Saturday 19 January 2013


My guest today is an actress and writer and now an olive farmer in one of the most beautiful parts of France where she and her husband almost single-handed rebuilt and ran a farm, making it a success and the source of much heartache and joy. She has also written nearly twenty books, several on the trials and tribulations of olive growing. She also acts in her spare time!

I first saw her on TV when she played Helen Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small and I can tell you that she hasn’t changed one bit. It must be all that olive oil!

As you must have guessed by now, my guest is the wonderful Carol Drinkwater.


Carol, An olive farm? From a vet’s wife to the life of a farmer…. Was that knowledgably courageous, or blind wishful thinking? How did it start?

It began in Australia where I was in Sydney filming a mini-series for children. There I met the French executive producer of the show who asked me to marry him on our first date! I did not accept, of course but we began to spend time together in Europe, and when he was visiting Cannes for the TV festival I accompanied him. I had been looking for a house by the sea for over a decade and while he was working, I went searching. That was how we found the ruin that has been transformed into the Olive Farm.

Most people remember you as being James Herriot’s wife in the wonderful TV series, but I know you are also a prolific writer. When did you start putting pen to paper and what inspired you to write?

I have written since I was a girl but it was Michel, the man who became my husband and fellow olive farmer, who encouraged me to give it a professional go.

Do you prefer writing about fact, or fiction?

Fact and fiction; whether for adolescents and adult is irrelevant. It is whether I am passionate about the subject that counts.

Are you disciplined as a writer and do you have a set routine and preferred place to write?

When I’m involved in it, I am very disciplined but getting myself to begin a book, or project takes some rod iron back-beating sometimes.
I work from my den at the Olive Farm or if I am travelling then, wherever I am...

Did b
eing an actress, used to working with fictional characters help or hamper your writing?

All experience in telling stories, playing roles always helps.

Do you write for a specific audience, or on subjects that inspire you?

As I said, I write on subjects that inspire me. I find the subject then draws in its own audience.

The Olive series is wonderful to read and has all the best of Gerald Durrell and Peter Mayle’s Year in Provence. Will there be more in the series?

I hope there will be another. I am waiting for my publishers to agree!

Do you still get a thrill out of acting?

Of course!

What are your current projects, both in acting and in writing?

I have so much on the go at present. We are currently completing five luscious, super high definition documentaries based on two of my Olive books: The Olive Route and The Olive Tree. These two recount my travels round the Mediterranean in quest of stories and adventures related to the olive tree and its history and cultivation. I will go to America and Ireland to promote these.
I am writing another adolescent book in the My Story series for Scholastic and I have an adult novel in early stages.
The Olive RouteThe Olive Tree

What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Work hard!

Did you ever meet James Herriot and do you keep in touch with the All Creatures Great and Small team?

Yes, I met him – Alf Wight – on many occasions. We four see each other from time to time but we are all very involved in our present lives.

Do you have a favourite anecdote about your time as a vet’s wife?

Many, though they’d be a bit long to tell here. Many incidents made us giggle . Peter played tricks on Robert Hardy sometimes, as though they were brothers. He jumped out of a wardrobe as Superman and RH nearly jumped out of his skin. Chris as James smashed up a car when he was saying goodbye to Helen/Carl, by driving it into a barn.

If a film was made of your life, who would you like to play your part?

No idea. I used to joke and say Whitney Houston but…, It seems an unlikely possibility to me unless the Olive Farm was made into a feature film and then I would have rather liked it to have been Kate Winslett, but she is probably a bit too famous now!

One last question. What is one thing would you like to achieve during the next 5 years?

ONE thing?! There is a long list… I would LOVE to find a wonderful acting role that would challenge me for TV or film. I miss acting as much as I am always excited by my own writing projects

Carol, it’s been a pleasure talking to you and thank you so much for your time, as well as for agreeing to meet my blog community.
You can read all about Carol’s books on her excellent website at 


  1. Oh, wow, I am the first to comment! I am a fan. I devoured Carol's books about her life in France, while settling into my new life in Cyprus. I could relate to several things, and loved how she expressed herself. I also felt deeply for her during the sad moments.

    Richard, most jealous you pinned down such a fantastic guest! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Many thanks, Glynis.
      Lovely comments about a lovely lady. It was a treat talking with Carol.... as it always is talking with you!

  2. Wonderful interview, Richard, and a real joy to read. Great work, both!

    1. Many thanks, Marit. I'll pass your comment on to Carol, though she may already have seen it!

  3. Well done Carol - from another Carol! I remember you as James Herriot's 'wife' - what a great series that was! Hope the books do well for you - and I agree, beginning a story IS the hardest thing. But then, so is the middle, and the end! Hahaha. Enjoyed reading this, Richard. I shall expect some good refreshments next week!!

    1. Hi Carol H! I'll pass your comment on to Carol D as she's in London this weekend and may not have seen it. yet.
      Very much looking forward to interview next Saturday. The coffee's already being ground and I'm sampling the biccies!
      Can't wait.

  4. I love the olive books. My mom was reading them while she was moving house. I would get there expecting to see her busy packing, but she would be sitting reading & say sheepishly, "I just wanted to see what Carol was up to!"
    My step-mom grows olives (in South Africa) and often uses Carol's books as a point of reference.
    Very inspiration lady, that Carol. :)

  5. Hi Nicola. Many thanks for the comment. I know Carol's trying to log in, but having problems on her smartphone as she travels. Carol has achieved so much in so many different ways since her days as a vet's wife!

  6. What a fantastic interview and what a fascinating life. Carol comes over as such an interesting "well-rounded" person. And of course she lives in the right place!

  7. I totally agree, Cameron.... on all points!