There is NOTHING more exciting for me than seeing the jacket on my next novel brought to life by a designer. Nothing, that is, until the book itself arrives and I can hold it in my hands and know that it is real, that I really put all those words and thoughts together. Ask any writer, the joy, the sense of pride, never diminishes.
Here is the opening sentence to the Acknowledgements in the book:
“I watched the unfolding of the November 2015 Paris atrocities on television with my mother. Rarely has any news coverage so affected me. To such an extent that I put aside the book I was just beginning to write and settled to this one, The Lost Girl. Three months later, my mother died. It was a very challenging period for me. …”
The inner workings of a writer’s process are a wonderful mystery. I knew that one way or another I wanted to write about something of what those appalling attacks of November 2015 meant to the citizens of France, to visitors who found themselves in the city that weekend, to those who lost a member of their family … I spent almost a month in Paris at the National Library, the BNF, Bibliothèque national de France, watching news clips, listening, replaying repeatedly the speech made by François Hollande as the night was unfolding. The television coverage, the newspapers, magazines, radio: I attempted to track it all down. The coverage of that night and the days that followed. And what an amazing service the national library provided me, proving yet again the immense value of all libraries.
At the same time, I was also dealing with the day to day challenges of the loss of my mother, along with all that has to be faced when a loved one dies. Writing my novel, handling the mountains of bureaucracy between France and Britain, I thought I had no time to grieve my wonderful mother, my best friend, but here lies one of the miracles of creativity, of our inner selves. A character stepped into play. I had always known that the novel I was writing was to include an elegant older woman – a woman in her eighties or even nineties – but that decision had been made before the attacks and before the loss of my mother. Suddenly, without my being aware of it, the octogenarian character of Marguerite in THE LOST GIRL took on a whole new dimension. She became, again without my being aware of it, almost an angel of the night, a shining light. A kindly spirit who guides a stranger, an English woman, Kurtiz, visiting Paris for the weekend, through her darkest hours and out towards the light, towards where life can begin again.
The novel was taking shape. To counter the harrowing hours of that long weekend, Marguerite tells us her own story. Her days as a young and beautiful, up and coming actress on the Côte d’Azur working at the famous Victorine Studios in Nice, while falling in love with a handsome young Englishman after WWII.
Marguerite’s stories, her memories, are rich with the perfumes of Provence, of Grasse, the Perfume Capital of the World where she and her charming young English boyfriend set up home.
The two stories, Kurtiz’s and Marguerite’s, inevitably come together. Out of loss comes hope. Out of death and destruction, life and beauty grow again.
THE LOST GIRL has, I hope, an element of magic about it. For me that was essential. We are living in challenging times, borders are closing, the construction of yet more walls are being proposed. Women’s rights are being threatened.
How does one handle the onslaught of the negative press that is constantly being pushed at us? I think the answer lies in concentrating on the positives. Spring returns, plants regenerate, a new generation is being born. Colours, scents, gestures of generosity, the small daily miracles: these are our lifelines.
At its heart, THE LOST GIRL is a story of enduring love, of kindness, of the wondrous power of rebirth and of optimism. And perhaps too, who knows, the guardian angels walking at out sides, unseen but guiding us onwards through stormy seas to a land where the perfumes are sweeter.
I hope you will enjoy it. It is available for preorder now.
Watch out for it on 29th June.
At the Olive Farm we are preparing the grounds for the almond grove I am planting in memory of my mother. The pale pink flowers that herald spring and later produce fruits that feed us, give us oil and help to keep us healthy.
I am writing this from Greece where I am at work on my next project. Here, spring has arrived. The year is unfolding.
I wish you wonderful days. Thank you for dropping by and reading this.