My guest today is novelist Marie Laval. Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has been living in Lancashire for the past twenty-five years. A member of the Romantic Novelists Association, she writes contemporary and historical romance. Her novels are inspired by her native France and all have what she likes to call ‘a French twist’. A Spell in Provence, Angel Heart, The Lion’s Embrace and Dancing for the Devil are published by Accent Press. Her latest and ‘yet-to-be-named’ contemporary romantic suspense will be published by ChocLit in January 2018.
Over to you, Marie …
Thank you very much, Sharon, for welcoming me on your blog today.
It’s my pleasure. So, let’s begin the interrogation! I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but what inspires your story ideas or characters?
I will be honest…I don’t really know. It could be anything – a song, a landscape, a visit to a historic house, a road sign – yes, road signs are a great source of inspiration, especially when I am on holiday in Dorset and Somerset where there are the most incredible names of hamlets and villages. Then I start imagining a character, her life, her dreams, and what could happen to her. And that’s it!
How do you go about starting a new writing project?
I always buy a good road map of the area where the story is set and a brand new notepad. I am addicted to the French Clairefontaine exercise books, probably because they remind me of being at school in France. I absolutely love maps, and I often draw inspiration from them to name my characters. I do however always make up the exact setting of my story.
Once I have my new exercise book, I start writing everything and anything I can think of about the setting, the characters’ background, their feelings and motivations, as well as about the conflict between them. I jot down random thoughts, dialogues, quotes or even poems and songs.
After that, my next step is usually to find photos of the various settings for the novel and research background information for the plot. I love doing research! I could happily spend weeks reading articles, books and journals, finding anecdotes, or scrolling through photos of handsome man to find my perfect hero!
New notepads are essential! And, oh, the joys of scrolling through photos of handsome men, all in the name of research. Have you a favourite inspirational quote?
I do indeed, and it is from French author Paul Valery.
‘The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.’
I love that! Must remember it. Name someone who has been influential in your writing career.
I have to pick the two people who influenced me the most when I was growing up, and still do today even though they are no longer with me: my parents. My mother will always be my role model. She was the sunshine in our family, always ready to laugh and joke, and offer comfort, hugs and kisses. She cooked delicious meals, and baked cakes every single day, and was always there for my sisters and I, even when we were horrid teenagers. She had wonderful stories of her childhood in North Africa – some were very funny, others quite dark and spooky, and that have inspired my short stories and my novel The Lion’s Embrace. She started learning English in her fifties when I moved to England, because she wanted to be able to talk to the people she met when she visited me. She would be over the moon to see my books published.
My father was the son of Polish immigrants who had settled in a coal mining community in Northern France after the First World War. He was a very ambitious and hardworking man. He could be stubborn and difficult at times, but everything he did was for our family. He used to give me a piece of advice which is actually very relevant to the writing and editing process, and that roughly translate into ‘keep perfecting your work, even if it takes a hundred times. (‘Cent fois sur le métier, remettez votre ouvrage’).
Aw, how lovely. Which book do you wish you’d written?
Rebecca, by Daphné du Maurier. I read it as a teenager, and it remains one of my favourite novels. It’s a great thriller that keeps you wondering until the end and it has flawed characters, a wonderful and evocative setting, as well as mystery and darkness.
Oh, I love Rebecca! Which television show from your childhood would you like to bring back?
The Little House on the Prairie! It was a big success when I was growing up in France and I used to love everything about it – the wild landscapes, the drama and morale at the end of every episode. Just hearing the music takes me back to when I was ten years old. It also makes me cry, so I don’t want to listen to it too often. I believe a new series is shortly to be broadcast on television, and I look forward to watching it.
What thing or things are guaranteed to cheer you up?
A family meal with my three children. My second son is at Newcastle University and I haven’t seen him for weeks. I miss him so much. I can’t wait to see him!
A brisk walk.
A piece, or two (!) of cake or a nice platter of cheese with a baguette.
A lovely review from a reader.
A happy lesson with one of my classes (I teach French in a secondary school).
You’re stuck in a lift with three other people. Who would you like them to be?
Daniel Craig, because we may need his muscle power to get out of the lift… and just because!
Rufus Sewell. Not only do I find him very attractive, but he is also the inspiration for the hero of the story I am working on at the moment.
And if I could bring someone back to life, I would share my broken lift with the brilliant comedian Victoria Wood, because we would probably need her sense of humour to pass the time while we are waiting to be rescued.
Great choices! Daniel Craig and Rufus Sewell are lovely, and Victoria Wood … perfect. Thank you so much for answering my questions, Marie. I’ve really enjoyed reading this post.
Marie Laval’s historical romance Dancing for the Devil has just been re-released by Accent Press and is available here as an ebook and paperback.
Can her love heal his haunted heart? – Cape Wrath, Scotland, November 1847.
Bruce McGunn is a man as brutal and unforgiving as his land. Discharged from the army, he is haunted by the spectres of his fallen comrades and convinced he is going mad. And he is running out of time to save his estate from the machinations of Cameron McRae, heir to the McGunn’s ancestral enemies. When the clipper carrying McRae’s new bride is caught in a violent storm and docks at Wrath harbour, Bruce decides to revert to the old ways and hold the clipper and the woman to ransom. However, far from the spoilt heiress he expected, Rose is genuine, funny and vulnerable – a ray of sunshine in the long, harsh winter that has become his life.
Rose is determined to escape Wrath and its proud master – the man she calls McGlum. Will she be reunited with Cameron McRae, the dazzlingly handsome aristocrat she married after a whirlwind romance in Algiers, or will she risk her heart and her honour to help Bruce discover the truth about his past and solve the brutal murders committed on his land?