After a very long absence (I’m going to call it Summer vacation), I’m back with a new mystery set in France! Angela Wren takes us to a small village in the Cévennes, which apparently has lots of ideal locations for hiding misdeeds…

How did the setting of your story impact your writing?

Angela WrenThe setting was the inspiration for the first story in my Jacques Forêt mystery series. I was visiting the Cévennes, an area in south central France that covers parts of four départements when the weather changed overnight. It was late September 2007 and I awoke to a light flurry of snow and a landscape covered with a white blanket. That set me thinking. The Cévennes is an upland area that is sparsely populated, the villages are small and the place where I was staying was at an altitude of about 1200m. It occurred to me that a sudden fall of snow could be a perfect cover for someone’s misdeeds and the first chapter of Messandrierre (book 1 in the series) was born.

How or why is the setting important to who your character is?

Cévennes in snow

Cévennes in snow. Photo: Angela Wren

My character Jacques is from Paris. He was working as a detective in Paris until an incident whilst on a case caused him to re-evaluate his life. On the suggestion of his then boss he moved, and took a significant demotion in rank, to the rural gendarmerie and was assigned a post in the tiny village of Messandrierre. My setting of a small village means that I can and do explore the dynamics between the villagers, who have lived there for generations, and the interloper from Paris. I hope it has created some interesting scenes for the readers. It has certainly been a fascinating aspect for me to write about. Especially in Merle (book 2 in the series) when the office of the Consul Général suggest changes that affect the working life of the village.

Which location did you enjoy writing the most in your story?

The countryside I suppose, rather than any one particular location. The scenery in the Cévennes is quite spectacular. As the year moves through the seasons the landscape transforms itself. The cool fresh green of the grass and pale flowers of spring are replaced by the jewelled clumps of mimosa and poppies in the upland meadows and contrasted against the inky-green back ground of the pines and heavy canopies of the deciduous trees. Late in summer and the grass is a parched and straw-hued but the vast grey boulders that are strewn across the landscape still stand glinting in the harsh sun. Autumn brings the winds and the rain and the red and gold of the falling leaves. Winters can be harsh and sometimes the snow comes early, as it did in 2007. When the snow sets in it can be relentless. Last year whilst I was
there, one of the ladies in the village told me that the last snowfall had been in May!

When you visited France, which location did you prefer?

Wow, that’s a tough question. I’ve travelled and stayed all over the country. If it must be one place then that has to be Orange. The route down the RN7 and at the entrance to the city stand a magnificent roman arch. There is also the roman theatre and, as an actor I could not stop myself from standing on the stage and wondering about whose roman feet might also have stood in that spot. It was truly awesome!

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