Meet Frédéric from ‘Overture’

Charming, witty, handsome. All of those adjectives fit Frédéric. But he also harbours a secret that he wants to keep from his family at all costs. He’s not the protagonist in Overture: that’s Marie-Thérèse, who has a burning ambition to become a singer. For the daughter of a modest farming family in rural France in the 1890s/1900s, that’s a dream which isn’t at all easy to fulfil. But Frédéric plays a crucial role in her life.

Today, he’s being interviewed by fellow Ocelot Press author, Cathie Dunn, on her website. Find out what makes Frédéric tick, what his childhood was like, his likes and dislikes and maybe a clue or two about his secret.

Here’s the start of the interview. Click the link to read the rest.

Bonjour, Frédéric. How lovely to meet you! I have heard many great things about you from Marie-Thérèse. Please make yourself comfortable. May I offer you a refreshment?

Frédéric: Thank you, Madame, or may I call you Cathie? You wouldn’t by any chance have a glass of champagne? I do find it lightens one’s mood, don’t you?

You are so right, and yes, please call me Cathie. There we are. You are a man of the world, and you’ve travelled far and wide. What do you make of my salon?

Frédéric: Delightful. A very restful but refined ambience.

Oh, thank you. You’re very kind. Now, to yourself. What triggered your love of music?

Frédéric: My parents engaged a piano teacher for my sisters so that they could learn an accomplishment suitable for young ladies. I was very taken with the sound of the piano, although the keyboard didn’t always sing under my sisters’ fingers! I pestered my parents to let me take lessons, too. I also took singing lessons, but I will never be more than competent in that line.

Do you play any instruments?

Frédéric: The piano, as I mentioned before. I was fortunate enough to inherit a rather wonderful Erard baby grand from my grandfather. It now has pride of place in my Paris apartment.

I can imagine. What a beautiful piece to inherit. But tell me, what took you to Berthe’s restaurant that first evening you heard Marie-Thérèse sing? You are not from Aveyron, so wasn’t your visit somewhat unusual?

Read the rest of Cathie’s interview.

And, to mark this event, Overture is on sale on Amazon Kindle for 99p/99c. That’s a whopping reduction from the full price. Get your copy here.

Copyright © Vanessa Couchman, Cathie Dunn 2019. All rights reserved.

Going to War in 1914: French People’s Reactions to Mobilisation

This weekend marks the outbreak of World War I, 105 years ago in 1914. On 2nd August the French government issued the general mobilisation order. The following day, Germany declared war on France. On 4th August, Britain in turn declared war on Germany. The stage was set for one of the bloodiest – and most futile – conflicts in history. To mark the occasion, I’m publishing below an excerpt from near the end of my latest novel, Overture, when the main characters hear the tocsin alerting the villagers to the general mobilisation.

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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.

Marie-Thérèse’s France 3: Bordeaux

This is the third and final part of a series of posts that looks at the principal places in France in Overture, Book 1 in the Alouette Trilogy. The main character, Marie-Thérèse, has ambitions to be an opera singer. The story moves mainly between rural Aveyron in Southwest France and Paris, but Marie-Thérèse also spends a spell in Bordeaux, one of France’s most elegant and prosperous cities.

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