Welcome back to The Story Behind The Story series. Today’s post is by Evelyne Holingue. She tells us about the inspiration behind her latest novel Chronicles From Chateau Moines.
France and the USA are my two homes on earth. So it’s natural for me to mix French and American elements in my writing and to create characters and settings with both influences.
After my first novel Trapped in Paris, a fast-paced thriller for Young Adults published in 2012, I wanted to write a story where music would play a significant part. Music, I think, holds the universal power to reunite people and create peace.
From this notion I quickly considered a story written in the early 1970s, a period that benefited from great music from the 1960s and also a period marked with significant popular opposition to the Vietnam War, to violence in general, and to the excessive power of governments.
From this idea my main character was born. I knew from the beginning that he would a boy and a budding musician. At that time I was running schoolbook fairs. I met lots of kids who told me they liked stories told from the perspectives of two characters. Quickly I knew that my other main character would be a girl and that both would be twelve years old, an age I find fascinating because it marks the official end of childhood. I like these moments in life when we are in between stages.
Then because I learned English almost from scratch I know first hand of the struggles to learn a different language and to adjust to a different culture. So very quickly I knew that it would be interesting to have one character from the USA and the other one from France. Scott would be from California, a state I know well and Sylvie from Normandy, my native French region.
With two protagonists from different places, I knew that they would sometimes clash and not always live peaceful relationships.
With peace now at the heart of my theme, I wanted my characters to be conflicted. Scott’s mom recently died, his best friend’s brother has lost a leg in Vietnam, and he used to be involved in peace rallies with his family back in California. Now in France with his brokenhearted father and eight-year-old smart and adorable little sister, he feels lonely, different and yet curious about his new surroundings.
French girl Sylvie is shy and hides from everyone that she writes songs’ lyrics. She’s not as politically educated as Scott. However they will become friends over their common passion for music.
Set in France the story gave me the possibility to write about the changes my native country was starting to experience through the recent waves of immigration, particularly from Algeria, the former North Africa French colony.
I read many books where siblings don’t like each other. I wanted to create families where siblings would love and protect each other despite normal annoyance that exists between brothers and sisters. So Scott and Sylvie both have two smart and annoying eight-year-old sisters. I also love secondary and tertiary characters in any novel, so I had fun to create a cast of people who inhabit the small fictional town of Château Moines.
And because I like surprises in life and books, I also added parental secrets that Scott, Sylvie and the readers discover as the story unfolds.
To find more about this novel, my writing and my life as a French American, stop by my website www.evelyneholingue.com where I regularly blog in both French and English.