My inspiration for writing was originally just enjoying moving my pencil or pen as a child, but then reading, escaping to another world, listening to voices of characters, gave me an instinctive drive to want to create my own. Loving romance, drama and exotic locations, I read Victoria Hislop’s The Island, and that story ignited a deeper understanding of what it was I wanted to achieve. It had all the above and something more, for me, originality. The idea that the author had discovered a place and a snippet of history, so accessible, yet so new to me, fascinated me. I then understood the exact direction I wanted my writing to go. One Moment at Sunrise, published in ebook by CarinaUK/HarperCollins, I feel has those similar elements.
This novel was conceived on arrival at a traditional double-fronted French villa, blue shutters, a central sweeping staircase, cool marble flooring, high ceilings, contemporary décor with tasteful furnishings, French doors leading to a vine-covered terrace and the crystal-clear waters of a pool and overlooking the most magnificent canal ever built! This was the moment the inspiration struck. My character appeared before my eyes; wheeling a bike in through metal gates, her cheeks pink, her forehead etched with an inscrutable frown as her head hung low. As she peered around the echoing walls inside her home, her eyes appeared hostile, lacklustre, and her mouth sloping downwards. Why? She lived in this stunning villa, had a gorgeous little girl, and her man – so what was wrong? Why was she so swarmed in darkness?
Cycling under dappled light of the trees, along gently rippling waters and admiring the ripening vineyards bursting with fruit under a Mediterranean sun, I listened to Evie as I cycled along the Canal-du-Midi. Her voice revealed what was troubling her and I immediately fell in love with her and sympathised with her situation. Frequently, I would stop on the banks of the canal to open my pad so that her words and my thoughts could tumble on to the page; her story gradually deepening and at the same time, ideas forming. The setting provided such an abundance of inspiration and although my real villa wasn’t beside the Canal du Midi, it was actually in a village several kilometres away, it was fitting that Evie lived and breathed the canal and to set her story there.
It was after a visit to Bezier and seeing the statue of Jean-Paul Riquet that further stimulus encouraged me. I began to explore the man, the visionary and the history of the Canal-du-Midi in more depth. From a snippet I read, I found my character had more in common with some of the canal’s past characters too. From my research, I discovered just how instrumental Pyrenean peasant women were in building this monumental canal and I was moved by the fact that they failed to ever receive recognition for their contribution. So not only did I have Evie’s story, I felt I also had their story which had to be told and so I developed the plot to include them.
This blend of past and present gives me such a stir because the common theme is disempowerment; strong, intelligent women who had so much capacity and talent as individuals becoming so overruled, isolated and quite possibly like Evie, immersed in a self-fulfilling prophecy of self-doubt. We can never know how these peasant women felt about their names eradicated from the payroll four hundred years ago, but we can help bring their story out for further discussion, and praise.
One of the reasons I love being a fiction writer is because anything is possible; if it doesn’t exist, you can invent it, if you need to find out more, you research, then you can explore. My job is to make it real for the reader. I let my characters speak to me, tell me their problems, then I can help them and discover something unique or at least interesting for the readers. Like many of my contemporaries, writers of women’s fiction, my motivation for my characters, is not just about finding romance and living happy ever after, I wish my characters to travel the journey, discover something about themselves as well as others and the world around them so they become strong independent women who find fulfilment in some form for themselves.
Karen’s books published by CarinaUK/Harper Collins are available on Amazon:
One Moment at Sunrise