Monday, 22 October 2012

Angel Heart - Author Interview Part II

Here is the second part of my interview with MuseitUp Publishing author Christy McKee. Today I am talking about the Knights Templar.

      Can you tell us a little about the Templars?  What role do they play in Angel Heart?  Do the Templars—in perhaps another form—still exist?

The Knights Templar, also know as the Poor Fellow-soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, was a monastic order founded in 1118 to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land, defend the Saint-Sepulcher and fight in the Crusades. The Order grew rapidly in power and wealth and the Knights Templar, in their distinctive white mantles with a red cross, were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades. They managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom, acquired vast estates, became the French King’s bankers and built fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land.
The Templars' existence was tied closely to the Crusades and when the Holy Land was lost, support for the Order faded, and rumours that they indulged in heresy and devil-worshiping grew rife. In 1307, as he found himself deeply indebted to the Order, Philipe IV of France – also known as Philipe le Bel – decided to have most of their members in France arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and then executed. Under pressure from the French King, Pope Clement V disbanded the Order in 1312. The abrupt disappearance of the Order gave rise to speculation and legends.

One of them stems from the curse issued by the last Great Master, Jacques de Molay, against the Pope and the French King. As he was being burned at the stake, he predicted that the Pope would die within forty days, foretold the French King’s imminent death and cursed all his descendents for the next thirteen generations. The Pope died three weeks later, Philippe le Bel eight months later. Some claim that the execution of King Louis XVI in 1792 put an end to the Templar malediction on the royal family, since Louis was the 13th generation of the Capet line.

King Philipe’s actions against the Templars did not make him a wealthy man since only a fraction of the Templar treasure was ever recovered. Many believe that, forewarned of their imminent demise, the Templar Knights arranged for their treasure to be shipped away - to Scotland or Cyprus - or transported to a secret location, like the chateau of Arginy in the Beaujolais or Gisors in Normandy.  

The Knights Hospitaller – or Knights of Saint John – who were founded at around the same time as the Knights Templar to care for sick and injured pilgrims, still exist today. They are now a charitable organization based in Rome. 

In ‘Angel Heart’ my heroin Marie-Ange must recover a sacred relic hidden by the Knights Templar - the ‘Cross of Life’ – which is rumoured to give eternal life. With the help of cuirassier captain Hugo Saintclair, she enravels an old family mystery linked to the legendary Count Saint Germain, a man reputed immortal, and returns the cross to its original hiding place in the crypt of the chateau of Arginy. 

