Guest Post by Angela Wren – The Cévennes As A Setting

Location, location, location.  Despite having done a fair bit of travelling in my time, I set my novels in my native Hampshire.  Today  I am joined by fellow Crooked Cat author Angela Wren who talks about why she chose a French setting for the location of her novels.

Hi Rosie, and thanks very much for inviting me onto your blog.

I’ve been spending time in France since I was a teenager and I still find the country fascinating and I never seem to stop learning new things about the history and the culture.  But there’s also the geography too.

Today, I want to take you and your readers  to one of my favourite places, the Cévennes, an upland area in south central France.  Look at a modern map of France and you’ll see the Cévennes is now defined as a national park that covers parts of 4 départements – Ardèche, Gard, Hérault, and Lozère.  It spreads south and west below the route nationale RN88, a major thoroughfare that crosses this upland area from Lyon heading southwest.  It’s an area I’ve visited many times and there’s a wild ruggedness and a silence there I can’t seem to find anywhere else.

When I visit, I like to be in a tiny village that sits just north of the national park in col de la Pierre Plantée (planted rock).  So called because of that vast grey rocks strewn across the open pasture areas as though they are growing out of the landscape.  Apparently they warrant the technical term of ‘glacial erratics’, having been deposited millions of year ago as the ice sheets retreated.

At an altitude of 1263 metres (that’s 4,144 feet above sea-level), it’s a bit like living close to the summit of Ben Nevis (4,413 ft), but with better weather in summer.  Come here in June and the pastures are pear-green, the pines are inky-green in colour with the pale yellow pollen from the cones drifting on the gentle breeze.  The leaves of the chestnut trees are the same lush shade of green as shamrock, and, amidst the green expanse sit clumps of sunshine yellow genêt (botanical name Genista) almost competing for a right to grow amongst the planted rocks.

 

Having said that, the weather can be extreme and it can change in a moment.  When I was there a couple of years ago, it last snowed on May 31st.  In July and August the weather can be hot and dry and the grass turns a straw yellow under the baking sun.  In September the balmy breeze returns but so can the rain, bringing with it vast storms and floods.  I remember watching the sky in 1992 as a storm devastated the whole area and forced a national emergency to be declared.  That year it was rain, but sometimes it can be snow if the wind is coming from the right direction – as it was overnight on September 27th in 2007.  I woke up the next morning to a silent and white mountainous landscape and, after taking in the view, my thoughts turned to murder and how easy it would be to use snow in a place like the Cévennes to cover someone’s misdeeds.

From that single thought my stories for my hero, Jacques Forêt, were born and the location?  Well, that was a given.

Blurb

A clear-cut case?

A re-examination of a closed police case brings investigator, Jacques Forêt, up against an old adversary. After the murder of a key witness, Jacques finds himself, and his team, being pursued.

When a vital piece of evidence throws a completely different light on Jacques’ case, his adversary becomes more aggressive, and Investigating Magistrate Pelletier threatens to sequester all of Jacques papers and shut down the investigation.

Can Jacques find all the answers before Pelletier steps in?

Bio

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre.  I’ve been writing, in a serious way, since 2010.  My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work.  My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical.  I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.  The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

Links

Amazon : AngelaWren

Website : www.angelawren.co.uk

Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

Facebook : Angela Wren

Goodreads : Angela Wren

Contact an author : Angela Wren

Angela’s Books

MontbelJacques Forêt Mystery #03
MerleJacques Forêt Mystery #02
MessandrierreJacques Forêt Mystery #01
Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings An anthology of feel-good stories

Thank you Angela for giving us an insight into the corner of France that turned your mind to murder!

 

Setting The Scene

Sometimes inspiration strikes in the most unlikeliest of places.  If you’ve read the blurb for The Theatre of Dreams you’ll know the story focuses on an unlikely alliance formed between Tara, an out of work actress, and a rather devious old lady, Kitty, who recruits Tara to run her former dance academy in the fictional south coast resort of Hookes Bay.

Characters pop into my head very easily, what I sometimes lack is a cohesive plot. Once I had come up with a vision of Kitty, I knew I had to give her a purpose. And for this, I have to give credit to the small coastal town of Lee-on-Solent in my native Hampshire. Lee isn’t actually a town – according to Wikipedia it’s a sub-district in the Borough of Gosport, 8 km west of Portsmouth.  This part of the south coast is synonymous with dockyards, submarine stations, armouries, and air bases. It’s not a holiday destination.  I’d been living away from the UK for some time, and on a visit home, for nostalgia’s sake,  we’d gone for a walk along the seafront at Lee.

Lee is one of those places that unless you live nearby, you wouldn’t think to go there – a few cafes, a fairly nondescript high street and a pebbly beach.

At least that’s what I thought, until a notice-board depicting Lee’s historic past caught my eye….

Who knew that back in the 1930’s Lee used to be a bustling resort with a 37 m observational tower and a multi-purpose entertainment complex? I could recall visiting Lee as a child, to swim in the freezing cold water of the local lido, but by then all remnants of the Lee Tower with its ballroom, restaurant and cinema had long gone. How could they have let this happen? I thought. Where once there was something quite unique there is now just a promenade and a car-park. Why wasn’t it preserved?

My imagination had been well and truly captured. I came home and conducted some quick research, uncovering a countrywide trail of art deco seaside pavilions, lost from the landscape. I read about the De La Warr pavilion further along the coast at Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex – restored into a contemporary arts centre after a public campaign. Why hadn’t that happened at Lee-on-Solent, I wondered.  Where was the vision, imagination, determination, ingenuity, oh, and the money of course, to conserve their slice of history?

They always tell you to write about what you know. My daughter trained as a dancer. My late grandmother was a would-be musical hall star. Two characters from different generations with a shared love of performing.  And so the idea for The Theatre of Dreams was born. My leading ladies didn’t need an observational tower and a huge entertainment complex to bring them together, just something small and meaningful – a run-down seaside pavilion that was once a flourishing family theatre.

The resort of Hookes Bay is a figment of my imagination. It overlooks the Isle of Wight, has a scruffy shingle beach and was once home to a former military base – it could be anywhere along the south coast.

I hope the residents of Lee-on-Solent don’t think I have done their little town an injustice by taking inspiration from the long-forgotten glory days of their seafront. It’s a great place to go for a stroll, with a wonderful car-park.

 

And postcard of the orignal Lee Tower Complex….

 

The Theatre of Dreams will be published on 1 August 2018 and is available to pre-order on Amazon now.

The Theatre of Dreams