Fanny Joly has been writing books for French kids and teens for over 15 years, but she’s just now breaking into TV. The 10-book series HTMtel Bordemer (Seaside Hotel) was recently optioned by Paris-based Tele Images, and a 52 x 13-minute same-name toon is currently in development for broadcast on TF1. A second 10-book series, beginning with Un bébé? Quelle drTMle d’idée!, is also arousing interest at an unnamed French prodco, according to Joly.
How did HTMtel Bordemer come to be?
I first came up with the concept for a TV producer five years ago. I built this idea of the seaside hotel. It didn’t progress well-the producer had some difficulty finding co-production partners-so I forgot about it.
Then, two years ago, I showed the concept to French publisher Hachette. I worked with Christophe Besse, the illustrator, to produce the presentation. It was like an old photo album and we had the stories and the characters all drawn up, so it was really very attractive. They liked it and ordered 10 books.
How did you first get the idea?
My parents have a house by the seaside in Normandy. It’s a big house, with 25 rooms, and a great mess during summer. That’s where I was brought up. So when I was looking for a place where everything and anything could happen, I took that and made it into a hotel. I love hotels, and I don’t think many children’s books are about hotels.
What about Eloise?
Well, in Eloise, it’s a big chic hotel. And it’s mainly about Eloise. I wanted to create a place where people come and go, so the characters are always different-like guest stars.
In this hotel I’ve built a kind of a family: The cook is like a grandmother, and the gardener is kind of a grandfather-but they aren’t married. The big boss is a widower, and the waitress is kind of like the mum, but she’s quite crazy. The boss’s 10-year-old son is a narrator, and there’s a girl narrator as well-the granddaughter of the gardener.
You have two narrators?
One novel in the series is written as if by the boy, and the next is written as if by the girl. I changed the point of view in each. They don’t write the same way: He’s very good, a serious student, and she’s quite different. She’s very witty and carefree.
Do kids and adults have a different sense of what’s funny?
I don’t think so. I’ve written many sketches for my sister, a well-known French comic actress. I write her sketches for adults, and I don’t have the feeling of writing differently than I do when I write for children. Once, my sister read a children’s book of mine in a theatrical manner, and it was just like a comedy sketch for adults. It reinforced that it’s exactly the same humor.
What’s most difficult about writing for children?
It’s that the children grow up and turn their backs on you. It’s sad, in a way. I think it’s the same when you’re a teacher. You love them, but all they think about is growing up and away. But no matter-there are always new children coming.