A writing life in France

English Library small

at Hotel Les Fleurines

17 Boulevard Haute Guyenne

Villefranche-de-Rouergue, 12200

France

organised by The English Library

 

Many writers, from Joyce to Hemingway, have seen and used the value of the estranged position. Not entirely fitting in, being a bit of a voyeur is the ideal position for a writer. Not belonging can allow a writer to see afresh. I’m looking forward to talking in Villefranche-de-Rouergue on Friday this week, about the impacts and inspirations that living in France have had on my writing.

‘Southern France is graced by spectacular hilltop castles, medieval towns and a rash of English historical novelists,’ I wrote in my article ‘The Lure of Another Time, Another Place’, published in Historical Novels Review magazine (Feb 2016). I interviewed a number of other English writers about living and writing in France. ‘Writing starts with landscape,’ declared Kate Mosse. ‘The landscape itself often suggests the stories that might be possible within it,’ said Deborah Lawrenson. And in the same vein, Jacqueline Yallop found that, ‘It’s actually treading the ground which makes a difference, which allows…you to inhabit other lives’. Amanda Hodgkinson pointed out the supportive attitude in France towards the notion of an artist’s life. And, of course, there is an avid English-reading readership living here in France.

I will be talking alongside another locally based writer Stephen Goldenberg whose latest thriller is set in Villefranche.

The event will take place in the Salle de Travail, across from the terrace of Hotel Les Fleurines. Entry is free.

Tapas available afterwards at 10 euros per plate and must be pre-ordered by email to jackienaismith@hotmail.com.

Murder Mystery in France

Villefranche-de-Rouergue_-_Place_de_la_Fontaine_-1My interview with author, Stephen Goldenberg, has just been published on The Displaced Nation website. Goldenberg has written and self-published a murder mystery set in France and thrillers set in Britain. He is now working on a novel about a man who modelled for the artist, Francis Bacon.

Stephen and I are talking about our novels at The English Library in Villefranche-de-Rouergue, France, on Friday 21 April, 5.30pm.

The English Library is a lending library for English readers with over 3,000 books. It is open on Thursday mornings and Friday afternoons and situated next to the 14th century Place de la Fontaine and the Urbain Cabrol Municipal Museum.

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Considering historical fiction

Just back from Cluny Museum of the Medieval Age, Paris.

Talking on Sat 25 Mar 10.30am at Parisot Library, France on historical fiction.

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Does historical fiction try to impose today’s moral values on another era?

7th century Visigothic votive crowns. Cluny Museum, Paris.

 

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Historical fiction takes time instead of geography as an exotic arena for exploration.

14th century aquamanile. Cluny Museum, Paris.

 

 

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One of my lead characters, a nun, uses Ovid’s rather racy love poetry as the cipher for her spy letters.

13th century censor, Limoges. Cluny Museum, Paris.

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2017 Book Events

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I have a series of book events coming up this year, talking on and presenting my new historical fiction trilogy, Conquest, which is set in 12th century Wales, England and France. I’ve been researching early medieval toilets, nuns, clothes, castles, and some rather salacious poetry by clerics and dukes. The first book came out last year. I’m working on the second one now and it will be published in the autumn.

Saturday 25 March – LibraryLit at Parisot Library, 82160, France

10.30am-12 noon followed by aperitifs

I will be talking about the first book in the series, Conquest: Daughter of the Last King, in the context of other historical fiction and my work as a writer for Historical Novels Review magazine. The event is part of a new series of author-talks linked to the annual Parisot Literary Festival.

Friday 21 April – The English Library, Villefranche-en-Rouergue, 12300, France

5.30-8.00pm

I will be presenting alongside crime writer Stephen Goldenberg. I’m planning to discuss  the impacts on my writing from living part of each year in France. The landscapes, histories, art and literature of southern France have played a large role in my writing. I’m currently researching the establishment of the great ‘women’s’ abbey at Fontevraud and imagining the lives of some of my characters there.

And coming up later in the year:

Thursday 8 June 6-8pm – The Guildhall Library, London

I will be focusing on Henry I’s London and the role of early medieval literature as inspirations for my fiction.

Friday 28 July 11am – Victoria Bookshop, Haverfordwest

A talk on the novel and booksigning.

Sunday 30 July 1pm – Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales

I’m delighted to be participating in a day celebrating the life of Nest ferch Rhys – the heroine of my Conquest trilogy. I will talk about the history behind my fiction and the various castles that featured in Nest’s life. Taffire Theatre Company will be presenting open-air drama about Nest, who lived at Carew Castle. Their performances in the castle courtyard will take place at 11am and 3pm.

24-26 August – Charroux Literary Festival, 86250, France

I’m excited to be speaking here alongside a wonderful line-up of other writers including Barbara Erskine, Jackie Bennet, Andrew Lownie, Nick Inman, Jane Lythall, Diana Morgan Hill, Vanessa Couchman, Alison Morton, James Vance, Harriet Springbett and publishers Stephanie Zia and Chuck Grieve.

But I’m also excited about it because Charroux was at the heart of the old medieval county of La Marche where my first heroine, Almodis, came from. I’m now working on a biography of Almodis and her two sisters, Lucie and Raingarde.

Saturday 23 September 10am-4pm – Narberth Book Fair at The Queen’s Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire, Wales

I lived in Narberth for several years and my Conquest stories about the Welsh princess, Nest ferch Rhys, were first incubated here so I am delighted to be returning for the inaugural Narberth Book Fair.

Saturday 30 September 11am – Tenby Library, Pembrokeshire, Wales

A talk on my Conquest novels, the Welsh princess Nest ferch Rhys and the Normans. Coinciding with the Tenby Arts Festival.

Saturday 14 October 10.30am – Pembroke Dock Library, Pembrokeshire, Wales

To coincide with National Libraries Week, I will be giving a talk on my Conquest novels. The second book is published in October and is mostly set at Pembroke Castle where Nest and her husband Gerald FitzWalter of Windsor were based.

 

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Exoplanet song

 

Tania Candiani Ear Trumpets Photo Yohann Gozard
Tania Candiani, Listening Sculpture in the Exoplanet Lot exhibition. Photo: Yohann Gozard.

For the Exoplanet Lot exhibition organised by MAGP, open in France now until 4 September, I collaborated with artist Tania Candiani on an ‘exoplanet song’. Tania installed this fabulous listening sculpture on the cliff top at Saint Cirq Lapopie above the Lot river. I adapted the lyrics of a medieval song written by the Comtesse de Dia and the song was recorded in Occitan and played in the valley. The Comtesse’s song was a love lament of a woman betrayed. My song is the voice of Earth lamenting that humans have left for an exoplanet. Here are my lyrics in English:

Of things I’d rather keep in silence I must sing

so bitter do I feel toward you

whom I love more than anything.

 

You left me for another planet,

my forests silent, my seas emptied.

Come home now. I have healed the scars you graved.

 

It’s not right another celestial body takes you away from me.

Remember how it was with us in the beginning!

Come home. We could still have much time together

Before the death throes of the sun begin.

 

I send you there, on your exoplanet,

this song as messenger and delegate.

Come home my lovers, my humans.