Sunday, 4 September 2016

A stop at a favourite uncle's and inspiration...

People often wonder how authors get ideas about plots, characters and settings for their stories. I find my inspiration in many different sources - a holiday, a song, painting or road map (I love maps!), an old photo or even a strange dream... My short story SONS OF THE WIND was actually inspired by a holiday I took many years ago after finishing my university degree in Lyon University.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

I wanted a bit of an adventure and borrowed my mother's old Renault 5 to tour the South of France for a couple of weeks. I had a vague idea of where I wanted to go but no fixed plan.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

My first stop was Avignon where my favourite uncle lived. My uncle Roger was my mother's elder brother, and the most original - some may say eccentric - person I have ever met. I absolutely adored him. He had built his own house, dug his own pond where ducks and grandchildren dived and paddled together (no one ever mentioned germs and health and safety in those days), kept all kinds of animals on his small holding, including pigeons, dogs, vicious turkey cocks, and two parrots -Marco and Polo who warned him from the treetops of the arrival of customers for his bric-à-brac business. He also ran a house clearing business with two elderly gentlemen aptly nicknamed 'Les Deux Vieux' (the two old ones) who must have been a lot stronger than they looked and did not talk much. In fact, now that think about it, I don't think I ever heard them talk at all.

My uncle was a nature lover, and a poet. He would tell you to take great care not to damage a spider web as you went up the stairs. His house was a treasure trove, especially the ground floor where he kept all his bric-à-brac. How I loved looking through his collection of paintings, out of tune pianos and shields and swords, old typewriters, broken dentist chairs and - oh joy...hundreds and hundreds of keys. I think this is where my fascination with old keys must have started.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The day I arrived he and his two elderly assistants had just cleared over a ton of flour from a bankrupt mill and he was wondering what to do with it.

'You don't want any flour, do you?' he asked as we enjoyed a glass of rosé wine in the shade just before lunch.

'Of course not, I'm going on a tour of Provence! What would I do with bags of flour?'

Not in the least upset by my refusal, he suggested a few places for me to visit on my tour. Les Saintes Maries de la Mer in the Camargue was one of them. I had planned to travel to Arles, but not to Les Saintes Maries. I am glad I listened to my uncle that day and pushed a bit further.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Les Saintes Maries de la Mer is a fishing village situated in the heart of the Camargue, between the Rhône river and the Mediterranean sea. It is surrounded by marshes brimming with wildlife. This is where you can find ranches (called 'manades') where bulls and horses are bred. The grey-white Camargue horses are renown for their speed and their beauty, and during cavalcades and 'abrivades' that take place throughout the year, the 'gardians' (Camargue cowboys) show off their skills.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
The village is especially famous for its gypsy festival which takes place on 24th and 25th May. Every year more than 10 000 travellers come from all over Europe to celebrate their patron saint - 'Sara La Noire'. It is for them a time of celebration, of dancing and feasting, of religious worship and catching up with friends and relatives.

Les Saintes Maries is a beautiful and inspiring setting for my short story SONS OF THE WIND which was recently published in LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES, an anthology of romantic short stories by international bestselling authors.

I ended up staying several days there during my tour of Provence and I will never forget the evenings spent eating delicious seafood at the terrace of cafés, and listening to the 'gardians' singing and playing the guitar. It felt like a magical place.

Provence 1826. Ten years after her brother disappeared in the marshes of the Camargue, Venetia Rigby receives a letter suggesting he is alive. Will Philippe Dantès, half-gipsy master of Terres Mortes, help her find him when he has his own demons to fight?

LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES is available here

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