This is the
third book in the Chief Inspector Gamache series - set at Easter in the
tiny Quebec village of Three Pines. Each of my books is set in
season, and clearly The Cruellest Month is
April, spring. An
unsettling time, of
new life and killing frosts. Of
and boldness and breathtaking beauty.
hope and sudden loss.
Cruellest Month ended up
being the easiest
book to write so far. Thank
first, Still Life, took 45 years to
write, then Headline wanted the second (Dead
Cold) in a year. When
consciousness I started to panic.
didn't help that a whole lot of people were telling me about the
curse', as though a critic with claws and a leather mask was waiting in
basement for me.
I became so
stressed about writing the second book that the only way I could lure
the computer was by placing two huge pastries beside it every day. I was determined to become
a huge writer, one
way or the other.
got me to the keyboard, but what about the crap I was writing?
For crap it
was, I was convinced. Having
from writers block at one stage in my life I was very afraid of
it again, especially as I saw the days and weeks slipping by. And the deadline whizzing
So I did a
couple of things that didn't, thank God, include baked goods. Or gummi bears.
I spoke to
agent, Teresa Chris, about it. Her
reaction? 'Oh, for
Heaven’s sake, it's
not War And Peace you're writing!' Then she gave me some
wonderful advice. She
could see that each morning I'd been
going to the computer to write a book.
But she pointed out that I didn't have to write a book. Just 1,000 words a day. Then another thousand, and
another. And after
3 or 4 months, with discipline (and
éclairs) I'd have a book.
It sounds so
obvious now, but it wasn't then. It
reminded me of one of our Canadian heroes, a young man named Terry Fox
lost a leg to cancer. He
decided that to
raise money for cancer he'd run across the country.
Canada. Not Monaco. Not the boot of Italy. But Canada. He died halfway across, in
20's. But his
diaries were recently
discovered and published, and in them he described how he did it. Each morning he woke up
and determined not to
run across the nation, but to run to the next corner.
And the next.
He made it more than a thousand miles, from one corner to
write my books now. I
run to the next
corner. Each day I
write 1,000 words. That's
all I have to worry about.
of invaluable advice came from a therapist I decided to see halfway
book. I was still
filled with fear, and
it was making a process that had been hard but fulfilling into a misery. Well, she said, 'The wrong
person is writing
thought she meant Teresa, my agent, should be writing the book, and
But no, she
meant The Critic was writing the book.
My internal Critic that tells me the book is crap, I'm
And really, what was I thinking anyway?
advised me to show The Critic the door.
The Creative me needed to be writing the book.
she said. 'Have fun
with it. Don't
At the end of the first draft you can invite The Critic
back. But not
That was an
I threw the
entire draft of the second book away and started again.
Sans Critic, sans pastry.
And I had a great time.
Cold was born, and has been shortlisted for an Agatha for
Best Novel in the
US (under the
title, A Fatal Grace).
But then it
came time to write the third book in the Armand Gamache series.
I sat down
the computer, and out came The Cruellest
certainly needed editing
and revising. Lots
of work for The
Critic. But it was
a joy from beginning
themes of the book are redemption and second chances.
There's a murder, at a séance, in the old
Hadley house in Three Pines. A
is frightened to death. And
Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is
called to investigate. As
he does, old ghosts close in on him
too. A few years
earlier he turned in a
senior officer for hideous crimes, and the case has come back to haunt
Each of my
books has a murder, certainly. In
classic tradition of Christie and Sayers and Simenon.
But they're not about murder.
They're about belonging, and friendship, love
- and redemption.
themes I understand, having lived them - in my private life, and in my
life as a
writer. To have
almost given up, and
then to have been given such help, and a second chance.
I hope you
enjoy reading The Cruellest Month
much as I enjoyed writing it.
CRUELLEST MONTH is published by Headline
(UK) April 2008 pbk £6.99
Inspector Armand Gamache
Still Life (2005)
Dead Cold (2006) aka
A Fatal Grace
The Cruellest Month (2007)
Visit Louise Penny’s website: http://www.louisepenny.com/