Welcome back to author Karen Aldous

We welcome back author Karen Aldous, whose new novel, One Moment at Sunrise was released on Monday.

Karen Aldous AuthorThank you for inviting me on to Write Minds blog Francesca and Elaine – I love these questions but I’ve had to think long and hard.

Q: Evie Grant is the main protagonist in your new novel. How do you come up with characters, and are any of them based on real people?

A really interesting question. Most of my characters come to me instinctively from a location, or sense of place. Evie, the main character in One Moment at Sunrise for example walked into the room at a villa I stayed at near the Canal du Midi. It was heart-breaking because she lived in this beautiful house but was tragically lonely. Over the days I was there, I asked her why, and her story soon took shape. In my novel, The Chateau, Agnes-Francesia came via a dream. Intuitively, I knew where she was and found her in the Chateau de Chillon near Montreux in Switzerland and explored more of the history of the high incidents of witch hunts in the area centuries ago. It was as though she wanted her story told. In The Vineyard and The Riviera, as soon as I arrived in Provence, one beautiful November day, Lizzie was there in a Luberon village dreaming of owning her own vineyard, but she was still young and longed to live somewhere vibrant and cosmopolitan but still able to access the beautiful landscape of Provence. Spending an afternoon in Cannes inspired her spirit further, so a few years later, I returned and found her apartment and the beauty salon and the story really began to take on a life of its own. I also had her parent’s farm setting in my mind from a local valley I walk in.

Q: Your latest novel refers to the place of the peasant women in the building of the Canal du Midi. How much of this story is true history, and how did you come by it and research it?

I gathered some material about the Canal du Midi after seeing the statue of Paul-Pierre Riquet; the visionary who is credited with building it and I could never take that away from him. However, from all the info and books I had about the canal, I read a snippet about peasant women being involved in the building of the canal and that immediately sparked my imagination. I just kept searching for more information on the internet, posing different questions until I came up with an amazing academic book which had much of the supporting evidence I needed about these women to make it work. So it’s very likely the peasant women did have a major input into the hydraulic methods Riquet needed and, again, I thought their story needed to be told.

Q: What do you think Evie would put into Room 101 and why, and what would you put in?

I have to giggle because, Evie in One Moment at Sunrise would unquestionably put Seb Wilde in there. He is such a horrid character and really shouldn’t have been put on this earth in the first place.

What would I put in? Lots. Diseases, wrinkles, spots and scars. Nobody wants them and they create so much distress among us.

Q: If you could be any other author, who would you choose, and why?

This is a really difficult question but I’m going to say Elena Ferrante. Her writing is immaculate. So honest, uninhibited, perfectly paced and beautiful. Every scene swoons you, leaving you dribbling for more. Who wouldn’t wish to achieve that.

Thank you for taking the time out for this interview, Karen. Good luck with the book.

SunriseEvie Grant has spent two years hidden away in a quiet French village, longing to escape her beautiful villa with its blue-shuttered windows. Maybe this summer, the father of her child will keep his broken promises and return to whisk her away to another life. One way or another, Evie’s determined to stop feeling like his dirty little secret…

Yet when a mysterious stranger almost knocks Evie off her bicycle early one morning, her world begins to change in ways she never expected. Embarking on a painful journey of self-discovery, Evie begins to face her darkest fears and rebuild her fragile dreams. But can she ever truly break free from her gilded cage and learn to love again?

Karen’s books published by CarinaUK/Harper Collins are available on Amazon:

One Moment at Sunrise

The Chateau

The Vineyard

The Riviera

You can also follow Karen:

Twitter: KarenAldous_

Facebook: KarenAldousAuthor

Pinterest: KarenAldousPinterest

Website: KarenAldousAuthorWebsite

 

@FCapaldiBurgess                    @RobertsElaine11

RNA Conference: Canals and Costumes

Francesca and Elaine have a look at two aspects of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s recent conference that sparked their imaginations.

View from Queen Mary's

View from Queen Mary’s

Francesca: I know many of the RNA conference attendees will be writing about the occasion (brilliant as always), so I thought I’d cover something related but a little different, namely our location. Location, or setting, is, of course, very important to writers. The conference this year was held at the Queen Mary campus of the University of London in Mile End. Unlike some of the other locations for the conference, this is smack bang in the middle of a busy and built up area. However, running alongside it is the picturesque Regent’s Canal.

Ain't Miss Behavin'! Karen Aldous and Wendy Clarke

Ain’t Miss Behavin’! Karen Aldous and Wendy Clarke

On the second evening I took a walk along the canal with writers Karen Aldous and Wendy Clarke. Gone was the noise of the surrounding streets, evident even from our bedrooms, to be replaced by the tranquil sound of lapping water.

Tranquil

Tranquil

A little further along we had a surprise, as the barges came to life and revealed what amounted to a village strung along the water’s edge. Many of the owners were sitting on their crafts, enjoying the evening, watching the world go by, eating, drinking, and in one case, strumming a guitar. In the centre of this was a barge set up as a mini pub, with its punters sitting on the grassed area next to the path, enjoying a glass of something. I guess this was the equivalent of a village pub. Several of the residents wished us, ‘Good evening,’ as we sauntered past (and it had been such a warm, busy day we were definitely reduced to sauntering!).

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Old and new: Canary Wharf in the background

It isn’t surprising that we found it an inspiring setting. Many books have included barges or houseboats: Elizabeth Goudge’s The Herb of Grace and Elizabeth Haynes’s Revenge of the Tide are two that come immediately to mind. It will be interesting to see if this setting ever makes it into one of our novels. 

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

@FCapaldiBurgess

Francesca’s biography on The Write Place

 

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The Boned Corset Completed the Underwear

Elaine: Writers set the stage, time period, season and setting with clothing and accessories. As many of you know, my current work in progress is a Victorian saga. I’m sure you can imagine my delight when the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) Conference paperwork came through and Mireille Weller was holding a workshop on how to dress a Victorian woman. It was at 3:15pm on Sunday, when most of the delegates were travelling home. There were less than a dozen of us watching Mireille layer herself in clothing.

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The First of Three Petticoats

She started with her under garments and small ankle boots, because the boned corset wouldn’t have allowed her to reach her feet. The corset had taken an impressive inch and a half off her waist before she added three petticoats, one with wired hoops and bustle, with layers of frills to give it bounce. Then the overskirt was added, followed by a decorative apron that sat over it to give more decoration. There was a jacket for daywear and if the lady of the house intended going out in the evening, only the top would be changed to make it look more formal.

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The Hairpiece Added The Curls

Mireille explained that the gentleman had to hold the back of the chair while the lady lowered herself down onto it, otherwise she couldn’t sit.

Ladies also had to lift their skirts and shuffle over the toilet to go, so in modern terms they would be facing the cistern.

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The Fan Completed The Look

It was a wonderful way to spend an hour and I haven’t touched on how the poor sold their hair for money and the rich wore it as hairpieces. The whole thing was fascinating and not only gave a real insight into how the Victorians dressed, but also how they lived.

I would like to thank Mireille for allowing us to take photographs while giving us an informative and enjoyable time.

@RobertsElaine11

Elaine’s biography on The Write Place

 

 

Why I Love Exotic Locations

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

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

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.

Cannes Harbour 2

Cannes Harbour

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.

vineyard 2Naturally, 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.

Chateau picAnother 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 Riviera 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.

Links

Karen’s books on Amazon

Karen’s website

@KarenAldous_