I am delighted to welcome the lovely Marie Laval to my blog today to talk about her new novel Queen of the Desert.
Thank you so much for welcoming me today, Anne.
Originally from Lyon in France, Marie now lives in Lancashire and writes historical and contemporary romance. Best-selling LITTLE PINK TAXI was her debut contemporary romantic novel with Choc Lit. A PARIS FAIRY TALE was published in July 2019, followed by BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC in November 2019 and bestselling romantic suspense ESCAPE TO THE LITTLE CHATEAU which was shortlisted for the 2021 RNA Jackie Collins Romantic Suspense Award. HAPPY DREAMS AT MERMAID COVE is her latest contemporary romance. QUEEN OF THE DESERT is Marie’s second historical romance, following on from ANGEL OF THE LOST TREASURE which features another member of the Saintclair family.
She also writes short stories for the bestselling Miss Moonshine anthologies, and is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors. Her novels are available as ebooks and audiobooks on Amazon and various other platforms.
Hello, Marie, welcome to my blog today. Queen of the Desert is your second historical novel published by Choc Lit. Before we start, let’s hear something about the book:
Sometimes the most precious treasures exist in the most barren and inhospitable of places …
Harriet Montague is definitely too much of a gentlewoman to be frequenting the backstreet taverns of Algiers. But her father has been kidnapped whilst on an expedition to the tomb of an ancient desert queen, and she’s on a mission to find the only person who could save him.
It’s just unfortunate that Lucas Saintclair, the man Harriet hopes will rescue her father from scoundrels, is the biggest scoundrel of the lot. With a bribe in the form of a legendary pirate treasure map, securing his services is the easiest part – now Harriet must endure a treacherous journey through the desert accompanied by Saintclair’s band of ruffians.
But on the long, hot Saharan nights, is it any wonder that her heart begins to thaw towards her guide – especially when she realises Lucas’s roguish façade conceals something she could never have expected?
So, can I just say, I love your historical novels. You write with such passion about amazing places and you’ve set this novel in a time of real conflict. What made you decide on this period of history and this location?
Thank you very much. I am so happy that you enjoy my stories! I have always been fascinated with North Africa. My mother grew up in Algeria, and she told me and my sisters so many stories of her childhood there that it always inspired me.
Queen of the Desert is your second historical novel with Choc Lit following hot on the heels of Angel of Lost Treasure and I was excited that this time we meet Lucas Saintclair, is he related to Captain Hugo Saintclair?
Indeed, my hero Lucas Saintclair is the son of Hugo Saintclair, the hero of Angel of the Lost Treasure, who settled in Bou Saada – the City of Happiness. Even though the novels are both stand alone, I thought North Africa would be a great setting for a romantic adventure novel. I have always loved stories about lost treasures, so what better than the quest for the lost tomb of Tuareg queen Tin Hinan for a plot?
What comes first when you’re writing a novel, the characters or the plot?
What an interesting question and not an easy one to answer… I think that in this case the characters came first, then the storyline and subplots just evolved in my imagination.
How long does it take you to research a novel like this and where do you start?
I always start my research with a map of the location. I love maps! I was also fortunate that my husband found a 1923 Guide Bleu from the Touring Club de France for North Africa which was a mine of information about all kinds of things a traveller to the region might need: towns and villages, maps and distances, local food, historical monuments and places of interest, as well as a very useful lexicon of words… I also read lots of books, academic papers and travel accounts. I am fortunate that I can access information both in French and English. The more I read, the more fascinated I became about the Tuareg culture, the Sahara desert, oases and the fortified villages called ksars, and all the history and tales attached to this magnificent region of the world.
Of course, I do not claim to be an academic or a specialist but I hope I didn’t make too many mistakes!
I know as romantic novelists; we have to have a certain amount of tension in our books but yours are really gripping you take tension to a whole new level. I find them a real page turner and you paint the scenes so vividly, often using sounds and smells as well as sight, it’s easy to imagine exactly what’s going on. Somehow you make it all so real. In Harriet’s place, would this have been a trip you’d have been happy to take?
Thank you so much! I would like to think that I would be as adventurous as Harriet, and travelling to the Sahara was always one of my dream trips. However, being honest and realistic, I think I would find it very hard to cope with the heat, the wild animals – the snakes especially since it’s one of my phobias! And probably the lack of privacy too…
It’s that desert island question. Harriet packed sketch books, as her luxury item, what would your luxury item be?
It depends where I was heading to… A notebook and pens, definitely. I love to jot down notes and always carry a notebook with me. Soap, probably, as well as a toothbrush and toothpaste…
Let’s pretend for a moment we could time travel back to any period in time – when would you go back to and why?
I would like to travel back to last year or two years ago, so that I could hold my husband’s hand once more and tell him I love him. He passed away suddenly last April and my children and I miss him terribly.
It was such a shock when you told us about his death, I can’t imagine how awful it must have been for you. But I will always remember the really lovely tribute you wrote about heroes not always being the ones to run into a building on fire to rescue people, or brave villains to stop a robbery, but also being those who are always there for their families. The ones who change light bulbs and check the pressure of your car tyres, deal with blocked toilets and who take the bins out every week. He sounded a very special person and I have no doubt he knew how much you loved him, but it was a beautiful reminder that none of us should take what we have for granted.
Was archaeology or writing ever on your list of career options when you left school?
Not really. I wanted to become a journalist, then a lawyer and went to law school where I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Civil and Commercial Law. Then I came to England and after working at the University of Manchester for several years retrained as a teacher.
Having said that, one of the things I love about being a writer is that I can, for the time of a book at least, pretend I have whatever career my hero or heroine has, and I do learn an awful lot about all kinds of things from researching my stories.
Your heroines are always such feisty individuals and none, more so than Harriet Montague. She spends a lot of her time drawing and capturing all the beautiful scenes and people, what do you do to relax in your spare time?
I write and I read. I also like to go for a walk, but things have been tough for my family this year and between working full-time and looking after my children (even if they are growing up) I don’t have much spare time.
And I know everyone including me wants to know, what are you working on now?
I must say that I am finding very hard to write at the moment. I have started several projects, and I really do hope that I can complete at least one of them this year.
Thank you for your time today Marie, I have enjoyed chatting to you and congratulations on another book launch.
Thank you so much for welcoming me on your blog. It was a pleasure talking to you!
QUEEN OF THE DESERT is available from:
Website: Queen of the Desert (choc-lit.com)