The Caves of Etretat is the first of a four-book epic action/adventure. The main protagonist evolves through the series, following a classic theme of growth, overcoming challenges to master hidden secrets, explored in such books as Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, the Dune series by Frank Herbert, the Matrix movie series by the Wachowsky brothers, and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien.
I wrote The Caves of Etretat in the first person. It was an unthinking act, one I naturally fell to when writing stories. My story rolled around Etretat, a small town in France, around Maurice Leblanc, an author who lived there, and Arsene Lupin, Leblanc's famous character. Lupin was a gentleman-thief created as a counterpoint to Sherlock Holmes in England. The character was mischievous and clever, able to steal your heart and your paintings at the same time. He had a habit of presenting himself under anagrams of his name.
I came up with Paul Sirenne, a name Lupin had never used. My main character was born.
He was me, at the beginning. I placed myself in a fictitious adventure, one I had always dreamed about. Raymonde Leblanc, Sirenne's one true love, reflected my life partner. Many of my faults were his, having created him without reflection. Blended in were a few character traits. There were some things I wanted Paul Sirenne to be.
I didn't like the action hero in the books I read. They were always too good, too perfect. I wanted an average guy thrown into the adventure of his life. His perspective had to be different, not gung-ho mercenary. I wanted him scared and weak, unwilling to take chances. He would have to be forced to act throughout the series.
Paul Sirenne evolved as I grew the series. One day, he was no longer me. He had become a separate identity, alive in my head, dictating his actions, no matter what I wanted. I could outline the events that would happen to him but his reactions were his own. I started seeing the story as an inclined board with pegs on it. Characters were balls that I dropped through the pegs. I could set the pegs where I wanted but the balls bounced where they wanted.
The problem was that the story was so real. Research proved I was following a historical mystery, exploring the same thing Jules Verne had explored, along with Maurice Leblanc. Sirenne's quest was my quest, no matter what I did to separate fiction from reality. He sought the answers to my questions. Why are we here? Is matter real? Is the world, the universe, an illusion?
What did this have to do with Etretat?
Leblanc had obviously been caught in the same trap, one hundred years ago. He hid more than 1400 codes and clues in his books, trying to tell someone, anyone about the mysteries in Rennes-le-Chateau. Now, here I was, following in his footsteps, somehow looking for the exact same answers. The priest Sauniere, in Rennes-le-Chateau, had posed the same questions, in clues hidden in his church and in his tower.
Every book I wrote in the series emphasized the connections. Research led me inevitably to find that story elements were not invention after all. Sirenne was looking for something real, Like Leblanc and Sauniere before him.
The Four Books of Etretat, the title of the second book suddenly represented the four books of my series. At some point in the story, Fabian Coulter, Sirenne's friend, reflects on the similarities between fiction and reality. I still don't know if he was talking to me or to Sirenne. All I can say is Sirenne was pulled into the adventure of his life and I was there, stuck by his side until the very end.
I had to go back and re-adjust Sirenne as his character evolved. What had seemed like unplanned impulses when I started writing the book, now took on deep meaning. The story was circular, always bringing me back to The Caves of Etretat. Sirenne's character was circular, changing himself through time, his future changing his past.
Sirenne was teaching me.
Although I was writing fiction, sitting isolated in my room at home, the world had reached out and connected to me, involving me in the most important search of my life. My character, Sirenne, was going where I could not, and he would not stop until the answers came to him, to me. Writing Book Four, The Greyman, was the hardest thing to do. I was swimming in the unknown.
I'd wanted my character to do what I had never seen done before. Sauniere hadn't done it. Leblanc hadn't done it. Dan Brown had only alluded to it. I wanted Sirenne to find the answers, to make them make sense, to give us good reason for all this suffering. Do you remember Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson? All his suffering? What was it all for in the end?
Could Sirenne do it?
He damn well did. I was lost, hanging on, trying to make sense of it all, but he saw the answers. He wrote them down and brought them back. The last book ends at the first, changing everything, changing Sirenne, changing me.
In the end, I went back to Book One, to The Caves of Etretat, to page eleven, where I inserted the ultimate line describing Paul Sirenne. It seems like nothing, a sentence easily missed or ignored. "I hurt no one and no one hurts me." That sentence expresses so much more than Sirenne. It's the fear of suffering in all of us. The problem is, no one can avoid suffering. The question is: Why Not?
Discover more about my series at my website www.MattChatelain.com , including audio excepts and interviews. The Caves of Etretat is available at Kindle as Ebook, and at Amazon.com in hardcopy. Book two will be out by end of May 2012. All four books will be published by end of 2012. Sign up to win signed copies of the series on my website. Don't forget to leave a comment.
About the Author:
Having semi-retired from the bookstore, I embarked on the project of writing my first serious novel, which I expanded to a four book series after discovering an incredible mystery hidden within Maurice Leblanc's books.
My interests are eclectic. I like Quantum Physics, Cosmology, history, archaeology, science in general, mechanics, free power, recycling and re-use. I'm a good handyman and can usually fix just about anything. I'm good with computers. I love movies, both good and bad, preferring action and war movies. I can draw and paint fairly well but am so obsessed with perspective and light that I cannot think of much else. I am too detail oriented. Takes too long to finish anything.
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100003486781507
He heads to the town of Etretat, France, on the trail of a hundred year old mystery hidden in the pages of the Hollow Needle. Falling in love with Leblanc's great-granddaughter, he deals with puzzles, theories, codes and historical mysteries, leading him to believe that Leblanc held a secret war against Adolf Hitler, fighting for the control of an incredible complex of caves hidden in Etretat's chalk cliffs.
THE CAVES OF ETRETAT is the first in a four-book epic adventure following Paul Sirenne, an average man unknowingly manipulated into becoming the key in the final phase of a complex conspiracy spanning millennia. Inextricably woven into history, the series re-writes everything we know in a non-stop rollercoaster of a ride where nothing is ever as it seems.