Ten quirky habits of a romance author


To celebrate release day for her Choc Lit debut Little Pink Taxi, Marie Laval is sharing her ‘ten quirky habits of a romance author’. But that’s not all. Read right until the end of the post for details of an exclusive competition too! 

Today is the day I waited so long for – the day my romantic comedy Little Pink Taxi is released. I have been talking nonstop to friends, family and colleagues about it, and have been inundated with questions regarding my writing process. How I get my ideas? How do I pick the setting for the story, or choose my characters’ names? Do I have a routine? And so on … So I thought I would try and answer some of them today.

1)   The notepad

This may seem terribly mundane, but the first thing I do when I start a new story is to buy a notepad, but not just any notepad. It has to be a French Clairefontaine exercise book. I am addicted to them, probably because they are smooth and shiny, and remind me of being at school in France. Once I have my new notepad, I carry it in my handbag, and fill it with everything and anything I can think of about the setting, the characters’ background, their feelings and motivations. I jot down random thoughts, dialogues, quotes or even poems and songs.

2)   The map

I absolutely love maps, so the next thing I do after buying a notepad is to purchase a good road map of the area where the story is set. I now have an extensive collection, including maps of Algeria, the Highlands of Scotland, Provence, Paris and Bordeaux, where my next two novels are set. I like to refer to existing landmarks but the actual setting is always fictitious. In Little Pink Taxi, Raventhorn castle and the village of Irlwick are made up, but most of the other places mentioned are real.

 3)   The hero

How strange that I always know exactly what my heroine looks like, but that I need to search the internet and flick through countless adventure, sailing, mountaineering or car racing magazines for inspiration about the hero! This is however time pleasantly spent, and undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable aspects of my research. For Marc, my inspiration was Daniel Craig …

4)   The characters’ names

Sometimes names spring into my mind even before I get an idea about the storyline, but in some cases it can take a little longer. Rosalie Heart’s name was an obvious choice as soon as I figured out her personality – kind and bubbly – and her occupation as the driver of a pink taxi. Marc Petersen’s name took a little longer to click. In fact, he was called Magnus at first – a reference to his Danish ancestry – then I decided to make his name sound more French, since he is after all half French too. The names of the hero and heroine have to fit well together, and as Marc and Rosalie sounded like a good match, I was happy with my choice.

5)   The setting

Several years ago there was a television series I liked very much which was called Monarch of the Glen and which featured a beautiful castle called Glenbogle Castle. I loved it so much that I have wanted to set a story in a castle just like it ever since. In my mind, Raventhorn – the fictitious castle in Little Pink Taxi – is identical to Glenbogle castle, and like in the series, there is a loch and a forest, and of course, the dramatic backdrop of Cairngorms.


A castle that looks similar to Glenbogle.

Unfortunately, having never stayed in a beautiful Scottish castle, I had to rely on research to get a feel for the place. That’s where the Internet is so useful. You can take virtual tours of hotels and stately homes, visit estate agents websites, watch documentaries or use Google Earth. When I have collected lots of photos, I like to create Pinterest board. You can look at the one I made for Little Pink Taxi here.


Cairngorms National Park

6)   The playlist

I couldn’t write romance without having a soundtrack for my story. Rosalie Heart loves pop music and always sings to her favourite radio station, Happy Baby Radio, when she is driving. Unfortunately she can’t sing and her choice of music drives Marc crazy. So, which songs were in the Little Pink Taxi‘s playlist? Being French, I could have included Joe Le Taxi, but I chose old favourites such as ‘Don’t Speak’ by No Doubt, ‘Can’t Fight the Moonlight’ by Leanne Rimes, Seal’s ‘Kiss from a Rose’, and songs by Sade, The Lighthouse Family and Gabrielle.

7)   The facts

I love research and could happily spend weeks reading articles, books and journals. For Little Pink Taxi, I learnt a lot about Norse mythology, got sidetracked into researching the meaning of tattoos in the Russian mafia (which I didn’t use in the end!), and of course, I read about taxi driving.

8)    The dark moments

There are days when words flow and the characters talk to me, but there are also lots of dark moments when I despair that everything I write is rubbish. When that happens, I go for a walk to clear my head or I talk the problems over with my daughter Clémence at our favourite local café. As she is only twelve, she is far too young to read my books, but talking to her usually does the trick and helps me find solutions to the problems. That’s why Little Pink Taxi is especially dedicated to her!

9)   The gift

When I come to the end of a novel I buy myself something that reminds me of the story or the characters, and this time I treated myself with a lovely scarf and tweed handbag from a Scottish brand – both pink, of course!

10) The inspirational quotes

And lastly, in times of doubt or when I have so much on I don’t know how on earth I’ll manage, I remember my mother telling me to stop moaning and ‘Take the bull by the horns’. My own favourite inspirational quote is from French author Paul Valery: ‘The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.’

Little Pink Taxi is out now and available to purchase on all eBook platforms. Click the banner below for purchasing options. 

