…yeez may often wonder as do I, from whence (posh WURD, that, Mabel, ‘whence’…it means ‘from where’) Authors derive their ideas and plots … sum’times it’s a wee incident that sticks in yer mind… other times the glimpse of a place and a feeling yeez get while ye’re there… or p’raps a soupçon of an urban myth that triggers the creative writer’s grey cells… whatever it may be, my Guest Blogger today, the LUVLY Vanessa Couchman lets yeez into the genesis of her fine historical novel, THE HOUSE AT ZARONZA ( I just LUV the ring of that title!)
A Gift for a Novelist
Thank you for inviting me to appear on your blog, Seumas.
Sometimes a gift drops into your lap when you least expect it. That’s how my historical novel, The House at Zaronza, came about.
Serendipity works in strange ways. We’ve been captivated by Corsica’s rugged beauty and visited for the fourth time in 2012. This spectacular island is basically a mountain rising almost straight out of the Mediterranean. Corsica has belonged to France for more than 200 years. But it’s still a place apart, with its own fascinating culture and turbulent history.
We almost didn’t get to the part of Corsica where we ended up. But chance decided us to turn north instead of south. The guide book offered a choice of two guest houses in a small seaside village, one of them more expensive. My husband overruled my thrifty instincts. And I’m glad he did.
On the guest house walls were framed letters. Judging by the faded state of the ink and the yellowed and spotted paper, they were pretty old. The owners said they dated back to the 1890s. They had come to light only a few years earlier when they unblocked a niche in the attic.
Walled up in the niche was a box. And in the box was a packet of a dozen or so love letters.
The local schoolmaster wrote them to the young woman whose bourgeois family lived in that house. Her parents would have opposed their relationship, so the lovers met in secret and communicated via a letter drop. Only his letters have survived; her replies are lost in the mists of time.
They were destined never to marry, since the young woman had to marry someone else for family reasons. Little is known of the rest of her life.
Who walled up the letters? Presumably the young woman. But why did she want to hide them? What was she so afraid of? What happened to the schoolmaster? What was it like having to marry someone else?
Out of the golden thread of these questions, the letters and the little that was known of the lovers’ story, I spun my tale of Corsica.
When I returned home, my head was buzzing with the story – a gift indeed. But I had to research how life was in Corsica at that time. I also had to research World War I, specifically nursing on the French side, since my main character (whom I named Maria) becomes a nurse on the Western Front.
I entered the first part of the novel in the Flash 500 Novel Opening Competition, following which the judges, Crooked Cat Publishing, asked to see the whole manuscript. They liked it, and The House at Zaronza was published in July this year.
It’s no secret that the relationship between the star-crossed lovers, Raphaël and Maria, is doomed from the start. But what happens to them? Well, you’ll have to read The House at Zaronza to find out.
About the author
Vanessa, who lives in southwest France, is passionate about French and Corsican history and culture, from which she draws inspiration for much of her fiction. The House at Zaronza, set in early 20th-century Corsica and on the Western Front during World War I, is her debut novel. She is currently working on a sequel, set during World War II.
She describes herself as a “young” author, having been writing fiction since 2010. During that time, her short stories have won, been placed and shortlisted in creative writing competitions. They have also been published in anthologies and on websites.
Vanessa runs a copywriting business. She also writes magazine articles on French life, having lived in France since 1997, and the art of writing. She is a member of online, ex-pat writing group Writers Abroad, the Parisot Writing Group in southwest France and the Historical Novel Society. She has also been a Writers Bureau tutor.
Writing site: http://vanessacouchmanwriter.wordpress.com
…Seumas ici encore, mes amis… yeez’ll note my sly insertion of the mot, ‘soupçon’ above… just to show yeez I can get into the Francais mood to fit the Guest Post… je ne suis pas as dumb as je look! … see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…
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