A car stuck in city traffic. A tired father at the wheel. His young son in the back seat playing a game, naming the makes of cars that pass by. Audi, the boy calls out. Renault. Ford. Beamer. But when he spots his mother’s car it sets in motion a train of events that spins quickly out of control – because she’s in the wrong part of town, on her way to a meet another man at a hotel. A meeting that will have tragic consequences for all of them.
This is the opening chapter of my first thriller, Lies, and I drew directly from my own experience when I was writing it. The boy? My son, Tom, who was obsessed with cars when he was five years old to the point where he would call out their names in traffic. The car in question? That belonged to my wife – a light blue Ford Fiesta with a half-dozen doppelgangers in our town that would always make me do a double-take when I saw them driving by. Is that her car? Where’s she going?
Like many authors, I love weaving my own experience into the fabric of a story.
I always try to keep my eyes and ears open for inspiration, and I look for it everywhere: at work, among family and friends, on the news, on the street, in my own personal experience. I love to bring in those personal elements to add an extra strand of authenticity, of familiarity, that help a story ring true with the reader. With my second thriller, 29 Seconds, it was in the university campus setting that formed the backdrop of the novel – written while I worked in higher education.
And so it is with my latest novel, The Holiday. The story had been bubbling around in the back of my head for a while – with the early working title of Four Friends – about four women who had known each other for 20 years and had a bond that they thought would last a lifetime. I was fascinated by the idea of a secret that could break this bond, and why one of them might decide to betray the friendship: would it be for love? Money? Revenge? Or something else? That was the core of the idea, my starting point.
But at the planning stage, I couldn’t make it work. More specifically, I couldn’t make the setting work. Basing the story in the UK didn’t seem right – there was something missing. I needed to take the friends out of their home environment, out of their comfort zone.
So once again, I drew on my own experience. Or rather, that of my wife Sally, who goes away every year for a long weekend with three long-time friends. Why not set the story of Four Friends abroad? Why not extend it to a whole week, and have the characters bring along husbands and children too?
Immediately, things started to click.
The story would be set in the south of France: my family and I had stayed in a village called Autignac, north of Beziers, a few years ago and it’s always been one of my favourite summer holidays. The area is a bit of a hidden gem, rolling wine country on a beautiful stretch of the Mediterranean coast, rich with vineyards and little villages dating back to the middle ages. With its narrow streets, ancient stone walls and quiet village square, Autignac seemed like the perfect setting for the novel that became The Holiday.
Most of the action in the story takes place in and around the fictional Villa Corbieres, which was inspired by the villa where we had stayed. It was in a magical location with stunning sunset views across to the hills that we would enjoy every evening from the balcony. I went through the photos of our holiday there and watched our home videos, taking notes about the buildings and the landscape, the fields, the flora and fauna, trying to see it as if for the first time. Looking for the best way of bringing it to life on the page, from the rows of vineyards to the whitewashed houses with their terracotta rooves. It was very helpful to visit the area again in spring 2018, while I was writing the first draft, to reacquaint myself with all the things that make this part of the world so special.
As I wrote it, the setting of The Holiday became an integral part of the story.
Of course, in the story everything about the villa is much bigger than the real thing – I let my imagination run wild, creating a Mediterranean mansion that was much more luxurious, complete with its own gardens, infinity pool, tree-lined driveway and wine cellar. Everything on a grander and more elaborate scale, with ten bedrooms and its own vineyard on the hill below the balcony. And while it was inspired by my own experiences, I also took certain liberties with the local geography in and around the villa.
Although I can’t say exactly which liberties without giving too much away…
(c) TM Logan
About The Holiday:
Seven days. Three families. One killer.
It was supposed to be the perfect holiday, dreamed up by Kate as the ideal way to turn 40: four best friends and their husbands and children in a luxurious villa under the blazing sunshine of Provence.
But there is trouble in paradise. Kate suspects that her husband is having an affair, and that the other woman is one of her best friends.
One of these women is willing to sacrifice years of friendship and destroy her family. But which one? As Kate closes in on the truth in the stifling Mediterranean heat, she realises too late that the stakes are far higher than she ever imagined.
Because someone in the villa is prepared to kill to keep their secret hidden.
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