I'm interviewing Marie Laval on the Travel Thursday blog this week. Marie is going to tell us how her travels in France inspired her contemporary romantic suspense A SPELL IN PROVENCE.
Le Roque sur Ceze
Welcome, Marie. First, can you tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you live?
Of course! I live in the beautiful, but very wet, Rossendale Valley in Lancashire. On a sunny day like today, it is an absolutely stunning place to be, but we do get quite a lot of low cloud, mist and rain too, and then it does feel much more gloomy.
Do you like to travel? What is your favourite means of travel?
When I was younger I really enjoyed flying and found it very exciting, even if I haven't really travelled that much. Things changed however when I had my first child. I became quite anxious about flying then. Of course, I often struggled with the practicalities of travelling with babies and toddlers. I vividly remember having to run in Frankfurt or Munich airports to catch my connecting flight, after stopping in the toilets to change a nappy, or waiting for hours in transit somewhere with bored, cranky children. Once my second son - then a six month old baby - caused a commotion on a flight because he put his hand in a tray of cream cakes the air hostess was carrying. The hostess had to throw the cakes away and a businessman complained very loudly about children being pests and depriving him of his pudding.
I quite like travelling by train now. We went to Edinburgh in the New Year and it was great and completely stress-free. I am now planning for escapades by rail.
What countries have you visited or lived in?
I spent holidays in the United States with family friends who lived near Chicago. I visited Moscow and Rostov on the Don because I studied Russian for A Level. I spent time in Germany, went to the Carnival in Venice, and I used to go to the Costa Brava in Spain a lot. For work I also went to Warsaw, and this had to be one of my most romantic memories... And of course, being French, I lived in France until I graduated from university. I lived in a village south of Lyon, which is called Saint Genis Laval and which features in my first historical romance - Angel Heart. In fact, Lyon too features quite a lot in Angel Heart. It is a beautiful, and atmospheric town with a rich past, beautiful architecture and glorious food!
It sounds wonderful, Marie. And you said that living in France inspired your novel, A Spell in Provence?
It certainly did. Although I can find inspiration for my stories from a song, a painting, a conversation overheard in a café or even a road map, I can pinpoint the exact moment when I got the idea for A SPELL IN PROVENCE. A few years ago, we visited the lovely town of Cassis during a holiday in Provence, and sat in a square for an impromptu picnic lunch. There was an old fountain nearby, with an inscription in Latin carved on the stone...and that was it!
Fountains were always very important in Provence. According to an old Provençal saying 'Eici, l'aigo es d'or', which translates by 'Here, water is gold' - and no wonder, when you think how hot it can get in the summer and how parched the soil can be. Anyone who read the wonderful but heart-wrenching 'Jean de Florette' and 'Manon des Sources' by Marcel Pagnol, or saw the adaptations made for the cinema, remembers the hardship the characters faced and their anguish when the water supply ran dry.
A SPELL IN PROVENCE is set near Bonnieux in the Lubéron region of Provence, one of the many hill-top villages dotting the countryside. My heroine leaves England and buys Bellefontaine, a 'bastide' (an old farmhouse) she renovates and opens as a guesthouse....until eerie things happen and jeopardise her dreams. The hero of the story, Fabien Coste, is heir to an old aristocratic family and has turned his ancestral manor house into a luxury hotel. Most of the settings exist, but I have of course changed a few details.
Provence is not only beautiful, it also has a fascinating history. Before the Greeks, and later the Romans, settled there, the Salyens were the largest Gallic tribe. By the 6th century BC, their main centre was Entremont, which is located on a plateau above what is now Aix-en-Provence. There were other centres, such as nearby Glanum, dedicated to the Celtic god Glanis and built around a spring known for its healing powers. The Salyens had the strange - some might say gruesome - custom of displaying the severed heads of enemies at the city gate. They left no writing but many statues of gods and warriors, some of them holding severed heads.
Palavas les flots
So there you are. Fountains, beautiful hill-top villages and ancient Gallic tribes all play a part in my story! When researching and writing A SPELL IN PROVENCE, I loved surrounding myself with my holiday photos. I also asked one of my sisters, who is a far more talented photographer than me, to send me her snaps. And when I was back in England, researching and writing the story, I could imagine I was sitting in the sunshine, breathing in scents of herbs and flowers, and listening to the song of the cicadas.
Blurb for A SPELL IN PROVENCE
With few roots in England and having just lost her job, Amy Carter decides to start a new life in France, spending her redundancy package turning an overgrown Provençal farmhouse, Bellefontaine, into a successful hotel. Though she has big plans for her new home, none of them involves falling in love – least of all with Fabien Coste, the handsome but arrogant owner of a nearby château. As romance blossoms, eerie and strange happenings in Bellefontaine hint at a dark mystery of the Provençal countryside which dates back many centuries and holds an entanglement between the ladies of Bellefontaine and the ducs de Coste at its centre. As Amy works to unravel the mystery, she begins to wonder if it may not just be her heart at risk, but her life too.
A SPELL IN PROVENCE is published by Áccent Press and is available from http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00RVQO8RM
and in print from http://www.accentpress.co.uk/Book/2529/13421/A-Spell-in-Provence
Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the beautiful RossendaleValley, Lancashire, for the past few years. She works full-time as a modern languages teacher and in her spare time loves dreaming up romantic stories. A member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors, she writes both contemporary and historical romance. Her native France, as well as her passion for history and research, very much influence her writing and all her novels have what she likes to call 'a French twist'!
You can find out more about Marie and her novels at
Thanks for dropping by, Marie, it's been really interesting talking to you. :)