Blog Tour: Chronicles from Chateau Moines by Evelyne Holingue [INT Giveaway]

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Welcome to my tour stop for Chronicles from Chateau Moines by Evelyne Holingue. Today I'm gonna be doing an author interview, I'm really happy that the author took the time and effort to answer my questions about the book that I am also able to learn things about her too, check it out below and get to know the author and her book as well. The tour runs March 2-13 with reviews, interviews, guest posts and excerpts. Check out the tour page for the full schedule. 

About the Book:

September 1970: Scott’s mother has recently died and his father gets the crazy idea to move his family from California to Normandy. Now Scott has to learn to live without his mom while adjusting to France. In his seventh grade class there is only Ibrahim who comes from another country. Scott doesn’t even want to play his guitar anymore. Why does his father think that life will be better so far from home?

Scott has no idea that his arrival is also a challenge to Sylvie. While her best friend is excited to have an American boy at school, Sylvie cannot say one word to Scott. She can’t even write good songs in her notebook anymore. Why is life so different since Scott moved to Château Moines?

Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War protest era and told from the perspectives of twelve-year old Scott and Sylvie, this is a story about loss and friendship, music and peace, and also about secrets.

Although this is a work of fiction, the cultural, social, and historical background of the early 1970s in France and the United States inspired the writing. At the end of the book the reader will find a list of the songs, the names of singers, and bands mentioned through the novel as well as some elements about fashion, immigration in France, the Vietnam War, and other cultural, social, and historical facts relevant to the period of time.

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Author Interview:

1. What was your inspiration in writing your new novel, Chronicles from Chateau Moines?

It started with my desire to write a story where music would play a role. From this simple idea my main character was born. I knew from the beginning that he would a boy and a budding musician. At that time I was running schoolbook fairs and met lots of kids. I noticed that many liked stories told from the perspectives of two characters. Quickly I knew that my other main character would be a girl. I have a special fondness for middle grade novels, which I think start long-term relationships with books. So I knew that my two protagonists would be a boy and a girl and that they would be twelve years old, an age I find fascinating because it marks the official last year in childhood. I like these moments in life when we are in between stages.

Then because I was born and educated in France but make my life in the USA, I like to show my affection to my two homes through my writing. As someone who learned English from scratch (English in middle and high schools help a little, but it took me a while to become proficient, and of course much longer to be able to write as well as a native-speaker. I am still a work-in-progress) I know first hand of the struggles to learn a different language and to adjust to a different culture.

So very quickly I knew that it would be interesting to have one character from the USA and the other one from France. Scott would be from California, a state I know well and Sylvie from Normandy, my native French region.

Music being universal, regardless of countries and languages, the theme of my story quickly evolved around the idea of home. At that time I was reading lots of historical fiction and thought that it would be great to have a story from a rich period of time, but still fairly contemporary.

The 1960’s and 1970’s are among the richest in terms of music but also in terms of deep cultural and social changes. The Vietnam War was raging and from that came the idea of peace. With characters from different places, I knew that they could sometimes clash and not be at peace.

Of course, a story needs different layers to move the plot but moreover to give a chance to the characters to grow. With peace now at the heart of my theme, I wanted Scott to be conflicted. He has lost his mom, his best friend’s brother has lost a leg in Vietnam and he was involved in peace rallies with his family back in California. Now he finds himself in France with his brokenhearted father and eight-year-old smart and adorable little sister, and of course feels lonely, different and yet curious about his new surroundings.
French girl Sylvie would be of course the opposite of Scott, and yet the two of them would find a common passion for music.

Set in France it gave me the possibility to write about the changes the country was starting to see through the recent waves of immigration, particularly from the former North Africa French colonies. Racist incidents will challenge the small fictional town of Chateau Moines where my story is set.

I read many books where siblings don’t like each other. I wanted to create families where siblings would love and protect each other despite normal annoyance that exists between brothers and sisters.

And I love secondary and tertiary characters in any novel, so I had fun to create a cast of people who inhabit the small town of Chateau Moines.

Because my characters are kids, they go to school and I decided to have them live through the course of a school year, starting in September 1970 to the spring of 1971. It allowed me to incorporate lots of elements from the recent past and add current events.

And because I love surprises in life and books, I also added parental secrets that Scott, Sylvie and the readers will discover as the story unfolds.
In the end this is a story about finding a place to call home and being at peace, there, despite world violence.

2. Is Chateau Moines a real place in France? If yes, why did you choose this to be the setting for the novel? If not, was there a real place where you patterned the place?

No, it’s a fictional name. I was looking for a name that sounded French and wasn’t too difficult to pronounce for an American. The combo of Chateau and Moines was the result of this search. I kept the accent on the first A of Chateau to be true to the French spelling. To be frank, it wasn’t that easy to find this name because France is a land of many small villages. But I haven’t found any named Chateau Moines.

Although my novel holds true elements in terms of music, world events and culture, it is a work of fiction and I wanted to depict a town that was the product of what I know of France and my imagination.

3. Why did you pick 1970 as the time frame for this novel?

I wanted to write a story where music would play a significant part. Music, I think, holds the universal power to reunite people, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, and even beyond our time. Think of a concert where musicians play pieces written in the 17th or 18th century and how we still emotionally respond. Music, in my opinion, has the power to create peace.
From this notion I quickly considered a story written in the early 1970s, a period that benefited from great music from the 1960s and also a period marked with significant popular opposition to the Vietnam War, to violence in general and to the excessive power of governments.

4. Which character did you enjoy writing and which one have you had a hard time embodying?

I had an easier time to write from Scott’s perspective. It’s strange because I am a woman, so you would think that finding Sylvie’s voice would have been a no-brainer. Perhaps because I wrote the story in English I immediately connected with Scott who is an English speaker.

5. The book is enriched in historical backgrounds, did you have a hard time writing these histories and incorporating it in the novel?

The hardest part in writing is to incorporate elements of storytelling as organically as possible. In this novel, I tried to do that mostly through the conversations between Scott and Sylvie and through their personal reflections on current events. Since Scott was involved in peace walks when he lived in the USA, it was an easy way to introduce historic facts through this character. Sylvie is less politically educated but she’s curious about Scott, so as she learns more about the Vietnam War and the American activism from Scott, the reader does the same. On the other side Scott learns about France’s history through Sylvie and Ibrahim, his new friend from Algeria. In addition the adults in the story helped also to bring to life some of the elements that defined this period of time in France and the USA.

About the Author

I was born and raised in Normandy, France, where I spent most of my childhood reading.
My first published piece of writing was a poem about a man spending Christmas behind bars. I was eleven years old and wasn’t paid for my work, but I was hooked.
I studied French Literature at the Université de Caen and at the Sorbonne in Paris and worked in a publishing house before moving to California, following my husband.
It was a challenging time in my life as I was leaving my own career, my family, my friends and my beloved Paris behind.  But how could I say no to the dreams of the man I love?
Readers enjoy escaping the familiar for the unknown.  Being a foreigner is discovering the unknown day after day, not only for the time of a book. However, since most things in life come with a silver lining, I credit this move for giving me the opportunity to write. Through my words, I share my affection for my native and adoptive countries that I love equally.

Two (2) kindle copies of Chronicles from Chateau Moines (INT)
Ends March 18th

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