Niche Publisher's Diary
Publisher's Blog, latest entry first
Reeling from the shock of Brexit.
I left Britain in October 2000 to live in the tiny house I had had built on a garden in France I had bought five years previously. (For the full story, click here.) I planned going to England now and then to visit relatives but something always cropped up and I never got round to it after nearly sixteen years. The furthest north I've been since 2000 is Angoulême.
I learnt French and made French friends who told me that I was plus français que les français. I loved the country, the mentality, the mountains, the beaches, the festivals, the churches, the climate. I found a huge smile went a long way and I was always treated with respect. When I hit hard times financially the French helped me out, paid the electricity bill and reduced my property taxes.
By then I had discovered the mysteries of the Visigoths and then of Rennes-le-Château that the Visigoths founded and so started writing books - which had very small sales! I had had a freelance writing and editorial career on magazines in England and had learnt how to do page lay-out. The books I do now still all look a bit like magazines with plenty of pictures in them. And as printing costs reduce (in real terms) they are nearly all in colour.
In late summer 2015 as you will know if you have been following these adventures, I moved house to the village of Couiza, just 5 km from Rennes-le-Château so I could actively promote my books there and meet more readers. My life had nothing to do with England at all, and I was quite happy. I love France and it's people and consider myself French in all but nationality.
Then came the referendum for Brexit. The entire English-speaking world thought Britain would never leave the EU but the results were truly shocking. People in England started abusing immigrants and British people living here in France were terrified that they would be deported back to England. The value of the pound plunged and many of us Brits in France will receive less pensions and less savings. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage the leader of the party that wanted to leave Europe, was an MEP and had gone to Brussels, as he was entitled to do, and let forth a stream of insults against Europe to the extent that the President asked him to retract his statements.
I was ashamed to be British.
What made it all so horrible was that it was a vote influenced by people who had been lied to by people like Farage. They had been told that Europe was the nasty old man that restricted autonomy in Britain - people wanted to make Britain great again they said. They didn't know about all the grants Europe contributes to things like universities, and to run-down regions such as Cornwall or parts of Scotland. They also, it seemed, had little concept of "United we stand, divided we fall." I was in tears thinking the last world war only ended seventy years ago and the horror of those days being repeated could and should never, never return. In a sense we had the last war to ensure the United Europe that we have today. And they wanted to throw that away.
What is worse for us in our world around the mysteries of Rennes-le-Château is that a decline in tourism had already started, with the strikes in France (the workers never had the Revolution for nothing) and the bad weather. Now we hear that many Brits are cancelling their holidays here because they cannot afford to come, while the Americans, recently bragging that the dollar supported the region (which is not true - Europe pays grants to us here too) are scared of terrorist attacks at their airports. The hotels and guesthouses of my region, owned by people of all nationalities, have less bookings than any year for the last seven years.
This will affect me of course, but I am lucky in that I have a small but regular income to live on, and then the fun of doing my books, to meet people and to pay for my researches and lunches out, and I have no family to support. And we hear that it's unlikely, if at all, that Britain really will leave Europe.
But immense harm has been done and we can all hardly think of anything else. Well, yes, I can think of something. If the events are written up satirically as a farce with farcical characters it would make a wonderful book!
We did a double book-signing at Rennes-le-Château, me for Marie d'Ables and Kris Darquis for the latest edition of Claudia Procula in French.
There were not a lot of people there but Kris is the greatest trouper in the world! I am basically a "back-room-boy" person and often wish I was more of an "out-in-front-of-the-crowds" person . . . . I will never wear that jumper again!
Here's a shot they insisted I take, with Susie, Kris, Clalie who works in the Porte de Rennes shop and Arthur from Lake Constance. Clalie tells me that "The Sacred Journey" is my bestseller in the shop . . . so kind!
And then, what a surprise, we saw Bérenger Saunière walking by! Looking quite anguished!
He was in fact a French writer called Christian Doumergue - a rival no less! - who was playing the role of Bérenger in a film, and very good he is too. He really was the essence of a very tired Saunière arriving for his first day of work in the run-down little village of the day, before there was ever a Villa Bethania or a Tour Magdala. I saw him later having lunch in le Jardin de Marie and he said - "Don't take a picture, I'm not in role!" But he was in role later in the afternoon. . . .
The next day Kris was asked to star in a film too, quite a long one about the mysteries of the region and so next time we meet I suspect the future plans we discuss will include making films . . . they have asked her to also act as adviser for the mystery.