Who did the woman think he was to summon him to her room like that? A lackey, probably. His lips twisted in an angry snarl as he climbed the stairs two by two. Madame Norton might live in a ramshackle manor house on the bleak, windswept Devonshire moorland, but she was still a Beauregard on her mother’s side and a member of the English gentry by marriage. He should have followed Martin’s advice and stayed at the club a while longer.
He walked down the draughty corridor and drummed impatient fingers on her door.
“Who’s there?”  A timid voice answered from behind the door.
“Saintclair. Did you want to talk to me?” His tone was short.
The door opened just enough for Madame Norton to peer through.
He exhaled sharply to control his rising temper. “Are you going to let me in or shall we talk in the corridor?”
She opened the door wider and he strode in.
“Is there a problem?” He looked down at her. Barefoot and swamped in an old dressing gown, the woman hardly reached his shoulder. He wondered what she wore underneath, if anything. His pulse quickened and a sudden rush of heat coursed through his veins. He stuck his hands in his coat pockets to hide the direction his thoughts had taken.
She stepped back and folded her arms on her chest.
 “You said you would be back early. I have been waiting here all day for you,” she said, her voice cold and haughty.
Her icy tone did nothing to cool his desires, in fact it had just the opposite effect. He took a deep breath and walked to the fireplace to put some distance between them. His lips stretched in a thin smile.
“Sorry. I got…distracted.” He shrugged.  “I did arrange a carriage and a driver for us. We’re leaving for Lyon on Saturday.”
She looked at him again in the way a queen might look at a mangy dog.
“Why wait until Saturday? Your instructions are to take me straight to Beauregard. Monsieur Malleval won’t be pleased.”
 If she meant to intimidate him, she had failed. She was starting to amuse him greatly—in more ways than one. 
“I have things to do. Anyway, what’s the rush? I thought you might like to come to town with me tomorrow and see a play in the evening.”
Her eyes flashed in anger.
“I do not go to the theatre, Capitaine. I am in mourning.”
He arched his eyebrows. “After six years?”
“My husband was a wonderful man. I will mourn him all my life.” Her eyes filled with tears, she bit her lip.
He didn’t answer. There was one thing to be said for her. She was convincing—a first-class actress. He had almost been taken in by her wistful sighs and tearful eyes, by her drab mourning dresses and the almost virginal blushing on her cheeks every time he looked her way. He had almost believed her grief-stricken widow act…until he saw young Norton leave her room in the middle of the night with a wide grin on his face. He knew better than to be fooled by a woman, especially a pretty one. 
Still, the way her voice quivered with emotion, her pale blue eyes shone with tears, and her lips trembled did have a strange effect on him. His throat went dry and he swallowed hard, so strong was the urge to crush her mouth under his, rake his fingers in her soft blond curls, and pull her close. The memory of her soft, pliable flesh quickened his pulse and made his body throb and grow hard.
As if she could sense the heat of his desire, a very becoming pink blush covered her cheeks and throat.  
* * * *
Why did he stare at her in this way? His eyes had gone dark. The red glow from the fire cast a sinister, almost evil light across his face. He walked toward her, looking like a wolf about to pounce on his prey. Uneasy, and very conscious of her state of dishabillé, Marie-Ange stepped backward until her back touched the dressing table.
“I bid you good night, Capitaine,” she said, striving to keep her voice calm despite the thumping of her heart. It was thundering so loudly she was sure he could hear it.
He seemed to snap back to reality and took a deep breath. “Of course…I have a few errands to run tomorrow morning,” he said, walking to the door and opening it. “Be ready for ten o’clock if you want to come with me.”
Once alone, she breathed a sigh of relief. For a moment, something in his expression had made her very uncomfortable. He had come so close the stubble on his cheeks, the outline of his mouth, and the rugged line of the scar had been clearly evident. She could have touched the rough fabric of his jacket. A shiver rippled the skin on her arms and she wrapped herself more tightly in Christopher’s dressing gown. She would have to be very careful where the capitaine was concerned. Despite what Uxeloup Malleval had written, she wasn’t sure she could trust him. But who was there to trust here? She was on her own, in a foreign land. France might have been her mother’s country, it wasn’t hers.

 'Angel Heart' is available from MuseitUp Publishing at and Amazon.


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Angel Heart - Author Interview Part I

So that's it! 'Angel Heart' was released on Friday 19th October by MuseitUp Publishing, my Canadian publisher. To mark the occasion fellow MuseitUp author Christy McKee asked me a few questions about myself, the research I carried out, and my journey toward publication.

Here is Part I of the interview.

1.      Angel Heart is set in France and England in 1815. If you could choose to live in this setting and give up your current life for one year, would you do it? Why?
It would depend if I could choose where I lived. I suppose living the life of a woman from the middle and upper classes might be a nice experience, even though it would be hard to give up all the modern comfort and the technology I take for granted, as well as essential things such as medicines and access to healthcare!  Accepting the limitations men and social conventions placed on women at the time would be a challenge too and I certainly would not take kindly to people telling me that there are things I couldn’t do or say because I am a woman.  

2.      If you could take or send one item back to England in 1815, what would it be and why?

      To the risk of sounding obsessed by healthcare, I would probably send medicines or anything which could help fight disease and help the progress of medical knowledge. I may also consider a solar-powered IPod or mp3 (if such things exist!) with all my favorite songs and music pieces. Music is such an important part of my life I would find it very difficult to do without.

3.      This is your debut novel. In your next book what time period and country do you plan to write about?

My second novel is called ‘The Lion’s Embrace’. It is a historical romance too, set in 1845 with Hugo Saintclair’s son, Lucas, as the hero and Harriet Montague, the daughter of a British Museum archeologist, as the heroin. It takes place in Algeria where Harriet hires Lucas as a guide to help rescue her father from the clutches of Tuareg fighters  – or so she believes. It captured my imagination so much that I wrote the story in a few weeks only. It is a tale of lost treasures, dangerous passions and betrayal. It will be published by MuseItUp Publishing in February 2013.

