Tag: Switzerland

Switzerland

Reflections on holidays past

 My favorite Christmas memories are about being with my family. My parents always created a magical time of year, complete with sparkly tree, days of cooking favorite sweet and spicy treats, and, of course, gifts on Christmas Day. There was usually some project that took more time than anticipated and probably drove my mother crazy as we commandeered space she needed to do the real preparations for guests. Two projects that I remember in particular were making pine cone wreaths – incredibly messy – and creating all sorts of gingerbread projects, including the one pictured here.    When I was a child, my mother’s cousins hosted a party on Christmas eve that to my young eyes was the height of sophistication. Technically I viewed the main event from the children’s party in their ‘rec room’. I have such clear memories that there must have been a lot of peeking and dashes into the main party to ask my parents a question of great importance. Looking back, I think that this was a heroic feat on their part the night before Christmas day – when they also served an amazing dinner for many guests! I lived in a small town and have fond memories of the Christmas parade (as a high school student in band I also remember it being very cold some years) and of special church services and caroling. My husband grew up in Europe and his memories have a greater sense of ‘the town’. Christmas markets filed the streets of Vienna, Austria and Lausanne, Gruyere, and Fribourg in Switzerland, the places where he spent most of his youth. Handcrafted ornaments and other decorations were displayed in abundance alongside mulled wine and roasted chestnuts.  In Fribourg, the festival of Saint Nicolas was – and still is – a huge event. Held the first weekend in December, Saint Nicolas, the patron saint of the town, is mounted on a donkey and leads a cortege through the streets to the gallery of the cathedral. From his position high above the crowd he then makes his remarks. Thousands of people gather for the event, a true community celebration for all ages. To this day my husband’s friends who still live in Fribourg reunite for a fondue after the parade, and when we are there it is a true highlight of the season. I should confess that as I write this I am thinking…. hmmm maybe there is a short story in this.: Death at Saint Nicolas. The mere idea may get me banned from the festival…. What are your fondest holiday traditions? Any story ideas in them? 

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PUB DAY!!!! An interview with Swiss Vendetta author Tracee de Hahn

 Publication day!!!! For my first book, it was the fulfillment of a dream, the culmination of years of work and the validation that I had not been crazy when I’d quit my journalism job to get “serious about writing fiction.” It was also terribly unnerving to know that my baby would now be out there, inviting judgment. I was uncharacteristically touchy the whole day, like a raw nerve. Today is fellow MissDemeanor Tracee de Hahn’s publication day for Swiss Vendetta, the first in her Detective Agnes Lüthi mystery series. Award-winning author Charles Todd called the mystery  “a true page turner” and the novel has been hailed as “tense, atmospheric and richly detailed.” She answered a few questions about her writing process and feelings about her big day for today’s blog.  Q. What was your inspiration for writing Swiss Vendetta? A. My husband is Swiss and we lived there for some years. It is a fascinating country. Incredibly beautiful and peaceful and orderly… until you notice the undercurrent of energy expended to keep it that way. The contradiction is fascinating and made me think of the elements of a mystery. There were a few other pieces that had to come together – the winter setting was inspired by the memory of a devastating ice storm some years ago in Geneva. The famous Château de Chillon on the shores of Lac Léman above Lausanne was the inspiration for my Château Vallotton (Lord Byron was also inspired by this location). After I had the location in mind, the plot and characters evolved. The crime at the center of the book came easily. Q. How do you come up with your characters? Are they modeled after people that you know? A. They certainly contain bits of people that I know, but the elements of the individuals are transformed into something wholly of my imagination. For example, one of my favorite characters in Swiss Vendetta is the aging Russian, Vladimir Arsov. His voice, his manner of speaking, and his confidence were all inspired by an Italian architecture professor I had the good fortune to know. Arsov’s life story was all my invention, but the reader will understand how the man’s presence – based on my friend’s – helped created the rest. Q. Do you picture the actress who would play your protagonist in a movie?A. I’ve thought about the cinematographic dimension of the book, but I haven’t thought about the actress who would play Agnes. Hopefully I’ll need to one day. Q. What was the most surprising thing about the book publishing process to you? A. The collegiality of the writing community, particularly those in the mystery and thriller genre. Writing is a solitary endeavor and they make it less so. I imagine that before the internet, authors wrote to one another. Now the immediately of the internet and the growing network of conferences mean that we can connect daily. There is much to be learned and this group is always willing to share. Q. Now that it’s launch day, are you happy, sad, relieved? All of the above? Why?… A. A combination of happy and relieved. I know myself too well, and while writing is solitary, a book is a shared experience. I wanted to be out and about at launch time. My publishers lined up a tour of several cities and I’ll be distracted for a few weeks. For the actual launch date, I am signing at one of my favorite book stores, in a city I love – Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, KY. If you want to join me on tour, the events are all up on my website at www.traceedehahn.com Q. What is next for you?  A. Finalizing the second in the series and then starting the third! I think that the second is a psychological hurdle. I have a dozen ideas for the next one and hopefully the ones after that. Really, can’t wait to get started! 

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Atmosphere and Authenticity

Setting the scene… in my case Switzerland. How much is too much; how much is not enough? I have several friends who don’t ever finish their great American novel, often because they keeping digging in for more detail, more perfection, just more! (Even more editing, which often means ‘less,’ then they need ‘more’ again. Argh!) There is no magic formula to finding the balance between setting the scene and overburdening with detail, a writing reality that I am contemplating today as I develop several minor characters. (Confession here….. they develop in situ, meaning the draft is well underway but the characters are shifting as the plot develops). Because Switzerland draws residents and visitors from around the world each of these characters very deliberately comes from a different country and a different culture.I have the good fortune to be in India for the moment and am concentrating on a character from that country. I’ve visited India many times and have a sense of ‘my man’ but each time I speak with someone a little detail is added, or a detail is questioned. It is easy to slip down the rabbit hole and have more backstory than is necessary and I feel myself asking: is this enough?  In the end, the magic formula is likely all the details that we as writers think of before mentally paring to just enough for the reader to visualize. This allows the reader room to insert their own experiences and dreams. That said….. maybe I should go speak again with my hosts, learn a little more, and add a few more details to ‘my man’!  Follow me at www.traceedehahn.com  

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