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.
Open any guidebook about Corsica and you’re likely to come across a picture of this exquisite Romanesque church in Murato. Prosper Mérimée, who was Inspector of Public Monuments, said in 1839 that it was “the most elegant and the most attractive church he had come across on Corsica.” We visited the site in 2014 and I heartily agree with him.
It’s no secret that I’m a Corsicaphile. I’ve visited six times (not nearly enough!) and never cease to be inspired by its history, culture and landscapes. This is the first in a series of posts about inspiring places on the island. Some of them appear in my books; others don’t yet.
I’m starting with a monument that has appeared in both of my Corsica novels: the Paoline Tower in Nonza on Cap Corse, the finger-like projection at the north end of the island. It’s often been described as “the island of the island” and has its own distinctive feel. The village of Nonza is on the rugged west coast.
I have been itching to show you the cover for the next in my Tales of Corsica series, The Corsican Widow, which will be published on 10th May 2018. The Kindle version is now available for pre-order on Amazon. The designer was, again, JD Smith, who has designed previous covers for me and I’m delighted with it. She has really captured the spirit of the book.
April will see the reissue of The House at Zaronza, my novel set in early 20th-century Corsica and at the Western Front during World War I. It was first published by Crooked Cat Books in 2014, and I’m eternally grateful to them for taking me on and for everything I have learned in the process. They tell me it was their 4th bestselling eBook and I’m pleased and proud that it did so well in its first edition.
If you have a new Kindle or some Amazon gift vouchers or want to stock up your old Kindle to see you through those long winter evenings, now is your chance to buy some e-books at bargain prices. My publisher, Crooked Cat, has a sale of Kindle books on from today (27th December) until 29th December. Many titles are reduced to 99p/99¢ or equivalent across the Amazon stores.
This includes my novel The House at Zaronza, set on early 20th-century Corsica and at the Western Front during WWI. You can get a little taste of this stunning Mediterranean island – or a foretaste if you’re going on holiday there next year.
Just go to your Amazon store and type Crooked Cat Books into the search box. You’ll find a range of genres, including thrillers, crime, chicklit, romance, historical, humour and paranormal.
The sale is on for only three days, so don’t delay.
Can you name some famous Corsicans? There’s the obvious one, Napoleon Bonaparte. Slightly less obvious ones are the singer Tino Rossi, and Pasquale di Paoli, who headed the short-lived independent Corsican republic in the 18th century. But did you know that François Coty, who founded the famous Coty perfume empire, was also Corsican?
When you’ve spent months, or even years, with your characters they somehow take on a surprising reality and a life of their own. I felt a bit empty when I typed ‘The End’ to The House at Zaronza since I had become very fond of my main character, Maria Orsini.