Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Stories Behind the Story By Liza Perrat

Today, we celebrate the release of WOLFSANGEL by Liza Perrat. L'Auberge des Anges, a wonderful series with characters so rich and vivid that readers feel that they are part of the story. The first in the series, SPIRIT OF LOST ANGELS, remains a Traveling Book favorite. This is why Sisterhood of the Traveling Book is pleased to present....the story behind the story.

I believe that historical fiction is not only about long-gone people and events. It is also about us, and how the past –– our ancestors, and the stories of how they lived –– have shaped us into what we are today. History repeats, and people remain essentially the same, whatever era we live in; whatever historical upheavals and disasters we are faced with. I initially set out to write only one historical fiction book, Spirit of Lost Angels, but with these things in mind, I have ended up with a trilogy –– L’Auberge des Anges historical series.

I am Australian, but I live in a rural French village and inspiration for the first book in the series, Spirit of Lost Angels, came to me on an afternoon walk when I literally stumbled over a 300-year-old stone cross on the banks of the Garon River. I learned that this is one of the well-known Fifteen Crosses Walk of the village. Named croix à gros ventre (cross with a big belly), it is engraved with two entwined tibias and a heart shape. The date carved into the old stone is 1717, and the cross commemorates two children who drowned in the Garon River.

I was intrigued. Who were these children? How old were they? How had they drowned, and where are they buried? From the local historical organisation, I learned the children were four and five years old, and are buried in the cemetery of a neighbouring village.
I felt the urge to write the story of these lost little ones; to give them a family, a village, an identity. Thus was born the Charpentier family, the village of Lucie-sur-Vionne, the Vionne River and the family farm –– L’Auberge des Anges (The Inn of Angels).

Even before I had finished writing Spirit of Lost Angels, I knew the characters had more tales to tell, and I wanted to continue the story of this family, their farmhouse and their village, and what might have been their lives during different historical eras and upheavals such as the French Revolution, World War II and the Black Plague. The characters already had strong bonds: their village of Lucie-sur-Vionne, L’Auberge des Anges (Inn of Angels) farmhouse, and their bloodline. They also shared the same profession of healer woman, midwife, and angel-maker.

But I wanted something stronger to connect these kinswomen, and this is where the small bone-carved angel pendant, passed down through the generations, came into existence. Many mysterious stories and legends encompass this angel talisman. From where did it come, and from what type of bone is it sculpted? Some of the characters believe it was most likely sculpted from seal or ox, or walrus tusk. Those with wilder imaginations opt for mammoth bone, and those with a more macabre slant reckon on human bone. 

To be honest, I haven’t quite decided where the little pendant comes from. I do have several ideas though, which I’m having fun exploring in the third novel in the series: Midwife Héloïse – Blood Rose Angel, set in the same French village, during the 14th century Black Plague years. By the end of this final book in the series, I hope I will have found a satisfyingly enigmatic “history” for my angel necklace, for its journey through the ages has become as important as the journey of the women who wear it.

The second book in the series –– Wolfsangel –– follows the descendants of the Charpentier family of L’Auberge des Anges when, a hundred and fifty years after the French Revolution, the village of Lucie-sur-Vionne comes under the heel of the German occupation. This story was directly inspired by a true-life WWII event, but if I revealed which particular event, that would truly spoil the story! Suffice it to say, since I visited the site of this tragedy many years ago, it has haunted me and I knew I would write a story about it one day. Information about this true-life war-crime can be found in the Author’s Note section at the back of Wolfsangel

While historical accuracy is important, I feel the characters and the story they tell are even more crucial. I wanted to let these people tell the tale of Wolfsangel with passionate honesty, without evading the horrifying truth. I wanted them to evoke the facts about life and love and the choices we make, and I wanted them to capture the readers’ imagination and empower them to think about their own lives.

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a nurse and midwife for fifteen years. When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator,
and a novelist.

Several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.

She has completed four novels and one short-story collection, and is represented by Judith Murdoch of the Judith Murdoch Literary Agency. 

Spirit of Lost Angels, the first in the historical L’Auberge des Anges series was published under the Triskele Books label in May, 2012. The second in the series –– Wolfsangel –– was published in October, 2013, and Liza is working on the third novel in the series –– Midwife Héloïse – Blood Rose Angel –– set during the 14th century Black Plague years.
Liza is a co-founder and member of Triskele Books, an independent writers’ collective with a commitment to quality and a strong sense of place.

Liza reviews books for the Historical Novel Society and Words with Jam magazine. 

Contact and Other Information

Twitter: @LizaPerrat
Twitter: @TriskeleBooks