I am deep in work at present, lost in the brambly mire of editorial notes on my still untitled novel due for publication in 2017. As well, I am also preparing or rather allowing to gestate the novel I am about to begin writing. I am not a Plotter. I start with grainy images of characters and places. Once I have a first instinct about what these people, this particular character – usually a woman – wants, I begin to trail her, as it were. What period am I traversing? Where are we? What is at stake for HER? The questions are endless. It goes back to my drama school days when I was taught to build the inner life of my character, the role I was rehearsing. “Get to know everything about her”.
Agents and publishers like material they can sell, they can establish you with. In my case, in one broad word, it is FRANCE.
My six memoirs set on our Olive Farm in the South of France became international best sellers. They established me, as it were, as one of those Brits who had upped sticks and moved abroad, to France. A rather simplified summation of the facts, but never mind.
My agent is happy that he can sell the combination of moi and France.
But no one wants to write the same book over and over so I am always looking for new approaches, different angles for stories. And this is great fun.
My latest novel, published this year, THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER, is set on a vineyard overlooking the Mediterranean somewhere not far from Cannes or St Raphael. There are also several scenes set in Paris. But at the heart of the book, where its dark family secret lies, I take the reader back to the last days of the Algerian War of Independence in 1962. The fallout when war is in its dying throes. The people who are affected by the retreat. Sometimes the characters might be victims, sometimes perpetrators. Right at the core of THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER is a choice, a decision taken when no other direction seemed possible.
The research involved a trip to Algeria – an expansive, varied and very beautiful country with many layers of…