Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author and hotel manager Geoffrey Paris about his career in the hotel industry, and what inspired him to write his behind the scenes book, More Sauce Madam?
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I come from Shropshire originally but live in Torbay (Devon). I hold an HND qualification in Hotel Management and have spent most of my career as a hotel manager, mainly in the West Country, in 2- to 4-star hotels. I also trained as a chef so – as well as being the manager – I was also able to work in the kitchens as-and-when required, sometimes as Head Chef. Chef experience outside of hotels includes a nursing home, Stoke Mandeville Hospital as a student, and early European experiences in kitchens and restaurants in Germany, and on the paddle steamers on Lake Lucerne, Switzerland.
Following semi-retirement a few years ago, I took up ceramics, which I thoroughly enjoy teaching now( www.geoffparispottery.com) but I missed the hotel trade so much that I now also work as a receptionist at a local hotel.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
After a particularly bad experience as a deputy manager at a local hotel. (I have disguised the identity of the hotel in my book).
When did you take a step to start writing?
Fairly soon after that horrendous experience – while it was still fresh in my memory!
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
15 years! I once forgot my computer password for three years – which slowed things down a bit – and due to the long hours worked in the hotel trade, I was only really able to write on holidays or between jobs. It is thanks to the Covid lockdown that I have completed it.
What were your biggest challenges with writing More Sauce Madam?
Time. Worrying about upsetting some of the friends and former work colleagues I talked about in the book – never mind former employers. I took the unusual step of sending two of my ‘worst’ chapters to a local solicitor (which cost me £1000) who found them very amusing, but said you can’t say this or that, but you can do this … and so on.
So, for people that are still alive, I had to amend the book content slightly if I felt something written would upset them. I also took the step of sending each relevant chapter to former employers going back 20 years in Torbay. They all approved with the exception of one employer that amended the content in case of possible slander to staff.
I also sent the relevant chapters to friends/former work colleagues who are mentioned, a) to get some general feedback, and b) to obtain their approval. They all approved with the exception of two, whose names and most of their stories have been omitted, which is a pity. Apart from these few exceptions, the book gives real names for people and establishments as far as possible.
What was your research process for More Sauce Madam?
My own diaries for accuracy, of course, but I also researched on-line all former work places or sites of interest mentioned, e.g. the Cognac factories in France.
How did you plan the structure of More Sauce Madam?
I just went for it! I have tried to write the style according to my age, so when younger, I’m greener and think a certain way. When mature, and a manager, I think differently. Once into my management career, each chapter more or less represents one hotel.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did More Sauce Madam? need?
I bought the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2021, which was very informative. Acting on its advice, I looked for an appropriate editor and publisher. I didn’t want to choose a big London-based company in case I was treated more like a number, so chose a rural based one called Mereo Books for a more personal approach.
I was very impressed with their editing side, which, for me was fascinating. They cut out repetitive or irrelevant parts, and amended other parts to make them more understandable, which is fair enough – and I am pleased with the cover design, and quality of the finished product.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Go for it! Write or type as you think, just let it flow. Editing/corrections can all come later. Don’t have distractions. I had to have several hours free, be in the right frame of mind, without any worries about time related matters that day, with food and coffee at the ready. And no hangover!
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Well, I have so much material – what with all the shenanigans that go on in the hotel trade – that I could write a sequel to More Sauce Madam?
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Pop all your social media and work links so readers can come and find you:
Geoff’s book reveals some eye-popping true stories (cockroaches, cleaver-wielding chefs, drunk porters, sobbing chefs and random naked guests) all recounted from his own real-life experiences of working in the hospitality sector …
Twitter: @ParisGeoff Facebook: Geoff Paris
MORE SAUCE MADAM? THE ADVENTURES OF A HOTEL MANAGER by Geoffrey Paris is published by Mereo Books (paperback, £12.99) and is available through bookshops and internet booksellers.
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