Sunday, 20 March 2011

A source of macabre

              
                   Sometimes we’d light the sconce on the wall outside the kitchen. It is a sinister creation: a disembodied arm emerges from a wrought iron picture frame, extending a candle. It was left by a previous occupant; we would almost certainly not have bought such a grotesque artifact; yet we left it hanging there, and often lit it.  
                                                               
                                                         From The Lantern

Much of what I describe in this novel is real. The hamlet on the hill and the surrounding landscapes are as true to life as I can write them, as are the stone arches outside and the little alley way. Even the “gifts from the house”: the painting of a lily, the old boots and tools, the ramekins at the back of a kitchen cupboard, are objects we really did find waiting for us. But not everything.

This creepy-looking antique wall candleholder was only ever a picture in a book, but it was so perfect for the background atmosphere in the story that I took it and hung it on the wall, so to speak. It comes from Provence Style, edited by Angelika Taschen, and the photograph is by Guy Hervais. The red wall is cleverly painted as a trompe l’oeil of a heavy curtain.

It’s one of many evocative, even macabre, images inside this apparently rather innocuous book of photographs. For under the cover is a treasure trove of pictures, some from the area’s traditional stone farm buildings, others from grand and echoing chateaux. On these pages I found a polished wood stature of a monk with a decidedly shifty expression, and garden statues pockmarked by lichen. Walls have faded frescoes. Chipped and battered earthenware rests on groaning dark tables. Shabby chic, or plain damaged?

Books of photographs must be some of the most enjoyable research resources, and this one proved an unexpected winner, providing many potent objects to accentuate a mounting sense of unease.


24 comments:

BookBelle said...

I seriously cannot wait to read this book of yours. I know what you mean by things left behind. We have lived in 4 houses in 16 years. With the exception of the current one, we've found photographs, old papers and odd pieces of furniture left behind in attics. I actually love the arm sconce. It's a little Addams Family. I find the most inspiration in black and white photography. Color distracts me.

RICHARD MOISAN said...

Il nous arrive à tous, de mettre des objets de côté car ils nous rappellent des souvenirs ou bien correspondent à une pensée que l'on veut perpétrer. Et on les pose sur une commode ou bien on les fixe au mur. C'est ce qui personnalise une pièce et donne une authenticité à la maison.

Cathy K said...

And what else is left behind when the bits and pieces are cleared away? The house is left with memories of its own while we forge ahead and make new ones elsewhere. I recently read 'Seven Houses' by Turkish writer Alev Lytle Croutier, told for the most part from the POVs of the various houses entrusted with the history of 4 generations of women. Highly recommended.

versus said...

Mais c' est tout à fait un reste des décors du film " La Belle et la Bête " de Jean Cocteau, tous ces bras dans le couloir de la Bête et ces chandelles allumées. Remuent-ils aussi dans votre illustration ces bras tendus du destin ?

Belle Wong said...

Loved the quote from your book. And what a wonderful idea! I've never thought to use books of photos as a writing resource; I've got so many of these kinds of books. I'm going to pull them together and make a little collection by my desk.

Leovi said...

Really sinister and disturbing this arm and really original. I imagine the atmosphere of a room lit only by several arms like this. Has published a book of yours in Spanish?. Regards and have a good start to the week.

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

What a deliciously dark quote! Can't wait to uncover what other mysteries are hidden in The Lantern's dark corners :D (and yes, I think that photographs can be really inspiring. I've been to most places in my book, but some scenes were sparked by photographs I had seen.)

Sara Louise said...

Going by that quote your book sounds like a fantastic read, I'd love to read it when it's published, especially since it's inspired by your house in the Luberon :-)

vanessafrance said...

Books of photos are indeed a useful resource. I often find that a picture prompt releases the creative juices better than words. A few years ago, someone published two books of old photos of our area of SW France throughout the 20th century. Fascinating and an endless source of ideas.

Pétales de fées said...

Heureuse de te découvrir également ! J'aime ton univers, les beaux objets, la maison en Provence, les peintures magnifiques de Julian Merrow-Smith !
Bonne soirée et à bientôt !

stacey said...

Gorgeous quote and photo!

Kiki aka Victoria said...

Wonderful..powerful...beautiful post..so exciting! I love that photo..i tend to find the "dark or creepy" rather beautiful..i just seem to see and sense the beauty ! Shine on my creative friend and your magical world is inspiring..thankyou for sharing and giving us a peek into it all!
Victoria~

Omoy said...

I think the candle holder is so cool. Maybe if you guys twisted it around a couple of times, it may unlock a hidden stairway:)

bookluvrmindy said...

I found your blog through BookBlogs and I am now a follower. Will you follow my blog?

Lisa Erin said...

I, too, find photographs to be a great source of inspiration when writing. Love the picture you shared. I look forward to reading your book...all of your excerpts have drawn me in. :)

bookspersonally said...

I love this photograph and your description of the candleholder and other "macabre" relics. Happy to join the ranks of the "eagerly awaiting."

Serendipity's Library said...

All this time I thought I was following you and I wasn't. Great post. I can't wait to read The Lantern (great title by the way) every time you post a little piece of it I want to read more!

Deborah Lawrenson said...

Once again I've been bowled over (bouleversee, en francais - sans accent, malheureusement sur Blogger!) by all your fantastic comments.

BookBelle - it is Addams Family, isn't it!
Cathy - I will definitely look out for an introduction to Turkish literature with Seven Houses, which sounds exactly the kind of book I like.
Versus (who points out that the arm sconce is a near-relation of the living arms that held candelabra in Cocteau's iconic film La Belle et la Bete (Beauty and the Beast) - tu as raison! J'avais oublie le decor chez la Bete!
Leovi - no, sadly, my books haven't been translated into Spanish yet. I'm still hoping.
And everyone else who agreed with me about picture books - I wish you many happy hours of researching and writing! And of course, thank you all so much for the encouraging reactions to the book snippets. It means a great deal.

Leovi said...

La descripción de objetos es importante porque los lectores podemos comprender mejor la personalidad de personaje o vivir más intensamente las emociones creadas por la atmósfera, eso sí, sin pasarse en la descripción de muchos objetos, para no romper el tempo narrativo. Saludos.

Leovi said...

The description of objects is important because readers can better understand the personality of character or to live more intensely the emotions created by the atmosphere, we never passed in the description of many objects, not to break the narrative tempo. Greetings.

Blu said...

Old houses have so many stories to tell, you have an enjoyable talent! PS if you want to contact me please email me at blucamels@gmail.com

MuMuGB said...

Very nice quote...can't wait to read more. Where do you find your inspiration from?

BookGeek said...

I am taking a leaf from your book of wisdom and am going to start using photography books for some writing inspiration. Great idea! And another lovely excerpt.

kimhaas said...

I love using visual prompts for my writing. One of my first published stories came from a free write baed on a photo.

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