career teaching Design and Technology in Secondary Schools. She left teaching and moved to France with her husband, where she ran a holiday cottage and bed and breakfast business.

In France, three of her cookbooks were published in French. She created all the recipes and took the accompanying photographs.

Cynthea is a great explorer and adventurer. She considers herself a perpetual student of the world. Her imagination became fired-up whilst holidaying in the West Indies. Events she became privileged to led her to write her first novel, ‘A Little Slice of Paradise’. This crime novel, with a hint of romance, was self-published in August 2019.

She now lives in East Devon with her husband. Her days are filled with working on her books, exploring the magnificent locality, dabbling in painting watercolours, photography and cookery.

How on earth did I get involved with writing? It’s excessively time consuming. It’s extremely hard work . And unless you are very lucky, not financially rewarding. I’ve never been the type of person who wins the Lottery or a raffle.

But, on the other hand, I suppose I could say I’ve been fairly lucky in what life has doled out to me. One of the most exciting things that happened in my life was going to live in the centre of France for twenty one years. It was there that I encountered goats, well, goats in large numbers for the first time.  And it was because of goats that I started writing.

I need to fill you in on a bit of the background.  My husband was offered a job in France. To cut a long story short, we both moved out to the Loire Valley, lock, stock and barrel. Now living abroad, as some of you will know, isn’t easy. You have left all your family and friends behind. You have to make a real effort to make new contacts. And that can be a struggle when you only speak a few words of French. So, one of the first battles I had to face was to learn ‘la langue Française’. I was not the type of person who would feel happy being left alone most days with nothing to do. So, I took myself off to a Language School.  It took around two years of determined study to get my brain around the language, and be sufficiently proficient to be able to hold my own in an everyday conversation.

With the ability to converse in French, came the contacts and the friends and seeing the possibilities of work in our foreign environment.  Eventually, we moved to a former farmhouse, with the idea that I set up a holiday cottage and a Bed and Breakfast.  That was when the hard work really began. The transformation of old, dilapidated buildings was an extraordinary back-breaking task requiring vision, motivation and, above all, determination.  Many will have a notion, from the media, of the toil involved in transforming run-down homes of any size.

What has all this got to do with writing and goats, you might ask?  As anybody who has been involved with the tourist industry will know, B&B is manic during the warm months of the year; you don’t have a minute to yourself. Then, there’s little to do in the winter time.  This became the period of the year when I explored. Exploration led me to discover I lived in a region full of goats. In fact, it was renowned throughout France for its mild, delicious goats’ cheese. And, for someone with a B&B this was a very useful revelation. My clients would, and did, love it. However, other than putting it on the breakfast table, what else would I do with it? The few local recipe books which were then available were full of boring, traditional recipes. Not to my taste at all. So, you’ve got it! I made the decision to write my own. Hence, goats being the reason why I ventured into the world of writing.

After researching the market, I soon discovered why there were so few recipe books for the Ste Maure de Touraine goats’ cheese.  It was an extremely long-drawn out affair creating recipes, taking photos of each dish and writing them up in French. But, it was a challenge. And I’m one of those who can’t say ‘no’ to a challenge. I love taking photographs. So that was it. Just go for it!

About a year and a half later, I was able to start sending out digital copies of my cookbook manuscript and photos to French publishers. To my absolute amazement, I received an acceptance from the eighth company that I had sent my work to. I was invited to meet with them to discuss publishing my cookery book. You can imagine, I was light-headed with joy during the interview. Undoubtedly because of my euphoria, I agreed to all the changes they asked for in my collection of recipes. Reduce the number of pages. Take different photographs to accompany some of the dishes. And write a section about all of the AOP goats’ cheeses of France. The ‘Appellation d’ Origine Protégée’ products are food and drink items which have to be produced in a consistent and traditional manner from specified ingredients in designated geographical areas.

This was the start of another adventure. It meant visiting all the regions of France where AOP goats’ cheese was produced. Visiting farms. Chatting to farmers and cheese producers. Studying the various methods of production. Taking many photos; not only of goats, but the beautiful  parts of France where they consumed the grass.  You can imagine, I got to know goats and goat farms extremely well.  Rapidly I became very fond of these animals of immense character; almost as  characterful and spirited as the farmers who were responsible for them. 

Well, that was it really, from then on, I was hooked on writing. Chiefly, I suppose because it opens up a world of discovery; discoveries one can share with others. Other writers who I’ve encountered have said that they find writing a solitary occupation. I disagree.   Whatever I’m writing, I spend quite some time researching – be it fact or fiction.  The periods of unearthing required information, in the main, leads to encountering lots of new acquaintances.