Tell us a bit about you and your background.
Hello Linda, and thank you so much for welcoming me on your blog today. I live in the very green and pretty Rossendale Valley in Lancashire, England, and although it is very different from Lyon in France where I grew up, I love being here! I always wanted to live in England (I blame Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and Thomas Hardy for firing my imagination!), and I came to work at the university of Manchester as soon as I finished my studies in France, and I never left!
I now teach full-time time in a secondary school. I have three children, two boys and a girl, who are growing up very fast.
What’s the logline that describes your writing?
Atmospheric settings, haunted heroes and unconventional heroines.
Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?
My characters always come first and somehow the plot evolves around them.
Is your writing style planned or freestyle?
I don’t plan enough and that always leads me into trouble. Every time I start a new story I resolve to plot more and not rush into things, but every time it’s the same and I end up backtracking, deleting, rewriting…
If you use music while writing, name your favorite types.
I love listening to music, but not when I write. I prefer silence – although in my house, that never happens! However there are always specific songs and composers that accompany me whilst writing a story. For example, when I was writing my DANCING FOR THE DEVIL Trilogy, I listened to Rumours by Fleetwood Mac as well as to traditional Scottish folk songs. When I was writing THE LION’S EMBRACE, which is set in North Africa, I listened to a lot of music from local Tuareg artists, including modern ones such as Bombino.
What is the starting point for research—story concept or when you get stuck while writing?
Research starts the moment I get an idea for my plot. I absolutely love it! I love the excitement of finding anecdotes, facts or pictures which will make my story and characters come to life. And very often I will find a little gem that will steer in a completely new direction.
Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?
I go for a walk either on my own or with my daughter. Although she is only ten, talking to her can sometimes help me see the way forward in a story. Another thing that works for me is scribbling on my notebooks and letting my imagination run wild.
What’s your dream vacation destination?
I have several! I love going to Devon and Cornwall. Last summer we went to Northumberland and it was absolutely breathtaking! I still dream about the long walks we took on the beach near Bamburgh Castle.
Do you use visual aids (storyboards, Pinterest, collages) when plotting or writing?
All the time! I love travel guides, paintings, history books and maps for inspiration about locations. I also need to find a photo of my hero – or a few and then I do a mix in my mind – but funnily enough, not of my heroine as I always know exactly what she looks like. I have recently ventured on Pinterest and had a lot of fun creating boards for my novels.
What resources do you use for picking character names?
Maps and road signs, especially in the West Country, Devon and Dorset, are great sources of inspiration for characters and location alike. I do like to look on the internet for first names and I try to make them as realistic to the period and setting as possible. There are great sites around – for example, Gaelic names for boys and girls.
BLURB for The Dream Catcher, book 1 in Dancing With The Devil trilogy
Can her love heal his haunted heart? – Cape Wrath, Scotland, November 1847.
Bruce McGunn is a man as brutal and unforgiving as his land. Discharged from the army, he is haunted by the spectres of his fallen comrades and convinced he is going mad. And he is running out of time to save his estate from the machinations of Cameron McRae, heir to the McGunn’s ancestral enemies. When the clipper carrying McRae’s new bride is caught in a violent storm and docks at Wrath harbour, Bruce decides to revert to the old ways and hold the clipper and the woman to ransom. However, far from the spoilt heiress he expected, Rose is genuine, funny and vulnerable – a ray of sunshine in the long, harsh winter that has become his life.
Rose is determined to escape Wrath and its proud master – the man she calls McGlum. Will she be reunited with Cameron McRae, the dazzlingly handsome aristocrat she married after a whirlwind romance in Algiers, or will she risk her heart and her honour to help Bruce discover the truth about his past and solve the brutal murders committed on his land?
A giant stepped in front of her. Dressed in black riding boots, black breeches and riding coat, he was so tall and his shoulders so broad the already dark horizon darkened further.
His voice was deep and calm, the voice of a man used to be obeyed. The crowd hushed at once.
He bent down in front of her.
‘Well, well, who do we have here?’
Even though she could hardly see his face, she felt his eyes bore into hers, and it was enough to make her mind go blank.
‘Where are the others, your servants, your maids?’
‘I… I don’t have any.’
‘Really? That’s a surprise. All right then, come up.’ He held both his hands out.
She hesitated a moment before placing her hands in his. He pulled her up and she flew straight into his arms, landing with a bump against his broad, hard chest. He was so tall she had to tilt her face all the way back to look at him. Her heart skipped a beat, then started bumping fast and loud.
His eyes were grey and framed by dark eyelashes, his nose straight and strong, his cheekbones high and sharp. Thick black stubble covered his cheeks and chin, and his hair flew around his face, the colour of a raven’s wing. There was something dangerous about him, something reminiscent of a brutal warrior from days long gone by.
She wriggled to free herself but he didn’t let go and his mouth curved into a mocking smile.
‘Well, Fàilte, my sweetheart. ‘I’ll say this for McRae. If there’s one thing the rascal can do, it’s pick his fancy women.’
His hand slid from her waist and he patted her bottom.