ALCF outnow banner


To celebrate the release of Little Pink Taxi, which is set in the Scottish Highlands, Marie Laval is giving away FOUR fabulous tweed corsages from Ness Clothing  to four lucky winners!

sku-01-flora-newhaven-check_01 NessCorsage

To be in with a chance of winning, simply make sure you have read the above blog post carefully and then answer these four questions. Enter by sending your answers to info@choc-lit.co.uk:

1. What nationality is Marc Petersen (the hero from Little Pink Taxi)?
2. What real-life castle was the inspiration for Raventhorn Castle in the book?
3. Which TV series inspired Marie Laval to write Little Pink Taxi?
4. What is the name of Rosalie Heart’s favourite radio station?

About the Author:

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the beautiful Rossendale Valley in Lancashire for a number of years. A member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors, she writes contemporary and historical romance. Her native France very much influences her writing, and all her novels have what she likes to call ‘a French twist’!

You can get in touch with Marie on Facebook and Twitter, and why not check the beautiful photos of Scotland and Denmark on the special Little Pink Taxi Page on Pinterest?

Highland Storms – publication day!

Tomorrow is the offhighlandstorms_coversmallericial publication day of Highland Storms, the sequel to Trade Winds, and I’m absolutely thrilled! In some ways it feels like I’ve been waiting ages for this, but in others, the day has come around very quickly indeed.

It’s only just over a year since Trade Winds was published and I was very pleased to be able to continue the story. I hadn’t originally planned on writing a sequel, they just seem to happen with me. I was going to leave Killian and his wife to live their Happy Ever After life, but somehow I couldn’t quite let go. And their baby boy, born all the way over in China, seemed to me to be a fighter – well, he had to be in order to survive a journey like that! Then I began to imagine him as a grown man and what he’d be like, combined with the fact that at some stage, he’d have to take over his father’s Highland estates, and the story took off from there …

I’ve been on a blog tour in honour of Highland Storms and this was meant to be the final stop, but we’ve added a few extra dates as follows, so please stop by if you have a moment:-

7th November – Eliza Knight’s blog www.historyundressed.blogspot.com

10th November – Helen Hollick’s blog http://helen-myguests.blogspot.com/

27th November – Cathie Dunn’s blog http://cathiedunn.blogspot.com/

12th December – The Word Wenches blog http://wordwenches.typepad.com/

In the meantime, to celebrate publiction day, here’s a chance to win a £20 Amazon voucher – just answer the following question – Do you prefer blond men or dark-haired ones and why? (I’d like to know because I had a hard time deciding which of my heroes I liked best – Killian or his son Brice).  Competition ends at midnight on Friday 4th November.

Highland Storms blurb:-

Who can you trust?

Betrayed by his brother and his childhood love, Brice Kinross needs a fresh start. So he welcomes the opportunity to leave Sweden for the Scottish Highlands to take over the family estate.

But there’s trouble afoot at Rosyth in 1754 and Brice finds himself unwelcome.  The estate is in ruin and money is disappearing.  He discovers an ally in Marsaili Buchanan, the beautiful redheaded housekeeper, but can he trust her?

Marsaili is determined to build a good life.  She works hard at being housekeeper and harder still at avoiding men who want to take advantage of her.  But she’s irresistibly drawn to the new clan chief, even though he’s made it plain he doesn’t want to be shackled to anyone.

And the young laird has more than romance on his mind.  His investigations are stirring up an enemy.  Someone who will stop at nothing to get what he wants – including Marsaili – even if that means destroying Brice’s life forever …

Highland Storms, ISBN: 978-1-906931-71-1, published by Choc Lit 1st November 2011, available to buy from Amazon or The Book Depository or please click here for further retailers

To read an excerpt, please click here

Christina Courtenay’s New Cover

highlandstorms_coversmallerI’m absolutely thrilled to be able to share my brand new cover with everyone – behold Highland Storms!  I think the Choc Lit cover designer has outdone himself this time and has produced exactly the sort of thing I had imagined for this novel.  I may be just a tad biased, and you probably all know by now that I’m very partial to lilac, but I think this is just fab!

Highland Storms, which is the sequel to Trade Winds, will be published in November, so there’s a while to wait yet before seeing the actual finished book, but I don’t mind now because I know I’ll love it.  Just to whet your appetite, here is a short blurb:-

Brice Kinross thinks he’s very different from his flamboyant father and younger brother Jamie, and the only thing he wants out of life is to settle down with the girl he loves.  When she jilts him in favour of his brother, however, he is forced to rethink.  Taking over his father’s Scottish estate and becoming the next chief of the clan suddenly seems very appealing, but the Scottish Highlands in 1754 is not the hospitable and welcoming place Brice remembers from childhood.  In order to successfully take over his inheritance, he’ll need to discover qualities he never knew he possessed.  And when he meets a woman who is more than his match and a villain hell-bent on taking what belongs to Brice, life begins to get interesting again …