Delivery expected this weekend! However, May 1st is a Worker's holiday in France and when the French start "manifesting" one never knows what will happen, but my printer has never let me down yet.
He still delivers to my door even though I have moved house!
Marie d'Ables and her husband are now at the printer's!
Joking apart, the book is copyrighted now so I can reveal more details, nothing like this has ever been published in English before. People are intrigued by this book and advance orders are already coming in . . . Click here . . . I was so thrilled to type the final word and hope this book will never die . . . .
Talking of death and dying, since I started writing in January 2016 I was amazed to discover various death cults in our region, very close to home in fact, and for a while it "did my head in" as the current saying is. The Hautpouls were pre-Revolution, when the aristocracy were used to having their wishes granted in all areas, and so they thought that with the correct ceremonies they could evade the nastier side of dying.
There is no doubt that the last thing they were was conventional Catholics.
The castle was more than the castle, it was many outbuildings and the land around. Oh, how I wish I could have been a servant at that time, eavesdropping on the hopes and dreams and pretensions of this aristocratic family!
12th April - Researching
Draft cover only
I'm currently working on two historical titles and my word, it is hard work. Of course, research is much easier using the Internet - rather than a bulky Encyclopedia Brittanica! - but even so I'm checking every possible fact, digging literally sometimes - underground! I'm also getting around to see places and take my own photos and get a good feel for events and people.
The first title, as the picture above, about Marie d'Ables and the aristocratic family living in the region of Rennes before the Revolution uncovered some deep mysteries that I could hardly believe were true, but everything reinforces that they were. All will be revealed on publication in May.
The second title will take about a year, working with my Italian friend Luigi Oliviero, who is an expert on old "romance" manuscripts, that is, those written in the romance languages based on Latin, which include French of course. It will be a long "behind-the-scenes" project but we are both vary thrilled about it . . .
9th April - the Season
Rennes-le-Château is open for the season! I've been up and down the hill like a yo-yo, one day there were no taxis available and so I WALKED! It's nearly five kilometres but uphill. By the time I reached this part of the road when "the citadel" first came into view I was getting a little footsore, to say the least.
But what a skyline! First the ruined castle and then the church, which was at one time the chapel of the aristocrats who lived there. Now you can see that the northern side of the castle, not visible in the village, is quite degraded. However, it is privately owned and the new people are doing renovations, so the skyline of Rennes-le-Château might change.
The mystic village is also changing in other ways, and becoming more "touristy." Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I don't know, but you can read more about it here.
6th April Will I ever be ready?
Since I've been here at Couiza I've had a mental picture of having a perfect house and a couple of perfect new books on the shelves of the local shops - well it is all happening if a little behind schedule! Visitors came.
Here's my adorable young friend Thomas on the support for the old Roman Bridge in Rennes-les-Bains, the rest was swept away by the floods of 1992 and has been replaced by the passerelle painted blue which leads to the Hostellerie with its lovely lunches. The old stone support is two metres high so it was no easy task to climb it!
Meanwhile the French version of Claudia has gone into a third edition as we speak, with lots more colour pictures, a little later than predicted but never mind, it was worth it to get it perfect. Click here to see it.
21st March. Spring has sprung!
I thought I knew all about the mystery of Rennes-le-Château, I've written about it enough, but now two secret titles are filling my life! Research is painstaking but you will be amazed when these two titles appear in spring and summer 2016!
Both are quite original and never been written before and so I am keeping them under wraps until an ISBN number is allocated which, as you know, will establish the copyright as mine.
So keep watching this space!
5th March - work and more work!
Stocks of our French version of Claudia Procula were running dangerously low, after Kris signed so many on the 17th January alongside her new Templar book, that it was obvious a re-print would be necessary.
But I hesitated; so many French people had already bought and read the book that I wanted to do something a bit new and make it more colourful and exciting, and so now with all the latest news (the interest in Claudia is growing rapidly in France), and some extra pages and a brilliant new cover, we are ready to go to press for an Easter delivery.
It was hard work because Easter is early this year, but Rennes-le-Château will be open and we are all looking forward to it very much.
Now back to my "secret project" . . . which will be published in May.
29th Feb - I proposed nothing to anyone!
Far too busy with the house, getting it ready for the coming summer season. It is now fit to be seen . . .
