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Q&A with Gn Hetherington
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE SECOND BOOK IN THE ‘HUGO DUCHAMP’ INVESTIGATES SERIES?
‘Les Fantômes Du Château’ takes place a few months after the first book ‘Un Homme Qui Attend’ and we find Hugo back in London, still reeling from the event that took place previously in Montgenoux. Without spoilers, it’s safe to say that he does return to France and barely has time to unpack before he’s embroiled in the murder of a maid at the local Château.
DO YOU HAVE A PLAN? HOW MANY BOOKS WILL BE THERE BE IN THE SERIES?
I don’t have a plan as such, other than when I started I had a rough idea about the first five books, for example I knew how book two would be quite different to book one with fewer characters, primarily because the first story had to introduce the town and a whole slew of characters, book two doesn’t really need that so it’s much more about the story at hand. Then we get to the third book which is again more about the town and the characters we have met but may have been missing from the second book, and seeing what they have been up to. I had a rough idea about book four and how book five would be about revenge, that all being said, as these books write themselves it changes constantly, for example a character who was to be a major part of book 5, actually dies in book 3 so that will change the story quite significantly! If there is a demand, then I don't see me stopping. I know that at some point I have to address Hugo and his family problems, so I had envisioned that taking place after book 5. As it stands though there are only so many plots and strands I can have floating around my head so that’s all for the future.
It occurred to me that after I finished book one and was halfway through book two that there were a lot of characters and plot threads that didn't really have a place but I didn't want to ignore. I got great feedback about the town of Montgenoux but the stories I allude to in the books don't necessarily have a place in the present day, so for that reason I decided that, at some point, I would write the Montgenoux Trilogy. A series of books each set in a different decade, the 80s, the 90s and the 00s that would allow me to explain events and characters before Hugo rolls into town. It’s an exciting prospect and I’m looking forward to it. I’m not really sure how it will pan out but ideally I would like to alternate between new Hugo investigations and each part of the trilogy, I’m finishing book three now and as book four more or less follows straight on, I’ll do that, and then the book after it will be the first part of the Montgenoux trilogy.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT BOOKS THREE AND FOUR THEN?
Book three is called ‘Les Noms Sur Les Tombs’ (the names on the graves) and is set a few months after the second book. It actually started out as a script that I wrote many years ago, but nothing really came of it, but I never forgot it, I liked the premise of the murders so in the back of my head I always knew that I would revisit it. As it turned out it was perfect for adapting to a Hugo adventure but the only real similarity between the two is the method of the murders. Throw into the mix that we still don't have a mayor in Montgenoux so I needed to address that, and that there is someone who arrives in town who is out to get our lovely Dr. Chapeau, it’s turned into a really interesting story and is similar in scope and character to the first book. Book four is a complete departure as it’s not even set in Montgenoux! For the most part the action will take place in Ireland but I’m thinking that there will be a bit of a chase aspect to it that will take place throughout Europe as Hugo tries to catch up with someone. More than that, can’t really say without giving spoilers!
WHY THE CLIFFHANGERS?
Ha! Well, primarily because I was a kid of the eighties growing up with only a couple of TV channels so ‘Dallas’ and ‘Dynasty’ were staple parts of my viewing habits - I always loved the cliffhangers, the way it got everyone talking and desperate for the shows to start again so we could find out what happened to the characters we loved. So, I guess that’s how it happened in my books. That being said, it goes back to the stories evolving as I’m writing. Both of the cliffhangers in the first two books were not part of my original outline, it just made sense as the stories concluded.
WHY ARE SOME OF THE CHARACTERS SO NASTY AND HARD TO LIKE?
The honest answer is that they don't start out that way. In the case of Louis Beaupain, for example, he was created to be a sort of opposite of Hugo, a selfish and arrogant man, and once I started he took on a life of his own. I wasn't interested in writing characters that were stereotypical. Louis appears to be nasty but why? Ultimately we'll get the answers to that one day in the Montgenoux trilogy, but for the first one he is meant just to be a shadowy figure acting like a puppet master. He was also created to show why Benoit acts the way he does. As for other nasty characters, again, it’s all about contrast and I think we need a good balance between the nicer characters like Hugo and how they interact with less scrupulous people! There are a pair of new characters in the second book who certainly give Louis a run for his money nastiness wise!
HOW DID THE IDEA FOR THE FIRST BOOK COME TO YOU?
My friend, Joy Edwards, a poet, author and biographer in her own right nagged me to get writing again! I’ve always written but not for quite a long time. It’s easy to take a bit of negativity to heart and that can put you off, well, it certainly did in my case! Because Joy did a lot of gentle persuasion it seemed as if the only way to get her to shut up was put something down! And then came Hugo. I knew that it would have to be a murder mystery, the rest of it just fell into place. I love France, I hope to live there one day, and I’m trying (not very successfully) to learn the language so I decided to set it there and rather than make it a straight-forward police drama, the concept of an exiled French man just popped into my head. I promise you, Hugo came to me practically full formed.
A GAY LOVE STORY AT THE HEART OF IT? ISN’T THAT QUITE UNUSUAL.
Probably, though it was never meant to be an integral part of it, I had even thought about making him straight, but as I said earlier, he came to me fully formed and he just WAS gay. I guess it would have been easier to make him straight as there’s always a possibility that it might put people off, but by the same token, he was never meant to be a poster boy for the cause! He’s much too awkward and self-conscious for that. Rather, he’s a police officer who just happens to be gay. Again, I hadn't even really planned for him to fall in love but it just worked out that way. And Benoit has certainly divided opinions but seems to be quite loved! I can’t tell you how many people begged me to find out whether he survives after the events at the end of the first book. It seems to me that people already have a real vested interest in their relationship. Benoit has certainly changed, particularly by the third book he has grown up a little. In my original notes I made a reference to him being a man-child, namely that he was all bluff and bravado but really that’s just all he was - putting on a defiant mask against his father but really just wanting to be loved. Somebody said to me that they didn't like his ruthless chasing after Hugo and my answer to that was, or rather the reason I wrote it that way was that he needed to chase Hugo as Hugo wasn't likely to chase him, he’s far too awkward for that, but once Hugo does become invested I think we see that Benoit pulls back a bit, surprised perhaps that Hugo is interested in him. That was the idea, to see these two, very different men finding that they were both worthy of love. Will it be happy ever after? I hope so! But, as we see in the second book someone else makes a play for Hugo and then they have a big problem to get past in the fourth book…