Guest author Karen Aldous tells us what inspires her to use the locations she picks for her novels.
Karen at the RNA summer party as a Joan Hessayon award contender
Reading is all about escaping. Whether to another era, planet, somebody else’s world or to another place other than our own four walls or routine, books have that amazing capacity to off-load us of our worries and enrich us with all sorts of possibilities we know we could physically never engage in. This is the reason why I adore being immersed, especially in a book which allows me to soak up warm, exotic locations where I can feel the heat of the sun on my skin whilst being drenched in its beautiful descriptions and of course, it’s gripping story.
Villefranche on the French Riviera
I’ve wanted to write my own novels for eons and it wasn’t until I read the captivating story of The Island by Victoria Hislop, which was set close to and on the tiny Greek leper island of Spinalonga, that it actually dawned on me; this is it! This is what I want to write. My characters want to be drawn to and immersed in a place that has inspired them. They want to find out its secrets and live within its communities. I think I must have subconsciously known it all along because my first attempts at novel writing were set in exotic locations, at least, for me. My first was set in London but my character ran a PR company which took her to Sri-Lanka, where trouble brewed and she had to return. This was before the conflict spread with the Tamils. Then, I began a novel about a Russian girl whose quest was to escape communism and flee to London for her freedom. Yes pre-Gorbachev’s ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’. How the world has changed since then and, of course, how easily we can now jump on a plane to such exciting destinations.
It was my first visit to Provence which triggered my exciting journey to publication with The Vineyard. With its stunning landscape and villages, it reignited my passion to write; well, apart from not having the kids in tow. As hubs and I explored this charming paradise, I was totally besotted and Lizzie and Cal just took over in my head. The area was ripe for Cal’s French vineyard but, Lizzie was single and too young to be living in a sleepy village. Although we stayed in the beautiful city of Aix-en-Provence, it was Cannes she needed to live. The town is both glamorous and vibrant for a young heart and the needs of a young mum. On our next visit, we chose an apartment in the centre of a thriving community in Cannes, close to a bustling market where Lizzie could be based. This was ideal for her beauty business and child amenities and, only a short walk to the railway station where she could easily access numerous resorts along the French Riviera and even to Italy.
Naturally, with readers expressing to know more about Lizzie and Cal’s story, the vineyards of Provence and Cannes return in my third novel, The Riviera, which is a stand-alone novel but continues with Lizzie and Cal’s journey a few months later. It also features Nantucket, an island close to Martha’s Vineyard in the US because Kelly, Cal’s ex, is a native Brit and found New York too intimidating, so craved to live somewhere with an English village flavour to raise her and Cal’s teenage son Jack, and her other two children. I only got to visit virtually but it’s an area I feel, like Kelly, a connection with and that’s what excites me, along with the connection between the characters and the themes that run through a story which creates conflict and drama.
Another example is the setting for The Chateau. The stunning mountain scenery surrounding Lake Geneva in Switzerland often beckoned me as I drove past or went through Montreux by train en-route to my favourite ski resort. So it was no surprise that when the character Agnes-Francesca, came to me in a dream, I immediately knew where she was; just beyond Montreux, nestled on the lakeside is the intriguing Chateau de Chillon. After some research on the chateau’s history, her story soon fell into place, with Gina and Ollie key players in helping her.
I’m a great believer in following one’s passion therefore, the more I enjoy and am interested in what I am writing, the easier I find the desire and determination and thus, the stamina to finish a project. I am currently working on my fourth novel and planning my fifth. I would love to divulge the beautiful locations to you here but, I also like to surprise.
Thank you for taking time out from your commitments to talk to us Karen. The very best of luck with your new book.
The journey is only as good as its end…
It’s been a hard journey, but Lizzie Lambert’s life is a Provençal dream come true. Her business is wildly successful, and with her little boy and the love of her life, Cal, she is making a beautiful home on the vineyard for their blended family.
But when Cal goes to America to support his son through a teenage crisis, it becomes clear the kid’s not the only one with some growing up to do: Cal’s glamorous ex-wife wants to get her claws in him again. As Cal spends longer and longer away, Lizzie wonders, was it all too good to be true?
The Riviera will be published by Carina on July 10th and will be available on Amazon and all leading e-book portals.
Karen’s books on Amazon