I'm expecting many visitors as the big thing for this year in Rennes-le-Château country seems to be the increase in the number of spiritual tours, all through from May to October, and six of them have asked me to meet up with them, do a bit of guiding, and talk about the discoveries in my books. So I have been finishing various projects - like tiling the floor - before winter finishes, to make sure I will be free. I particularly enjoy painting the interior walls - it's so mindless it's almost like meditation - and then I'm refreshed to go back to writing.
23rd February - Secret project
Hardly had time to journal, been so busy! Been researching the church at Limoux, literally for its "hidden depths," for a secret book still under wraps . . .
The Sacred Feminine is not dead in Limoux! Jesus in the house of the Pharisee, having his feet washed by Mary Magdalene is interesting for two things; Mary is often described as "Mary Of Bethany" but the here she is obviously Mary Magdalene, with her jar of oil and it's the first time I've seen her brother Lazarus represented as a Roman style young man. The Venus on her sea-shell statue in the main square defies all logic by being described as a "Statue to the Revolution"!
But it was church history in the time of Bérenger Saunière that I was after, and the curé at Limoux advised me to visit the curé at Quillan who is particularly interested in church history and the history of the region. The information I needed was cheerfully given. He is Gilles Semenou and the curé of a vast 35 parishes, including Rennes-le-Château. He holds a mass there only once a year, he said, on Mary Magdalene's day, 22nd July. I will be able to go to it this year, hurrah!
I had a lovely message from Mikael Montepin with lots of "gros bisous" - big kisses.
That night, tired after laying yet more floortiles, I went to bed more contented than I had been for over two years. I can hardly remember my previous village in the Narbonnais where I lived for seven years and I really like it here in Couiza. I remember when I moved in - the first night I slept here it was as though I had never been away.
Happy New Year!
It seems to have been 2016 for ages already. I like to observe the shadow on the courtyard wall - it is getting shorter as the days are getting longer, hurray! I have been tiling the floors downstairs, in my museum and summer kitchen, in expectations of endless visitors and book-buyers in the summer. Indeed, the Rennes-le-Château programme is filling up, more spiritual tours from America are arriving than ever before, we will be so busy and I still have two short books to get out before Spring. But first . . .
18th January 2016 - what a weekend!
Life is always a whirlwind once Kris my translator arrives from Nice. Her latest book - NOT done by me - has been published and great plans are afoot for promotional ventures and signings at Rennes-le-Château. She was very busy with this but eventually we decided to lunch in Couiza on Saturday 16th January at Lo Cantou for a bit of a conference! But first she gave me a copy of her book. "To my dear Val . . . " she wrote.
We were five - Kris and myself, then Jean-Luc her partner and his son, and then my friend Mickael Mountepin, (Click here for more about Mickael.) Then a complete stranger turned up, sat down, talked about his book, and then ate with us! They posed with each holding the book of the other. Mickael was in deep converrsation with Jean-Luc's son, because they are both interested in the history of the region.
So Kris and I had a deep discussion about our proposed titles for 2016 while the men got on with their men-talk. . . . then Mickael took me up to Rennes-le-Château for a photo session of the castle (he knows its hidden depths).
The next day, the 17th, was Blue Apples day in Rennes-le-Château. The date has a special significance in the mystic history, the day when the sun always shines and makes "blue apples" in the church, on the walls opposite the stained glass windows. (This year it was cloudy and bitterly cold on both the 16th and the 18th, but brilliantly clear and sunny on the 17th!) We were all waiting for the Blue Apples to appear.
This is all in fact completely natural but every year we love it just the same. Meanwhile, Kris was doing a "super signing" in the Portes de Rennes bookshop. She is very professional and makes sure everyone receives a personal message. And she sold some "Claudia Procula"s, the first of my books to be translated into French. (Click here.)
There was yet more to come, we all went to the Salles des Capitelles (village hall) for a super meal organised by the Cercle du 17 Janvier. I thouroughly enjoyed it - I was the only English person there and it did my Languedoc soul good to be so accepted and liked by my fellow Rennes-le-Château lovers and researchers. After the meal came the speeches - of course!
Morgan, on the left, runs Le Jardin de Marie restaurant and had done the catering, then the lady who oranised the meal, then me and kris and a fan . then Kris and her close friend the artist Chantal Thomas, who has her gallery in Esperaza.
Franco-anglais writers together! And below? Mickael and myself at lunch and then with Chantal at the end of the day, by which time everything was more than a little fuzzy!