I am delighted to welcome author, Marie Laval to our spotlight today
Hello Jo and thank you very much for inviting me on your blog today to chat about QUEEN OF THE DESERT, my latest historical romance novel which was recently released by Choc Lit.
Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for Queen of the Desert?
My inspiration for both the plot and the setting was my fascination for the history and landscapes of Algeria. My mother grew up there, and it’s a place I always wanted to visit. I especially dream of travelling to the Sahara desert, the Hoggar and the Tassili N’Ajjer national parks, and I have been fascinated by the people who live in these vast and beautiful regions - the Tuaregs – for a long time. One day I read about Tin Hinan, who is rumoured to be the Tuaregs’ ancestral queen, and I knew I had the basis of a plot. Tin Hinan’s tomb is located in Abalessa in Southern Algeria. It was discovered in 1925 by archaeologist, adventurer and alleged con artist Byron Khun de Prorok (you couldn’t make up such a name!).
I changed the facts in my story so that it’s Harriet’s father, British Museum archaeologist Oscar Montague, who discovers the tomb.
Without giving too much away – what can you tell us about the story?
QUEEN OF THE DESERT is set in the mid-nineteenth century. It is first and foremost a love story between a brave and unconventional heroine who inherited a passion for archaeology from her father, and a hero who hides a broken heart under a harsh, roguish exterior.
Harriet hires former army scout Lucas Saintclair to take her to Tamanrasset where she believes her father was taken captive by a gang of Tuareg fighters. At first, she completely despises Lucas who appears to be only interested in money, taverns and women, but in the course of their long and arduous journey through Algeria she discovers that he isn’t quite what he seems...
Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they what you expected them to be?
I do love my characters, and you are right to say that I live with them every single day. In fact, my friends who aren’t writers give me strange looks when I start talking about my characters as if they are real. Sometimes my characters surprise me and say and do things that I hadn’t quite expected, but then again it’s their story!
Are you a plotter...or ...a start writing and see where it takes you, sort of writer?
I am definitely not a plotter. I usually know vaguely what will happen at the end, but much of the story depends on chance and on where my imagination takes me. Most of the time I feel that it’s the characters themselves who dictate what happens...
Do you write the type of books you like to read and which authors influence you?
Definitely! I have always loved romantic fiction, both contemporary and historical, and that’s what I always wanted to write. When I first moved to England, one of the first novels I read entirely in English was Barbara Erskine’s ‘Lady of Hay’ and I was completely blown away! I also used to devour novels by Victoria Holt, Jude Deveraux and Julie Garwood, to name but a few, and lots and lots of Harlequins romances.
What do you enjoy most about writing stories and do you write for yourself, or other people?
I write for myself, Jo. I am a bit of a dreamer and now more than ever I need to escape into another world...
How do you manage to balance writing with your everyday life and what do you do to relax?
It’s not easy, and since losing my husband last year, I have had very little time – and to be honest, inclination – to write. I work full-time as a teacher, so evenings and weekends are taken by planning and marking, chores and shopping, and I want to spend time with my children too of course. But I have now started writing again and I realise how much I need it...
Can you tell us what you have planned next?
I have several projects on, which is far too ambitious for my limited writing time... Firstly I am trying to complete a Christmas romance set in the Lakes, which features the same village and some of the characters from BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC. It feels very odd to write about snowy mountains, Christmas trees and mince pies when the sun is shining and there are daffodils everywhere! I am also writing two other contemporary romances, one set in Lancashire (although that might change), and one set both in Yorkshire and France, but I am only a few chapters in for them both...
QUEEN OF THE DESERT
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?
More about Marie
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.
Marie 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.
Thank you so much, Marie. It's always an absolute pleasure to have you as our Author in the Spotlight. Come back and see us again soon 😊