Her reaction was instinctive. She swung her arm and lifted her hand to slap him. She didn’t have the chance. Without batting an eyelid he caught her wrist.
‘Steady on, sweetheart. You have a nasty little temper.’
‘And you have no right to insult me in this way, you vile brute,’ she hissed. ‘I am not Lord McRae’s fancy woman, as you so elegantly put it, I’m his wife!’
She had expected at least a shocked response or a groveling apology but he merely smiled.
‘It’s all right, gràidheag, you don’t have to pretend.’
‘Pretend you’re married to the man. I don’t care if you’re McRae’s mistress or his laundry maid, if you scrub his back or his dirty shirts.’
‘I am telling the truth, you stubborn macaque,’ she shouted in frustration. ‘I married Lord McRae in Algiers four weeks ago.’
‘Please don’t scream quite so loud. I heard you the first time. I just don’t believe you.’
‘First you introduce yourself as Rose Saintclair, now you’re spinning me a tale about being married McRae. Make up your mind, sweetie.’
He glanced at her hand. ‘I don’t see any wedding band on your finger.’
‘That’s because Cameron wanted to keep the wedding a secret. Never mind, I don’t have to explain anything to you. Now let go of me.’
She wriggled to break free, but he was still holding her wrist, leaving her no choice but to kick him hard in the shin with the tip of her boot – the very pointy tip of the fashionable new boots she had made in Algiers.
‘Ouch. Steady on, sweetheart.’
‘Let go of me, you deranged baboon! And stop calling me sweetheart.’
She kicked him again, harder. He muttered something in a strange, guttural language she didn’t understand and let go of her so suddenly she staggered backward and fell on her bottom on the hard, wet cobbles.
Her breath caught in her throat, her heart beat hard, erratic. Tears blurred her vision as people sneered and clapped around her. She knew McRaes and McGunns were enemies, but she had nothing to do with their feud, so why did everybody here seem to hate her so much? And why was the big hairy brute intent on humiliating her and not believing a word she said?
He stepped closer and offered his hand.
‘Come on, now, sweetheart. Let’s start again. I think we got off on the wrong foot.’
He sounded contrite but she wasn’t ready to forgive to forgive him. Ignoring his hand, she scrambled to her feet, and straightened her back. Attack was the best defence, her brother often said, and Lucas knew what he was talking about. He was the best scout in the whole of the Barbary States – or Algeria as the French now called her country.
‘Take me to your master immediately,’ she started in a voice as cold and steady she could manage, ‘so I can ask him to have you whipped for your insolence.’
There was a collective gasp from the people around them. Not looking in the least impressed, the man crossed his arms on his broad chest and arched his eyebrows.
She took another deep breath.
‘That’s what I do to disrespectful servants on my estate, and I can assure you they stop smirking after five lashes.’ That was an outrageous lie, of course, but no one here was to know.
‘If what you said earlier is true, then I see McRae chose his bride well.’ The man’s eyes were now hard as steel. ‘You and he are indeed a match made in heaven, or in hell. I’m sure you’ll be very happy together.’ He paused. ‘I’m sorry to disappoint you, sweetheart, but I don’t approve of whipping people, or beasts, for that matter.’
‘And I don’t care a fig if you approve or not. It is for your master to decide your punishment, and from what I’ve heard of Lord McGunn, he is neither a patient nor compassionate man.’
He arched his eyebrows. ‘I didn’t know I had such a bad reputation.’
Rose’s heart stopped. He wasn’t… he couldn’t be…
‘I realise I failed to introduce myself. I am Bruce McGunn.’ He bowed his head in a military salute.
‘You are?’ The words came out as a squeak.
His lips stretched into a tight smile that didn’t warm his eyes.
‘At your service, my lady. Now the introductions are over, shall we make our way to the Lodge?’
Marie offers an ecopy (pdf, mobi or epub) of The Dream Catcher to one person who leaves a comment on this blog.
The second book in the Dancing With The Devil trilogy, Blue Bonnets, is also available now.
SNIPPETS FROM 5-Star Review
“This is an arresting and original story, full of suspense, well-researched, with great descriptions of the Scottish setting and a wonderfully likeable heroine.”
“From the very first sentence I was hooked.”
Sword Dance will be available in March, 2016
Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the beautiful Rossendale Valley, Lancashire, England, for the past few years and likes nothing more than dreaming up romance stories and handsome, brooding heroes. She writes historical and contemporary romance. Her contemporary romance A SPELL IN PROVENCE, as well as her historical romances, ANGEL HEART, together with the award-winning THE LION’S EMBRACE, and the DANCING FOR THE DEVIL Trilogy (which includes THE DREAM CATCHER, BLUE BONNETS and SWORD DANCE) are all published by Áccent Press.
You can find out more about Marie Laval and her novels on her Amazon UK Author Page.
She also blogs at http://marielaval.blogspot.co.uk/ and has recently venture on Pinterest where she loves finding photos for every one of her novels (https://uk.pinterest.com/laval0232/)
and lastly on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/marielavalauthor/?fref=ts