Le Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers captured my imagination the moment I laid eyes on it back in my lair half-way around the world. It haunted me so much that I had to come and see it with my own eyes. I had to get as close as I could to it…
Dating back to the thirteenth century, this stronghold had gone back and forth between England and France during medieval times. It was virtually destroyed in the French Revolution. In 1809, Francois Hennecart bought the property. From him, it passed to the Baron Joseph Lejeune (Joseph! However, my fictional Joseph’s name originated much farther back. Theoretically, he could have passed himself off as this Baron). In 1932, a fire gutted the château. It was never restored.
As it stands now, the Mothe-Chandeniers is a heartbreakingly gorgeous relic of the past. Its only inhabitants now are trees and undergrowth and sundry vermin as nature re-stakes its claim on the property. In my novel, The First Daughter, Joseph lays claim to it still.
In the novel, this edifice retains its abandoned elegance as an inter-dimensional being inhabits planes not readily perceived by the human eye. Walking within the scorched stone of this château, the more perceptive human can catch a glimpse from the corner of his eye the nooks and crannies along the added dimensions. Mathematicians and physicists can find these spaces with numbers and calculations using five-dimensional geometry. However, beings whose physical construct comprises dark matter (which exists across six dimensions) and whose life force is animated by dark energy can move in and out of the planes seamlessly.
Visiting the ruin
Upon arriving at my hotel in Raslay, I ask the owner about this magical château and she agrees it is a beautiful ruin but the owners, she says, are crazy and have been known to pull a shotgun on trespassers. “Be careful, “ she admonishes. And, yes, I agree I should take care, but I have traveled four thousand miles by plane, train, and automobile to see the lair that I have imagined for my forlorn villain, Joseph. I will risk my safety as much as I dare to catch a glimpse of the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers.
The next day, I take the back roads from my hotel. I hope to drive by the field of rapeseed where my heroine, Zen (In my 2nd novel, Unto the Mother), begins her journey to find Joseph who has done grievous harm to her and her family. I had only imagined its existence but now, I am elated to see that the field actually exists, nearly the way I imagined it.
Expecting the sight of the château’s black spires to herald its presence behind the stand of trees, I drive by the castle, never seeing it. It is well hidden from view of the road. I turn back and notice a private drive with a ‘No Trespassing’ sign. I hold my breath and turn onto the gravel road.
I still do not find the castle. Again, I turn around and, driving back, I see it—not the château but the little chapel to the side of it.
I stop the car and I get out to take pictures. As I am about to get back in the car, I see the Castle! Beyond the trees and the furry tips of tall grasses, I see this lonely abandoned château, the weathered stone of its walls falling away. Leafy inhabitants peer out of the window and wave in the passing breeze. I am so close but I am not there yet.
I drive onto the main road, and just as if it were nestled on another plane, I glimpse it from the corner of my eye. The black spires. The wrought iron dome. The timeworn tower with crucifixes carved into the crenelles.
I park and cross the street to the grass covered bridge. It is crisscrossed with tape. Beyond the barrier is a sign: “Danger”
Stepping over the tape, I walk past the sign. I walk as close as I dare, moving towards Joseph’s Lair…