Today I have the pleasure of welcoming author Angela Wren into the coffee shop. How lovely to see you Angela. What would you like to drink?
Hello Katy, thanks for inviting me to your wonderful coffee shop. What an amazing place! I’d like a black coffee please. I like my coffee weak, so if you’re grinding beans, just the one will do!
You can have decaffeinated if you prefer?
No, it’s OK, the poisonous stuff is fine for me. I like to live dangerously! I find decaffeinated coffee has an odd aftertaste.
And anything to eat?
That looks like chocolate fudge cake over there. May I have a piece of that please?
Of course. I really enjoyed reading Messandrierre. What made you decide to set the story in France?
Since being a teenager I’ve spent as much of my spare time in France as I possibly could. This has meant that I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the country and then some!
From, more or less, the same time I’ve always wanted to write. I can recall one Christmas – now with mortifying and cringing embarrassment – telling an elderly aunt that I wanted to be the world’s next Shakespeare. My only defence in making that incredibly rash statement was that I was very young at the time! And, as you can probably work out, I haven’t made much progress in that direction! But, put those two things together and it seems to me that a novel about my most favourite place was on the cards long before I even consciously took up my quill – sorry, I mean biro – and made that very first brief note about an odd idea that had been circling at the back of my mind.
Where did the idea for Messandrierre come from?
The very first idea came whilst I was travelling in the Cévennes in September 2007. The Cévennes is an area of south west France that is mountainous and sparsely populated. The villages are small, the land is rugged and wild and the weather can change in a moment. As it did, overnight on September 28th/29th, 2007. I woke that morning to find the landscape covered in snow and it was that white covering that kept my mind exercised until I had formulated the idea of using snow to cover someone’s misdeeds – and the first paragraph of my story was born.
‘I died beneath a clear autumn sky in September, late in September when warm cévenol afternoons drift into cooler than usual evenings before winter steals down from the summit of Mont Aigoual. My shallow grave lies in a field behind an old farmhouse. There was no ceremony to mark my death and no mourners, just a stranger in the darkness spading soil over my body. Only the midnight clouds cried for me as they carried their first sprinkling of snow to the tiny village of Messandrierre. My innocent white coverlet allowing the earth around me to shift and settle unseen and become comfortable again.’
What happened next?
It was three years later, whilst I was staying in the Charente, when I met a lovely English couple in the local supermarket. Running into them again, a few days later, and I was invited for tea and cakes – and who can turn cakes down? It was a single, innocent remark during the course of conversation that afternoon, that stayed with me and kept my brain working for the next few days. That was when I finally worked out who the body was, how the death had occurred, who the killers were and who my hero was going to be. All of which meant a lot of hastily scribbled notes on any bits of paper that I could put my hands on.
The really hard work began at the end of 2013 when I started to actually write the story that had been haunting me. Some 50 pages in and I realised I didn’t know enough about my central character, Gendarme Jacques Forêt. This time I did my further thinking in the Cévennes, Aude and Hérault.
With scenery like this to look at, it is hard not to be inspired. Jacques soon became a fully formed character in his own right along with the other villagers and my heroine, Beth.
And then the book was published…
Yes, that has been the greatest surprise of my life thus far. I submitted the first three chapters and a synopsis in April 2015, expecting nothing in return. In June, whilst I was in the Puy de Dome, I picked up an email that had been sitting there unread for a few days and asking me to submit the whole manuscript. Which I did, still expecting nothing in response. Back home again, and working on another story, when at the end of July came the offer to publish and the contract. And since then I seem to have been propelled on a wind to who knows where!
Thanks so much for telling me about your publishing journey. Good luck with the publication later this year of next book in the series, Merle
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’m an actor and director at a small theatre a few miles from where I live in the county of Yorkshire in the UK. I did work as a project and business change manager – very pressured and very demanding – but I managed to escape and now I write books.
I’ve always loved stories and story telling so it seemed a natural progression, to me, to try my hand at writing and I started with short stories. My first published story was in an anthology, which was put together by the magazine ‘Ireland’s Own’ in 2011.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.
My full-length stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year. I’m currently working on the follow-up to Messandrierre and an anthology of alternative fairy tales which I intend to self-publish.
About Messandrierre – the first in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt: Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre. But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case. Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?