Jill Marsh: Swiss inspiration, but not as you know it...

This week, I’m starting a series of English-speaking writers based in Europe and their ‘terroir’ – the place they live in. I’m delighted to welcome back JJ Marsh who shows us how Switzerland runs through her creative mind.

In her own words: As a journalist, teacher, actor, director and cultural trainer, Jill has lived and worked all over Europe. Author of the Beatrice Stubbs Series and two psychological thrillers, she’s now a writer and that is all.

Over to Jill!

“I get all my ideas in Switzerland near the Furka Pass. There is a little town called Gletsch, and two thousand feet up above Gletsch there is a smaller hamlet called Über Gletsch.

I go there on the fourth of August every summer to get my cuckoo clock fixed. While the cuckoo is in the hospital, I wander around and talk to the people in the streets. They are very strange people, and I get my ideas from them.” – Dr Seuss

I’ve never been to Über Gletsch. Nor do I have a cuckoo clock. So how do I find inspiration in Switzerland?

Neil Gaiman talks about the compost of imagination. Writers throw in thoughts, half-baked concepts or raw lines into the fermenting pile. Sometimes, a seed sprouts. That approach appeals to me. It’s more relaxing and organic than my own: a voracious magpie stealing everything sparkly that catches my eye.

Whether in fiction or memoir, I envy writers living in France or Italy. In the reader’s mind, the settings are established, the skyline/food/accent is familiar and the landscape recognisable from a thousand books or films. A cultural shorthand means foreign but not. Ask someone from the US or Australia for some French/Italian references and they’ll gush about locations.

Not so with Switzerland. It’s usually the four Cs: clean, cuckoo clocks, chocolate and cheese. Occasionally they mention The Sound of Music (set in Austria). In a country of contradictions, it’s not surprising people struggle to summon up a typical image. That’s exactly why I wanted set my first book on home turf and chose it as my strapline: More than chocolate and charm.

Overview of Zürich, SwitzerlandTake Zürich. Walk from the banking district towards the lake and through the park. Insurance executives sit on the grass, chatting in various languages, while dog-walkers stroll past the nudist island. Kids splash in and out of the water, observed by their parents at the Badi.

Right opposite La Petite Fleur, the legal brothel, is the Rote Fabrik arts centre. Dope-smokers soak up the sunshine on wooden benches and a drum solo drifts from an upstairs window. Across the water is the Opera House, imperious and dazzling as a wedding cake.

It’s all compost, fertilising the ground where I planted my first idea – a serial killer preying on Fat Cats. My aim was to focus on the small stuff, the quirky details that add up to a big picture. And for a cultural magpie like me, shiny little things are everywhere: James Bond, horsemeat, anarchists, Vaduz and kisses.

Valle Verzasca Dam

Valle Verzasca Dam

One murder victim is thrown from the bungee-jump platform at Valle Verzasca, the same dam Pierce Brosnan descends in Goldeneye.

Except this man’s rope was around his neck.

Balance the dramatic versus the mundane …

A British detective is not only up against a serial killer, but battling her opposite number. He orders lunch and after she has finished, reveals she has eaten horse-steak.

The banking centre versus the subculture encompasses dialectical perspectives …

Even an anarchist needs a day job. Our Interpol sleuth has an assignation in a sex bar, but he’s only paying for information. A left-wing rebel surprises him with a lot more than slogans.

Liechtenstein bank building

A Liechtenstein bank

In his office in the tiny principality of Liechtenstein, an American banker declines an interview with a journalist, concerned she will stitch him up.

As he leaves for a polo match, they come face to face. Surely a pretty young blonde poses no threat?

Sometimes the obvious plays right into your hands …

The Swiss greeting for friends and family is three kisses. Right, left, right. In Germany, it is two.

This difference provided me with the last three lines of Behind Closed Doors.

Switzerland is a patchwork quilt of cultures, languages, scenery and peculiar places. How they fit together still puzzles me. I’ll never stop exploring those seams.

Oh, I bet that’s upset some people’s stereotyped opinions of Switzerland! Brava, Jill!


Connect with Jill
Website: www.beatrice-stubbs.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JJMarsh1   @jjmarsh1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jjmarshauthor


Set in Switzerland – the first Beatrice Stubbs novel

Did their conscience get to them? Or did someone else?
An unethical banker suffocates. A diamond dealer slits his wrists. A media magnate freezes in the snow. A disgraced CEO inhales exhaust fumes.

Four unpopular businessmen, four apparent suicides. Until Interpol find the same DNA at each death.

Beatrice Stubbs, on her first case since a personal tragedy, arrives in Switzerland to lead the investigation. But there’s more to Zurich than chocolate and charm.

Potential suspects are everywhere, her Swiss counterpart is hostile and the secretive world of international finance seems beyond the law. Battling impossible odds by day and her own demons at night, Beatrice has never felt so alone.

She isn’t. Someone’s watching.
Someone else who believes in justice.
The poetic kind.

Find out more: https://geni.us/BehindClosdDoors


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste the latest contemporary thriller… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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