Category Archives: Non classé

LOCATION, LOCUTION: Living in France, English writer Harriet Springbett isn’t afraid to go out on a limb and produce first novel

The Displaced Nation is a website that explores how it feels to live away from your country of birth – and I’d almost forgotten that I was interviewed by one of its columnists earlier this year.
The interview, which focuses on the importance of setting, has just been published.
Many thanks to Tracey Warr for the beautiful page design.

The Displaced Nation

Tracey Warr is back with her latest interview guest, Harriet Springbett, an Englishwoman who is now rooted in south-western France and has seen her creative life blossom as a result.

Greetings, Displaced Nationers. My guest this month is Harriet Springbett, an English writer who lives in the Poitou-Charentes region of France with her French husband and their dual-nationality teenage daughters.

Harriet grew up in West Dorset. She qualified as a manufacturing engineer before discovering she preferred people to machines and words to numbers. It was the mid-1990s, and she thought about applying for an MA in creative writing, a degree that was rare at the time, but her boyfriend was French and she ended up moving to France to study French for a year at the Université de Pau. As she writes in one of her blog posts: “I finally opted for love in an exotic setting.”…

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Twilight in the Pyrenees

Writing Residency Day 7:

What have Transylvania and the Pyrenees got in common?

It’s easy to find an answer, but can you find my answer? Admit it, you’re struggling, aren’t you?

The answer is Dracula: vampires (hence this post title), although unfortunately not of the Robert Pattinson variety.

Of course, Dracula is no more indigenous to the Pyrenees than marmots and granite, but this summer, from 25th July to 6th August, you will find the Prince of Shadows at Gavarnie.

The theatre company Fébus have been producing outdoor plays with the Gavarnie cirque as a backdrop for 10 years, including Le Cid and Beauty & the Beast.

This year, they’re preparing their own version of Bram Stoker’s novel with their 12 actors, and I was lucky enough to be party to one of their preparation meetings. This involved the costumes, which Véronique Strub has been in charge of for the last 5 years.

If you’ve followed my writing residency posts, you’ll know that Véronique and her assistant Caroline are on a residency here at the Maison des Arts with me. This means that instead of writing in my room in the company of my mountain, I can be distracted and learn all about costume making instead. For a future story, of course. Everything counts as work when you’re a writer.

I was astonished by the rail of clothes already installed, particularly by the flowery frock. I expressed my surprise to Caroline.

“That’s Dracula’s summer dress,” she said.

And I knew we would get on well together. (I was later told that the dresses had just been stocked there in transit for some sale).

Today’s meeting was with Fébus production & admin boss, Anne-Lise. On the table were the sketches Véronique and Caroline had produced so far, and they proceeded to explain their ideas to Anne-Lise.

Caroline has costume-making qualifications, and told me, as she modified her sketches in line with the discussion, that drawing was an important part of her course.

Véronique has done a huge amount of research, including collecting Balkan costumes on Pinterest and visiting the scene of the play so she knows how close the audience will be. This is vital for dimension decisions.

She has, of course, read Bram Stoker’s novel, concentrating on descriptions of the characters and their clothing. She even pulled out a Dracula picture book at one point during the meeting.

I was surprised to see to what extent the costumes were designed according to the physical build and the personalities of the actors. One character is new, added by scriptwriter and director Bruno Spiesser, and it was obvious that this made it more difficult to create a costume for her.

Bruno’s script was to hand, as was a summary of each act, showing who was on stage for each scene. As I listened, I realised that not only the physique but also the physical actions of each actor must be taken into consideration for the design.

For example, the vampires, who have to crawl on the ground at one point, have knee protections incorporated in their leggings. And the material covering their arms must be solid enough to take the weight of the wing supports.

Even the colour of Dracula’s climbing rope posed a problem, as its fluorescent colours didn’t match the décor.

Other parameters to be taken into account include the lighting, since a spotlight on a distinctive part of a costume can help the audience understand what’s happening.

Most surprising of all – yet completely logical, having heard the discussion – was how the style of costume has to correspond to the style of any music the actors play.

All in all, I realised how important it is for the costume makers to be involved with all parts of a play, from music to décor to the stage movements. With a fabric budget of 3000€ and three experienced costume makers working from now until 25th July, the visual side of the show, at least, looks promising.

If you fancy seeing the show, contact www.festival-gavarnie.com. There’s even a shuttle bus from Pau laid on for those who reserve in advance.

