The story behind the story – Cathie Dunn’s next novel

img_4318I’m so pleased to welcome author Cathie Dunn into the coffee shop today all the way from the south of France. Cathie’s published two novels, Dark Deceit and Highland Arms, and a novella, Silent Deception. She describes her novels as ‘historical romance with a hint of danger.’ But where does she get her ideas from?

Hello Katy! Thank you so much for inviting me in. Those armchairs look comfy. You don’t mind if I grab that red one over there, do you? The one by the window? It’s such a beautiful view.

I insist that you do! What would you like to drink?

A green tea, please. No sugar, thank you.

And can I tempt you to anything to eat?
Ooh, as you’re asking. I’d love a slice of that lemon drizzle cake. Homemade, is it? Yumm!

I know you’re busy working on your new novel. What’s it about?

You couldn’t make it up, you know. It’s a time-slip romance, set in the Languedoc region in the south of France in the present day, and in the late 8th century.

Ah that sounds amazing and right up my street. Where did you get the idea from?
The idea came about after a late-night chat at our French neighbours’ house. We live in a small village in the Languedoc, around 30 minutes’ north-east from Carcassonne. It’s a gorgeous region, full of vineyards and ancient sites. So much history, you almost don’t know where to start. The Romans left their mark here, then the Merovingians arrived, followed a couple of centuries later by the Franks, with Charlemagne expanding his empire as far south as the Pyrenees. The area was much later annexed to the Kingdom of France, and was throughout history a hub of rebellion and resistance, up to World War II (and beyond if you ask some of the locals!).

Anyway, after the fabulous fireworks last July celebrating the 14th of July – what’s known to Brits as Bastille Day – our French neighbours two doors down invited us in for a drink. By then, it was already nearing midnight.

We had a lovely chat over a few glasses of wine and a nice portion of poached pear when we got talking (all in French! Gulp!) about the renovation works in their house. They had lifted various floors to lay their tiles. During one such occasion, they discovered human bones! Now, in the area behind our house used to be the old village cemetery, but their house is to the side of it, so the bones weren’t part of those buried there. It turns out the cranium and arm bone our neighbours proudly showed us (yes, they kept them!) date back to Merovingian days! Wow! It was eerie holding the pieces, thinking that person was alive around 1,400 years ago right here, going about their daily life. And I knew right away that it simply had to be part of a novel!

So, in my project, Maddie, the 21st century heroine, renovates her late mother’s house and comes across some ancient bones which she gets analyzed, whilst there is also some paranormal activity going on. The owner of the bones is clearly not at rest.

Switch to the late 8th century, and we have a young lady from the north – Adelaïs – marrying a local lord – Bellon, the first earl of Carcassonne (and a real character). She keeps a secret from husband which requires her to leave the safety of Carcassonne and venture across territory still contested by opposing sides. One day, she doesn’t return…

But will Maddie manage to lie the ghost to rest?

As you can imagine, our wine- and story-filled night at our neighbours ended late – or rather early – after 3am! They know I’m using the bones in a plot, and they’re quite pleased about it.

I love digging deeper into history and use local stories in my works. In Highland Arms, my Scottish romance, I included local history of smuggling, which I discovered in booklets written by hobby historians living near Glencoe and sold in the Tourist Information. These kinds of special tidbits are always worth exploring, as reality can often be stranger than your imagination.

Thank you again for having me. I enjoyed that cake very much. Can I have the recipe?

Of course. Thanks Cathie, it’s been lovely to see you.

About Cathie Dunn:

Cathie’s research often takes her to the most breath-taking landscapes and castles which she finds immensely inspiring, and which she writes about in her blog. She’s currently working on a time-slip paranormal romance set in the Languedoc in southern France, in the present and in the days of Charlemagne’s reign just prior to AD800.

After having spent many years in Scotland and Wales, Cathie now lives in the south of France with her husband, a dog and a cat.

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