Way back in June 2010, I was just an aspiring writer and a member of a local writing group, but I had big ideas about writing books. At that time, my strategy was to hone my skills with short fiction and then move onto longer tracts as my confidence grew.
My imagination was on a different tack. Whilst camped in the tiny village of Cellettes, just south of Blois, I found myself in the shade, gazing at a large building on the opposite bank of the river Beuvron. Then the building was empty but it was clear to see that it had had various uses in the past. But it wasn't the history of the building that was drawing my attention. It was a small attic window.
In keeping with the age of the property, which I guessed dated from the early 19th century, the window was round and set in an elegantly shaped wooden surround. In addition, when the sunlight was in the right aspect I could just make out some pale green wall covering that I decided must be old wallpaper covered with small flowers.
That window set my imagination running. What might have happened in that room? Who had lived there? What might they have seen if they had looked out? A couple of hours later, not a single page turned in my library book, and I had a whole history and timeline for the succeeding occupants of the room. I'd also decided what those imaginary people might have witnessed over the decades. It wasn't a story, just a whole series of scenarios, each with its own possibilities.
Cut to the ferry in early July as I'm making my way back to the UK and my first musings had grown into a whole village of imaginary people - the baker, the butcher, the local priest and his not so holy brother, the gossip, the restaurateur and any number of others. A community of people looking for a story. A story I still didn't have. These fragments remained just that for about two years.
|A window of a similar design to mine|
Back home again and I started writing furiously. I told myself it was a romance. The problem was that all my scenarios involved some form of crime. About 100 pages in, the project was abandoned and the notebook, the partially drafted novel and some pictures I'd collected were shoved in a drawer. And there they stayed.
January 2021 comes around and, following some preliminary email chats, I was scrabbling through all my papers for my Beauregard notes. A request for a story was all it took. Suddenly, all those disordered ideas and scenarios kind of marshalled themselves and my characters Alice, an auctioneer, and her dad Peter, a building contractor and property developer, were born.
The Bookseller's Secret Octavo, my story in the anthology, #AutumnPaths, has enabled me to work with some brilliant authors who write in other genres. I've learned a great deal over the last few months and it's a great privilege to introduce Alice, Peter and the villagers of Beauregard to you. Will there be more stories from Beauregard? Perhaps. Will there be more collaborative work with my fellow writers? I really think there might be.
You can get the book in print or e-format on Amazon
Here You can read about my fellow writers on the South Branch Scribbler and you can pick up your own signed copy of the book from the Craft Fair at Kirk Smeaton (WF8 3LB) on Saturday, October 16th. Be great to see you there...
There will be more from another Autumn Paths author on November 23rd...