The Life of an Agricultural Labourer in France in 1900

Market place in Villefranche-de-Rouergue, which had several large monthly agricultural fairs at one time. The fountains are a 21st century addition.

At the turn of the 20th century, the world of agricultural labour in France was a patchwork of different métiers and social positions. Wherever you were on the social hierarchy, your life was governed by the tasks associated with the different seasons.

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The Transport Crisis in Paris 1900-14: an Unlikely-Sounding Problem

Rue de Rivoli, Paris, around 1900, showing horse-drawn traffic. Wikimedia Commons.

Research sometimes leads one in strange directions and comes up with surprising results. For my latest novel, I had to research the main methods of transport in France between 1897 and 1914. And I discovered something that had never occurred to me.

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From Rural France to Paris: Les Bougnats

Les Monts du Cantal in France’s Massif Central. A region noted for its beauty, but not for agricultural prosperity

The odd-sounding combination of coal merchant and bistro owner was quite common in Paris during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These establishments were usually the métier of immigrants from the Auvergne and northern Aveyron, where the poor soil made farming a thankless task.

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Overture Cover Reveal

I’ve reached a very exciting stage in the genesis of my latest novel, Overture. I can now reveal the cover, and the Kindle version is on pre-order on Amazon.

As ever, my designer JD Smith has come up with a great cover design, which I believe really conveys the flavour of the Belle Epoque period in France.

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Emma Calvé: Forgotten Singing Star of the Belle Epoque

 Emma Calvé, Wikimedia Commons, SIP 89-12, by Reutlinger

Have you heard of Emma Calvé? I hadn’t, until I read about her in a French novel. However, she was one of the brightest stars of her time in the singing world and had a highly-acclaimed international career. Hers is a fascinating rags-to-riches-to-rags story, which has inspired my latest novel, Overture

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Why “Self-Published” doesn’t have to Mean “Terrible”

Something happened recently on social media that both annoyed and saddened me. The details aren’t important, but the message is: that a stigma still attaches to self-published books as opposed to those published by small or traditional publishers. But are self-pubbed books really so terrible? Continue reading

Fictional Versus Real Settings in Novels

Saint-Florent, Corsica

Saint-Florent on the island of Corsica appears in my books under a different name.

A sense of place in fiction is very important to me, both in my own work and in the novels I read. Some of my favourite authors, such as Hannah Kent, Helen Dunmore and Tracy Chevalier, excel at weaving the setting seamlessly into the story. Novels are about people, of course, but they are the product of their environment and culture, so the setting is an indispensable part of the story.

But should you write about real places or make them up? There is no right answer. Both of those alternatives have pros and cons.

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