Marie-Thérèse’s Playlist from ‘Overture’

The Opéra Comique in Paris, where Marie-Thérèse hears her idol Emma Calvé (a real-life opera singer) for the first time

Overture, my latest novel, is all about music: a young woman’s struggle against her humble origins and lack of formal training to become a professional singer. I am very fond of listening to, playing and singing music, and so it was a treat for me to write a book in which music is a key theme.

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The Pneumatic Postal Service of Paris

Telegram sent by pneumatic tube, Wikimedia Commons

I love all the research that goes with writing historical novels, because you find out so many fascinating things. The small details are often crucial in conveying the period feel. But a lot of this research has to be discarded and can’t be used in the book, so I like to give a little flavour of it in these posts.

We all know that “un pneu” means a tyre in French. Did you know that it also came to be used to mean a telegram sent along tubes by pneumatic means?

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Marie-Thérèse Spills the Beans!

My main character from Overture, Marie-Thérèse Vernhes, has been let loose on her own to talk with Stephanie Churchill on her blog today. Find out what motivates her, how she pursues her ambitions to become an opera singer – and what irritates her about me!

Marie-Thérèse talks about the contrasts between life in rural France and Paris at the turn of the 20th century, the difficulties of breaking out of the traditional mould and her love of singing and music.

Overture goes on tour

My latest historical novel, Overture, set in Belle Epoque France, heads off on a seven-day blog tour today. I’m very grateful to these 21 fantastic book bloggers for featuring the book on their blogs and also to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for organising it all so efficiently. Some of the bloggers will also be featuring a review of Overture. Their support for authors is invaluable and helps readers to find new books.

I’ll tweet every day about the tour with a link to the participating blogs and also post on my Facebook page. I’m sure the bloggers will be delighted if you go to have a look at their blogs. They feature and review many books, so you might well find exciting new reads.

Also, I have allowed out of my sight my main character from Overture, Marie-Thérèse, so that she can take part in an interview as part of the Historical Writers’ Forum “Interview my Character” blog hop. Her interview by Stephanie Ling will appear on Stephanie’s blog on Monday 24th June. Watch this space for the link.

Copyright © Vanessa Couchman 2019. All rights reserved.

True Inspiration for Fiction #5: the Ghosts of World War I

Armistice Day 2

At 11 am on this day in 1918, the guns fell silent on the Western Front. Ninety-nine years later, none of the combatants in that terrible war is alive, but the memories still echo down the years. In France, where I live, the smallest village has its war memorial. Often, several men with the same surname appear in the list: death cut a swathe through many families. Few were unaffected. Continue reading

True Inspiration for Fiction #4: Angel Makers

Thiézac Village

Angel makers practised their trade in cities as well as isolated rural villages

In most Western nations, the practice of backstreet abortion has virtually disappeared now that abortion has been legalised. I don’t intend to open a debate here about the moral issues, but rather to look at the historical background, especially in France. Continue reading

True Inspiration for Fiction #2: Edgar Degas’ Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando

Edgar_Degas,_Miss_La_La_at_the_Cirque_Fernando,_1879

Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando by Edgar Degas – National Gallery, London, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Works of art can provide endless inspiration for fiction. The paintings alone, with everything they convey, would be muse enough. But sometimes the story behind the painting is just as enthralling. I have always loved Edgar Degas’ paintings and I was fascinated to learn the origins of ‘Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando’, which hangs in the National Gallery in London. Continue reading