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Friday, July 19, 2013

How to Write a Novel That Takes Place Where You Haven't Been

Today, I’m hosting historical romance author Marie Laval! I think you'll agree with me that Marie has lived a most interesting life and has two wonderful books to show for it. Readers leave a comment for a chance to win one of her e-books. But before telling us about your life, Marie, tell us about your two novels.

 'Angel Heart', my debut historical romance, was released in October last year. It is set in 1815, just before Napoleon came back from exile in Elba, and is the story of Marie-Ange Norton, a young widow who travels to Beauregard in France to collect an inheritance. She gets entangled in a web of political intrigue and legends about a mystical Templar Cross. During her journey she falls in love with cynical Capitaine Hugo Saintclair, finds out she isn't a widow after all and discovers she had a father she knew nothing about... 

My second historical romance, 'The Lion's Embrace', was released last February. It is set mostly in Algeria, North Africa, in 1845. Lucas Saintclair - the son of Marie-Ange and Hugo Saintclair from 'Angel Heart' - is hired as a guide by Harriet Montague to rescue her archaeologist father, who she believes was captured by a gang of Tuaregs near Tamanrasset. During their journey to the far South of the country, Lucas and Harriet encounter bandits, rogue French soldiers and the fierce Tuaregs who guard the tomb of their legendary queen, Tin Hinan. And of course, they fall in love too!

Wow! They both sound very intriguing. I’m particularly interested in The Lion’s Embrace. I take it you’ve been in the Sahara Desert?

Not at all! I have never been to Algeria, and even less to the Sahara desert but was always deeply attracted by the country because my mother was born and brought up near Algiers. She used to tell us about her house in the orange groves, about diving into the turquoise blue sea to fish sea urchins, about the sirocco wind blowing red Sahara sand all over Algiers... My sisters and I always dreamed of going there one day.

Writing ‘The Lion’s Embrace’ was a fascinating process because I discovered the beautiful landscapes Lucas and Harriet travelled through on their way to Tamanrasset, and the culture of the people they encountered. I was especially interested in the Tuaregs, who are also called ‘The People of the Veil’ or the ‘Blue Men of the Desert’ because of the indigo veil all men wear from around the age of fifteen and never, ever remove.

Having never been there myself, I had to find a way of getting a real ‘feel’ for the place, its people and its history. I surrounded myself with photos and paintings of the Sahara, of oases and ksars (fortified villages) and the Hoggar mountain range. I also read Tuareg poems and legends, and listened to a lot of music, in particular recordings of the imzad, the Tuareg's traditional monochord violin.  

That’s one way to capture the feel of a country, eh? Marie, tell us about yourself. I noticed you were born in France and now live in the UK. 
I was brought up in Lyon and came to live and work in Manchester  where I worked as a PA at the University's European Institute for the Media. It was a busy and exciting job, and I met very interesting people from all over Europe, including several dashing Russian academics and diplomats... But that's another story! When the Institute relocated in Germany, I transferred to other departments at the University, then decided to retrain as a modern languages teacher. I live in a lovely village in a quiet, green (because of the rain!) Lancashire valley.

When did the writing bug bite you?

I wanted to write for as long as I can remember, but the turning point was winning a short-story competition. I realised that maybe I could actually write well enough for people to enjoy my stories. Then three years ago I attended a one-day Romance Writing Workshop organised by Calderdale Libraries. I was so fired up when I came home that I started writing a novel straight away. I always loved reading romances, historical romances in particular historical romances, so I just went for it!  

It didn’t take you long to get published at all. I’ve known people who write for twenty years before getting that first contract. So what’s next? Where will you take us in your next novel?

Scotland! The very far North of Scotland - Cape Wrath and Sutherland to be exact. I am staying with the Saintclair family a little longer. This time, Rose Saintclair, Lucas' sister, is travelling to Scotland to be reunited with the husband she's only just married in Algiers. Her ship is caught in a storm and finds shelter at Wrath harbour, where Rose is rescued by Bruce McGunn, the local laird and her husband's mortal enemy. I won't say anymore for now... 

Can’t wait. Where can we buy your novels that are already out?

Both 'Angel Heart' and 'The Lion's Embrace' are published by MuseitUp Publishing and are available from:



Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Angel-Heart-ebook/dp/B009YJT194 




Marie, I’ve purchased The Lion’s Embrace and can’t wait to read it. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Readers don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win one of Marie’s amazing novels.

Thank you so much Suzanne for welcoming me on your blog. I look forward to reading comments and answering questions from readers. Please let me know in your comment which book you’d like to receive, then I’ll contact you later on.


  1. Thank you so much Suzanne for welcoming me on your beautiful blog. I look forward to readers' comments and questions.

  2. I really enjoyed The Lion's Embrace, Marie. Can't wait to read your next! And I loved your interesting post. You have a lot of material for your novels!

  3. Thank you for visiting, Helena, and for your kind comment. I do hope to get that third novel finished! It is strange how neither of us had the 'second book blues' but suffered from the 'third book blues'. I wonder if there are other writers out there who had the same problem.

  4. Great post, Marie. The books look and sound fabulous. Wishing you tons of success with them.

  5. Thank you very much, Penny! You are very kind.

  6. What a rich life you have led, Marie. I wonder if we here in the US don't miss out on some of the adventures you get to experience because our Country is so blooming huge. Geographically I suppose it is not as far for you to have traveled from France to England, but culture-wise it has to have been a huge leap. If I had to compare it to something here in my country I guess I would liken it to the difference between the vast differences experienced between our city people and those who never leave the farms or the reservations.

    How much of your history can be verified? I find myself choosing time periods where the lines are not rigidly drawn and less stringent methods for telling my history...which may be why I choose such time frames as the era of the Anasazi and the Lemurians...who's here to dispute the veracity of what my imagination congers up?

    I wanted to let you know the picture you supplied with your posting is just so enchanting. Makes me wish I could sit down beside you and chat a spell with you.

    I understand the angst over the third book...the more you write the more you ask yourself "OH MY DO I HAVE ANYTHING MORE TO TELL IN ME? WHAT IF I DON'T?" Kat and I wrestle with those haunting words every time we start a new story...and girls...I have one story I have been trying to get past my writer's block with that one for over ten years but it's still dangling...I'm pretty sure the say WILL come when the solution will drop upon my head for moving past this wall, but until then...it sits right before me, taunting me, giving me the raspberries and daring me every chance it gets. Sometimes I want to rip it's nanobytes to shreds, but it's a good story, and I really believe there will come a day when it'll be a GREAT story...so I just glare right back at it, give it my coldest shoulder and back away...for now.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Lin. Pictures, photos and paintings are just so important to help me visualise and 'feel' the atmosphere of a place I have never visited (and there are so many!) And thank you about your reassuring words concerning the block or angst I am experiencing right now for my third book. It does help to realise you are not alone!

  7. I enjoyed reading about you and your books, Marie. It is wonderful how authors can make a place come alive without having visited. Creativity plus lots of research work their magic. I will be adding your books to my wish list.

    1. Hello Mary! Thank you for visiting and for your kind words. I really hope you enjoy the books!

  8. Loved the interview, Marie and Suzanne. I thoroughly enjoyed 'The Lion's Embrace'. I'll have to pick up 'Angel Heart'.

  9. Hello Cheryl. Thank you very much for visiting and for your kind words. I do hope you enjoy Angel Heart too!