I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Carol Edgerly today to talk with me about her book, Claire. Carol Born in Calcutta, she spent most of her early childhood in France and then Jersey in the Channel Islands. Educated first at a French Convent, she attended Jersey College for Girls and later went to Heathfield, a girls’ boarding school in Ascot.
Throughout her life (and three marriages) Carol has travelled extensively, visiting the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, living several years in France, India and HongKong.
A qualified teacher, she ran a successful Tutorial in Hongkong for many years, teaching children French and English towards eventual O-Level examinations. She is delighted to still keep in touch with a number of ex-pupils.
Upon retirement to France, Carol was able to carry out a burning desire to write the story of her French great-grandmother’s astonishing life, told to her by a great-aunt when she was twelve years of age. In the delightful surroundings of her home in the Dordogne at that time, she wrote the story of MARGUERITE in long hand, initially for the benefit of her three children.
Years went by, and sweating blood and tears Carol battled the mysteries of a computer, MacWord and email…finally Facebook and Twitter. Encouraged by friends and her three children, she re-invented herself as a writer and typed out the manuscript of MARGUERITE on her new Mac computer, editing furiously as she went. The exercise, however, took decidedly longer than she had imagined!
Unwilling to pursue a (generally) disappointing path to literary agents and publishers, being dismally aware her work might end up unread, and thrown on a “slush pile” Carol ventured into the world of independent-publishing. It was one of her life’s greatest emotional moments to hold a print copy of MARGUERITE in her hands for the first time!
Delighted by readers’ response to the book, Carol went on to write CLAIRE, the story of Marguerite’s wilful elder daughter, who led an amazing if somewhat tragic life. Now there is “SUSANNA…the Early Years” Volume 1, soon to be on Amazon, this being the story of one of Claire’s granddaughters. This particular book shines a light on bullying in its worst form, an unpleasantness that unfortunately persists to this day.
“SUSANNA…a Tale of Passion and Betrayal” Volume 2, will follow in due course.
Carol still lives in France, now in a comfortable old farmhouse set in the centre of its own twenty-eight acres of pastureland in the Vendée. Sitting at her desk in the veranda, she is invariably surrounded by six much-loved adopted dogs of all shapes and sizes.
Her two well-travelled horses now gone to heaven, she keeps five gorgeous, Baudet de Poitou donkeys. Adding to the animal family, there are two small bunnies living in their “château” and very large cage, a sweet barn cat, and an elderly cockatiel that swears colourfully when in the mood!
During summer months, Carol receives visitors at her B&B, helping to finance her large animal family and maintain her home.
How did you discover indieBRAG?
I noticed an indieBRAG book award on Facebook and wondered if MARGUERITE, my first book, might be eligible? It was! Thrilled to have MARGUERITE awarded a Medallion, I submitted CLAIRE, a second book in the saga that was also fortunate enough to win a Medallion.
Tell me about your book, Claire
Claire was the eldest daughter of Marguerite de Merencourt and her husband Patrick, a surgeon in the Indian Cavalry based at Lucknow in northern India. Subsequent to her husband’s brutal assassination, Marguerite left her five children with nuns in Simla and undertook a full nurse’s training in Scotland, specialising in midwifery. Upon her return, she retrieved her children and moved to Calcutta where she set up her own nursing home for expectant mothers.
Discovering her mother’s French aristocratic family, Claire bitterly resented her mother’s occupation as midwife, acutely aware that society in Calcutta would classify it as “trade” and members of her family were therefore unacceptable. Unable to come to terms with that, in addition to a bitter resentment of her mother’s preferential treatment of a younger sibling, Claire agreed to Marguerite’s proposal that she marry Jack MacLeod, a well-to-do businessman in Calcutta. It was not a love match: Jack required a competent wife to complement his burgeoning career, and Claire saw it as an escape from her mother’s suffocating domination.
On her wedding night, seventeen-year-old Claire made the traumatic discovery that her new husband happened to be in love with another man’s wife. In an attempt to overcome her shock and make the best of her situation, she determined to impress her husband by an undoubted efficiency in organizing the entertainment of visiting politicians and business acquaintances. It did not take long for the young woman to become a much-sought after hostess in Calcutta’s society. Although pleased by his wife’s success, Jack remained impervious to Claire’s considerable charm. Deeply unhappy, she sought advice from various quarters, even to having a baby to please her husband.
The book continues to follow Claire’s journey through life – her joys, sorrows, disappointments and successes. In her desperation to be loved for herself, she would make life-changing mistakes. Claire thought to have finally found happiness with a young bohemian artist she met whilst on holiday in the south of France…
Please tell me a little about the historical aspects to your story.
The story takes place during the British Raj in India, post the uprising of Indian sepoy troops that resulted in a massacre of many British families. During that period, etiquette was all-important in society, hence the relegation of Claire’s family to its very fringes. Those fortunate enough to be “accepted” lived a luxurious and exciting existence.
What are the habits of your protagonist?
From the time she was a young girl, Claire always had an eye for the latest fashion. Whilst still at her family home, she would secretly “adjust” what she considered to be the overly demure neckline of her dresses, frequently causing outrage to her mother. As time went by, Claire showed herself to possess immaculate taste in clothes and furnishing, an enjoyment of lavish entertaining, her vivacity attractive to businessmen, diplomats and Indian princes alike.
How is your character(s) influenced by their setting?
Throughout her life, Claire was desperate to lose what she perceived as the “stain” of her mother’s occupation, viewing it as unnecessary and undignified in light of Marguerite’s aristocratic background.
What is one of the life-changing mistakes Claire makes?
Driven into a corner at an overemotional point in her life, by her husband’s refusal to educate the little boy she had adopted a few years earlier, Claire impulsively returned the child to the orphanage. Brutally abandoned by the woman he had come to regard as his mother, the little boy’s anguished screams would haunt Claire for the remainder of her life.
She never forgave herself.
What was the inspiration for your story?
Initially I was inspired to write the amazing story of my great-grandmother, Marguerite, for my three children as a sort of family “testimonial.” In turn, they encouraged me to write for a wider readership, certain others would find her story as riveting as I had myself. Delighted over how well the book was received, I went on to write about her rebellious eldest daughter, Claire. The life of Susanna, one of Claire’s granddaughters follows on…
Were there any challenges you faced while writing this story?
Being extremely fond of Claire myself, it was far from easy to write about her “warts and all.” Tempting through it was to draw a rosy-hued veil over Claire most glaring mistakes, I managed to resist and tell her story as it was.
Where can readers buy your book?
Both the printed version and e-book for MARGUERITE and CLAIRE can be obtained on Amazon sites.
A message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Carol Edgerley who is the author of, Claire, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Claire, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money
Stephanie M. Hopkins -indieBRAG Interview Team Leader