Mar 30 2017 4:30pm

Channeling Austen: How I Found Inspiration for Love & Death in Burgundy

Read this exclusive guest post from Susan Shea about where she drew inspiration from for Love & Death in Burgundy, and then make sure to sign in and comment below for a chance to win this wonderful French-themed mystery!

When I began writing what became Love & Death in Burgundy, the 1st of my French-themed mysteries, I wasn’t entirely sure what shape it would take. It was inspired by two friends who chucked their California lives and moved to France. She was an artist, spoke French, and had lived in Europe for a few months in an earlier life. He was an Idaho cowboy and musician who had not a word of French but would do anything to please his wife, even though they didn’t have much money. I was intrigued by the adventure they had chosen and wondered if they could pull it off.

They were close friends, and I visited them several times in the tiny crossroads town in Burgundy where they settled. As they explained the problems with the old stone house they could afford to buy—crumbling walls, balky heat, red clay roof tiles that crashed down whenever the wind blew—and their efforts to find workmen who could do the necessary repairs, their predicament reminded me of A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. It turned out the only guy in town who was willing to climb onto the roof was also the town thief. Neighbors whispered that if you had new tools you’d best lock them up or be prepared to re-purchase them from the man, who might just happen to have some like the ones you lost for sale in his courtyard.

On one visit, my friend told me the community they were hoping to become part of was being fractured by a marital breakup and people were choosing sides. Many of the villagers in the small cluster of houses that was hardly a pinpoint on a map were descendants of families that had worked the land for generations. The couple’s split was rocking the status quo and seemed to affect everyone.

I realized this situation could have come right out of a Jane Austen novel. I’m a huge fan of Austen’s brilliant social satires, and my story got a strong nudge forward as I channeled her perspectives on insular societies and the role gossip plays in keeping everyone on pins and needles!

But I am a mystery writer, so I needed something more dramatic than a pending divorce to serve as a catalyst. I needed an unexplained death, à la Agatha Christie. So, someone in my made-up town dies in mysterious circumstances—a good way to set my characters in motion.

The residents of Reigny-sur-Canne exchange malicious rumors and competing theories, and my protagonist—my version of Miss Marple—is drawn into solving the puzzle—with the help, or not, of an enthusiastic but clueless young woman—so that life in the village can regain its balance and she can finally be accepted in the town.

I channeled a little of my artist friend’s eccentricities into Katherine Goff, some of her laconic husband into Michael Goff—whose derailed rock and roll career is my fantasy—and only the sketchiest bits of their adopted village into Reigny-sur-Canne. And yet, in some ways—like Austen’s novels—there is a kind of truth in the story.

If you’ve lived in a closely knit neighborhood, be it in the middle of New York City or an old gold-mining town in California, you know that people form alliances, hold resentments, count on each other, or become famously aloof. They band together in adversity, or their friendships fracture under pressure. Love & Death in Burgundy is my way of telling the stories Christie, Mayle, and Austen all wrote so charmingly. I didn’t know that when I began, but “It is a truth universally acknowledged…

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Love & Death in Burgundy by Susan Shea!

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Love & Death in Burgundy Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) March 30, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 4:29 p.m. ET April 7, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


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Susan C. Shea spent more than two decades as a non-profit executive before beginning her career as a mystery author. Susan is past-president of the northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime and secretary of the national SinC board, a member of MWA, and blogs on CriminalMinds. In addition to Love & Death in Burgundy, she is also the author of the Dani O’Rourke mystery series. Susan lives in Marin County, California and travels to France as often as she can.

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Margie Bunting
1. Saramarg
I love Susan's books and am really looking forward to the first book in her new series, especially since it's set in France!
John Smith
2. jsmith2jsmith
I have yet to read Mayle, but I liked the TV series!
James Joyce
3. JamesPatrickJoyce
I can't wait for the dark alleys and smokey offices of the (pinot) Noir novel.
Barbara Bibel
4. bbibel
O want to read this. I spent two years in France.
pearl berger
6. beach
A fascinating feature and wonderful giveaway.
Theresa Clarke
8. Luminous Angel
You can't go wrong with channelling Austen + Christie - lovely book!
Richard Derus
9. expendablemudge
Burgundy, the nation that vanished. Thank goodness the wine didn't.
Pearl Berger
10. Sunshine
Impressive novel which I would enjoy. Thanks.
Jeana Keller
12. StuffSmart
I would love to add to my summer reading list.
ellie lewis
13. italia
Sounds captivating and enthralling.
Jean Feingold
14. dusksunset
Hoping the book has something about wine!
Jean Feingold
14. dusksunset
Hoping the book has something about wine!
Sanda Means
15. Sjtm
I love mysteries, especially the 1st in a new series, and I love France.
Michele Van Epps
16. Ireed
Sounds like a great read -- it's fun to hear about the inspiration behind the series.
Michele Van Epps
17. Ireed
Sounds like a great read -- it's fun to hear about the inspiration behind the series.
Shaunterria Owens
18. shaunterria
I am intrigued by the premise - and I hope I win! :)
susan beamon
19. susanbeamon
This sounds like the type of cozy I love, that of life in a smallish town.
Kathryn Baxter
20. KateBaxter
Sounds absolutely delicious! Would love to give this one a read.
Janice Santillo
21. themommazie
Agatha Christie is my favorite ,so this book incorporating Agatha's style and characters sounds interesting and one I want to read.
Elizabeth Matthiesen
24. elizamatt
I don't believe that I've read any books by Susan Shea so far and she does sound like a very interesting author.
Gwen Ellington
25. mamadonie02
Christie, Mayle, Austen and mystery--how delightful!
Portia Asher
26. pixie
I need a new series..this one would be perfect.
Lori Provenzano
27. Mountainesque
My curiosity is piqued! Sounds like the perfect mystery to enjoy while imbibing some full-bodied red wines characteristic of the region.
Beth Talmage
29. wordygirl
I love her description of the alliances that can be formed in small towns & neighborhoods, for good or ill. I'm very intrigued, and would love to read this book and will be following this author.
Barbara Lima
32. barblima
Trying to fit into an insular community. It's hard! It should be funny, too!
33. clcdark
Just the book for me!!
Alicia Sargant
34. asarge
sacre bleu, I would love to read this
Martha DeMarco
36. md238
Love this idea, what a great thought. Can't wait to read, thanks for the chance for a giveaway.
Irene Menge
39. Goldenmane
Interesting insights into the dynamics of a community.
Connie Williamson
40. angelbun
I've never read any of Susan Shea's books before, so I'm happy to learn about a new author of books I might very well enjoy. Thanks for the opportunity to win Love and Death in Burgundy. I simply love France.
Rudy Wright
41. rudycwright
Sounds like a great cozy! Just added it to my book order.
Teresa Ward
48. tward57
Adding this one to my TBR list. Thanks for the contest
49. Carl Scott
This sounds both mysterious and fun, I'm sure we'd enjoy it. Thanks for the chance to win a copy
Alyson Widen
50. Sunnymay
Austen is one of my all time faves. She writes with depth of feeling and I can feel her angst and disappointments when the virtues are not shining nor obligations unmet.
Michelle Fidler
53. Micky
Sounds good. I enjoy Austen too and I like the book cover.
Michelle Fidler
53. Micky
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