4.      If you could bring Marie-Ange back to present day England for 24 hours, what would you show her?

This is actually a question I find quite hard to answer. Poor Marie-Ange! Imagine how noisy, dirty, messy and threatening our world would appear to someone from the early 19th century. Almost everywhere we go there is the noise of traffic from cars, planes and trains. I would definitely not take her to a town, where there is so much aggressiveness and violence, where people rush everywhere and hardly spare one another a glance. I may sound terribly boring but I think I would take her for a walk in the countryside and a nice lunch in a pub with friends and family!
 On the other hand, I may take her to a music festival, like Glastonbury! That would surely give her something to remember!

5.      As an historical writer, could you describe your writing and research process?

I enjoy research, sometimes a little too much. It is such an exciting part of the writing process. You never quite know what gems you’re going to find and how much they will alter your characters and storyline. I enjoy reading articles and books, finding out facts and anecdotes, which often send me in a completely new and unexpected direction. The internet is a wonderful research tool, although you do have to be careful and sift through information carefully. Without it, it would have been impossible for me to travel to France, Algeria or Malta to find the information I needed for ‘Angel Heart’ and ‘The Lion’s Embrace.’

In ‘Angel Heart’ I have interwoven facts and fiction. For example most of what I wrote about the ‘Société Angélique’ which existed in Lyon from the Middle Ages onwards is based on facts, incredible as they may seem. Its members, who over the centuries included well-known figures such as artist Poussin and writers Rabelais and George Sand, really did believe they could communicate with angels. I loved researching the legendary Count Saint-Germain, a central figure in the novel even he only puts in an appearance at the end. I also read about Napoleon and his return from exile in Elba, about key political figures of the time such as Joseph Fouché, and the cuirassiers of course!

 All the locations, including the village of Malleval and the stories about bandits who lived there, and the chateau of Arginy in the Beaujolais region, have been thoroughly researched. I had a great time writing ‘Angel Heart’ and I hope readers enjoy it too!
6.      We all like to hear writer success stories. Could you tell us about your journey from newbie to published author?

It hasn’t been easy, but I was never tempted to give up. Writing is a part of me, and always was. As far as I can remember I enjoyed making up stories, especially romantic ones! I first started writing short stories inspired by my mother’s wonderful memories of her childhood in Algeria. It was a way to remember her. When one story was published and another won first prize in a local competition, I started thinking that maybe I could try and write a novel entirely in English.

I enjoyed writing ‘Angel Heart’ so much I was determined never to give up hope that it would be published, even when I kept receiving rejections letters and people around me urged me to stop. When I was offered a contract by an English publisher, I was delighted, of course, but the publisher shut down its romance imprint before the novel got published and I had to start all over again! 

I will never forget the day Lea Schizas emailed me to offer me a contract with MuseItUp Publishing, ten months ago. I jumped, danced, smiled and laughed for days! At last, it was going to happen. It was real!

Thank you Christy for your questions.
Part II of the interview will be about the Knights Templar who are central to 'Angel Heart'.

Angel Heart Blurb

Devonshire, January 1815.
Marie-Ange, the young widow of an English officer, accepts an inheritance in France only to find that everything in Beauregard is not as it seems. Why is the sinister Malleval so obsessed with her family? And could her darling Christopher still be alive? Marie-Ange finds herself trapped in a dangerous web of lies, intrigue, and mystical possession, and the only person to whom she can turn for help is Captain Hugo Saintclair. Yet the enigmatic Hugo represents a danger of a different kind …

Angel Heart is a lavish mix of romance, adventure and a hint of the supernatural, largely set in France against the turbulent background of Napoleon’s return from Elba.

Angel Heart mini-except

The cutter was sailing too close to the cliffs, heading straight for the Devil's Tooth. Marie-Ange's cloak billowed in the blustery wind, the hood blew back and her hair swirled like a golden veil around her. From the cliff top, she watched the small French ship dancing wildly on the waves, its tricolour and white ensigns flapping at the top of the mast.  If it carried on its course the ship would be ripped open by the reef… .She unfastened her cloak, pulled her black shawl from her shoulders, and waved it above her head in the direction of the Devil's Tooth.

Damn this ship. Damn this weather. And damn Malleval. Hugo Saintclair clapped his hands together a few times and blew on them to keep them warm. Around him, the crew shouted orders and heaved on ropes in order to switch sails and change course before they hit the rocks.  The Angel warned them, the sailors said, heaven was on their side. Shaking his head with impatience, he listened to their nonsensical chatter. Angels didn't exist, but the woman who waved at them from the cliff top had saved them from a certain death.

'Angel Heart' is available now from and Amazon

Thank you for dropping by. I look foward to reading your comments!