Serge Morel: the worldly yet private inspector
The Lying Down Room is Anna Jaquiery's first novel in the Inspector Serge Morel series. Here, she talks about how the character of Morel developed.
I knew what Serge Morel would look like, and where he would come from, before I thought about what he might be like as a person. Physically, he would be tall and elegant. He would be Eurasian. I wanted Morel to feel at home in Paris, but I wanted his sense of belonging to be less clearly defined than if he had spent his entire life there and both his parents were French.
Morel is a complex character. He is worldly and also private. He is introspective and intense; alive to his emotions. He is a mixture of the romantic and pragmatic. He loves the good things in life – women, wine, good food, nice clothes – but his lifestyle is relatively unadorned.
The idea of giving Morel origami as a hobby came naturally. It suited his character. He is meticulous and patient. When he is doing origami, he is taking his mind off the stresses of his job, recharging his batteries. He needs that thoughtful time, away from the chatter and noise. And these are the times he often finds himself making progress in an investigation.
Morel loves women. So far, he hasn’t felt the need to settle down. He carries a torch for Mathilde, his first love. The memory of Mathilde brings him both pain and joy.
Mathilde is part of the reason Morel hasn’t settled down. Another part is that he is a solitary person. Morel grew up with two sisters, but he spent a great deal of time alone as a child. While he chooses his solitude, he is also well acquainted with loneliness.
Morel’s father is French and his mother, now dead, was Cambodian. He grew up in several countries until the age of 17, when his family returned permanently to France. Morel felt close to his mother and often recalls her warm, loving presence. His relationship with his father is more fraught. Morel has mixed feelings towards him and the fact that they live at close quarters doesn’t make their communication any easier. Morel travels regularly to Phnom Penh. While Paris is home, a part of him belongs in Cambodia.
I’ve loved creating Morel’s character, and watching him come to life in The Lying Down Room. I often find myself thinking about him, wondering what he will do next. It’s why I am following up with another book. Morel’s complexity as a character is what makes him compelling to me, as a writer. I hope my readers will feel the same.