 

 

 

 

 

It was all very well sitting indoors with sewing machines and mannequins, but outside it was 30°C and the air smelt of newly-cut hay. I left the seamstresses and went to walk and think of writerly things in the shade of the forest above the little village of Sireix.

Since Eole and his sheep weren’t around, I took the opportunity to admire some beautiful trees, some curious insects, an interesting man-made feature – and some rare flowers, thanks to a botanical group I bumped into.

 

See you tomorrow for the final day of my writing residency.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Tree Magic by Harriet Springbett

I feel honoured to see a review of Tree Magic featured in the literary journal ‘Storgy’ today – especially such a well written, thoughtful and positive review. Many thanks to the reviewer, Alice Kouzmenko, to Storgy and to my wonderful publicist at Impress Books, Sarah Sleath (and of course to my producer, the sound engineers and… ha ha!)

Think of Tree Magic as a tree. A great big oak, or a fir, or the beech at the end of your garden that gave you the scar on your knee. Look at its leaves and branches, and you will find a story about a young girl, Rainbow, who discovers she can communicate with trees. Dig deeper and you’ll find the roots of the story. For Harriet Springbett’s first novel is about more than a girl with magic powers. It is about a young girl struggling to reinvent herself. It follows Rainbow’s journey between England and France, her dramatic changes in appearances, her attempt to piece together a broken family, and all the people she meets along the way.

I am not one for fantasy novels. So, when I read the blurb for this book, I was initially sceptical about the prospect of reading about a girl with magic hands…

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P is for Paul

You may remember that my short story ‘Three Goddesses’ was published in a competition anthology called ‘Cat Tales’. Here’s a taster of the story, posted on Curtis Bausse’s blog as part of his A-Z Blogging challenge. All proceeds from Cat Tales go to charity.

curtisbaussebooks

harriet1

Well, yesterday was a mix of outside and inside, but this one’s very much inside. In fact it stays on the sofa all the time, where Paul is in the company of two cats and Caroline, divine creatures all. And Three Goddesses is the title of Harriet Springbett’s story in Cat Tales, the anthology drawn from last year’s Book a Break short story competition.

But believe me, a lot can happen on a sofa. Why, I’ve seen Sam and Sam get up to all sorts of mischief, but I’d better not go into that here. Paul and Caroline have only just met, so the sofa activity goes no further than coffee, cigarettes and cats.

Paul perched on the edge of Catharine’s leather sofa. A ball of striped fur with two heads reclined on the armchair opposite him. He stared at it, puzzling where one cat ended and the…

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Author Q&A

Oooh, exciting! Another feature – this time a Q&A – on Australia’s YA blog in Melbourne. Thanks guys.

The YA Room

Hello again, friends! Today we’re bring you something really special – an interview with author Harriet Springbett! If you haven’t seen our last post yet, check it out to learn a bit more about Harriet’s novel – Tree Magic – and to hear more about the ideas behind it!

We were interested in learning a bit more about Harriet’s writing style and her tips for aspiring writers, so she was kind enough to give us a bit of an insight into her writing world! Enjoy!

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What does your usual writing routine look like? Do you prefer a particular place to write in? What time of the day do you get the most writing done?

I started to take writing seriously in 2005 and an integral part of that decision was to allocate myself a specific writing time and then stick to it. I’m definitely a morning writer – this…

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Magical-Realism, Metaphors, and Ideas

An Australian Book Blogging group – The YA Room – has reviewed and featured Tree Magic today. Read my article to learn more about the ideas behind the novel.

The YA Room

A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to receive a copy of Tree Magic, a new YA debut by Harriet Springbett. We utterly adored reading this magical and intriguing novel. Set in England and France, this alluring tale follows Rainbow, a girl who can shape trees at her will. As well as being a novel about overcoming fears and fighting her way through parallel worlds, it’s also a touching coming-of-age story about finding yourself.

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to learn a little bit more about how Harriet came up with this fascinating concept. Here’s a little piece Harriet wrote to be featured on our blog… 

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Fishy Stories

My story ‘I am most alive‘ has just been longlisted in the annual Fish Publishing competition. This may not sound like much of an achievement, but I’m delighted because the standard is very high. There were 1300 entries, of which 190 were longlisted. 40 of those were shortlisted and the top 10 winners will be announced on 17th March. You can find the listings on the Fish website here.