Revisiting Inspiration on Corsica


Special Corsican village
Special Corsican village

Should you go back to places that have a special significance in your memory, or where you have found inspiration? It can turn out to be disappointing. They might have changed beyond recognition, or the magic you experienced might simply have dissipated.

So, it was with some misgivings that I recently revisited the Corsican village where I found the inspiration for my novel House at Zaronza. But something rather exciting happened while we were there.

Zaronza was inspired by a story that we discovered three years ago when we stayed in a B&B on Cap Corse, the part of the island in the NE corner that sticks up like a finger. On the walls we saw framed love letters that turned out to be from the local schoolmaster to the daughter of the house in the 1890s.

One of the original letters
One of the original letters

The B&B owners told us the story of the star-crossed lovers, who carried on a doomed love affair in secret. It was begging to be turned into a novel, which is just what I did. I was then fortunate enough to have my novel published by Crooked Cat Publishing just over a year ago.

In the meantime, although we had revisited Corsica, we hadn’t been back to the village where I found the story. This year, during our 6th visit to this beguiling Mediterranean island, we decided to do so. I was a little apprehensive. After all, I hadn’t told the B&B owners that I had taken their story as a starting point and embroidered it into my own version.

We sat having breakfast under the arbour on the rear terrace.

“I have a little surprise for you,” I said to Monsieur. “Would you mind calling Madame as well?”

They appeared, looking a little concerned. But, as soon as I explained how taken I had been with the story they told us in September 2012, their faces brightened and other guests approached to hear what was going on.

Back of my head (best angle) as I explain about my novel
Back of my head (best angle) as I explain about my novel

So I needn’t have worried. Monsieur et Mme B were delighted with the idea that someone had decided to write a novel inspired by the real life story. I handed over two copies of the book (in English; alas, it hasn’t been translated into French yet, but Madame reads English) and signed them for Monsieur et Mme B.

Monsieur B with a copy
Monsieur B with a copy

When I wrote the novel, I disguised the name of the real place. I will continue to do so, since I don’t want M. et Mme. B to be unduly bothered. It wouldn’t take Einstein to work out where it is. But the Corsican village in The House at Zaronza is a composite version, based on a number that I have visited. Much of it is a figment of my imagination, as is most of the story. So I’d prefer to keep it that way.

It was magical to return to the place that inspired my first novel and it had remained just as I had remembered. That village will always be special for me.

You might also like:

Ten Inspiring Things about Corsica: Part 1
Ten Inspiring Things about Corsica: Part 2
Why Corsica Should be a Happy Hunting Ground for Authors

Copyright © Vanessa Couchman 2015. All rights reserved.


Published by Vanessa in France

We moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I'm fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs. I also write historical novels and short stories.

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