When I have been writing for a long time – perhaps from 5 o’clock in the morning to midday – I need to walk.
And, of course, my imagination tends to take the same pathways as my feet – alongside water, into the woods and the hills.
In southwest France, strolling one day, I discovered a salt-water spring. I followed the trickling water down to where it became a stream, almost sleepily falling towards Rennes-les-Bains through quiet countryside …
But as well as seeking out inspiring natural environments, I find myself drawn to features built – and perhaps abandoned – by human occupation. I become intrigued by locations that display their own history – like the deep river valley of the Salz in Rennes-les-Bains, lined with deep houses. I adore ruins.
As I began to focus my research for Sepulchre, I acquired a sequence of maps – 18th century, 19th century, present day – that plot the shifting names of the places inhabited by my characters. For years, Rennes-le-Château was isolated, no road rising from Couiza until the Abbé Bérenger Saunière paid for one to be built. For years, Rennes-les-Bains owed its small importance to the village of Montferrand further up the side of the valley.
Everywhere I went, I felt the influence of the genus loci – the spirit of the place.