As part of the blog tour for What Happens at the Beach… TA Williams has been a shiny star and written BeeBee’s Happy Place it’s first guest post.
I’m a very lucky girl. Trevor is going to share his love of history.
History – don’t you just love it?
I’ve written all sorts over the years. Nowadays I’m best known for my romantic comedies, like my new book, What Happens at the Beach… , but my first love was historical novels. A few years ago I got hooked on the Middle Ages and I started reading everything I could get my hands on about that period (roughly from the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 to the discovery of America). In particular, I found myself fascinated by a group of people called the Cathars. Never heard of them? Well, you’re not alone. They’re a well-kept secret.
The Cathars were a religious sect that doesn’t look that different to modern eyes from mainstream Catholicism but, back in the thirteenth century, their religious unorthodoxy (and most importantly their refusal to pay taxes to the Vatican) seriously annoyed the pope. As a result, a crusader army was sent into their part of southern France with instructions that were brutally simple. Stamp out the heresy. The pope responsible for the ensuing genocide basked in the dubious name of Innocent III. Thousands died and the region was laid waste.
So why, I hear you ask, is Trevor rabbiting on about events that took place seven hundred years ago? Well, you see, it’s like this. What Happens at the Beach… takes place down there, in that part of France. It’s way down south, near the border with Spain, and it’s one of the loveliest and sunniest parts of that wonderful country. The best-known cities down there are Toulouse, Carcassonne and Perpignan and the coastal area around Collioure has always been a favourite of artists, including big names like Matisse and Picasso. It’s a land of long sandy beaches, rolling hills and valleys running up into the high Pyrenees and some of the most spectacular castles in the world.
Natalie, our heroine, finds herself working for an author who is trying to write a book about the Cathars and their fabled treasure. Whether this treasure ever existed and what it comprised is still very much open to debate, but, for a writer, it’s irresistible. In fact, if I ever decide to make a change from romcoms, I might well have a go at a thriller set in that region, dealing with Cathar treasure.
We used to go on holiday down there every year and I know the area well. I do a lot of cycling and the feeling you get when mountain-biking along a tortuous path through the scrubby undergrowth of wild thyme, rosemary and vicious thorn bushes is amazing. Sometimes you can imagine that the last person to follow this path before you was a medieval knight on his massive, powerful warhorse. If you listen carefully, you can kid yourself that you can still hear the creak of leather and the clank of steel. Climb up to some of the ruined castles, not just the big name ones like Montségur or Pierrepertuse, but tumbledown ruins, invaded by brambles, with snakes and lizards sunning themselves in the rubble, and you can almost feel the lingering presence of the terrified occupants as the invading army drew near and they realised they were fighting for their lives.
I truly love history and I hope some of my fascination for that terrible period of history comes across and inspires you when you read What Happens at the Beach… . Don’t worry, it’s not all history, but hopefully just enough to whet your appetite.
You can find links to the other stops on the blog tour here