Actually I do work quite hard, albeit in lovely surroundings. When I was writing Naughty in Nice I spent several days in the main library looking through old postcards and maps. After all streets and their names are always being changed in France. Princess Grace Boulevard would not have existed at the time I write about. I spent a fabulous morning at the hotel Negresco, wandering hallways and peering around corners, with the blessing of the management who suddenly decided I should be given free rein when I produced a card that said I was a bestselling author. I took lots of pictures and wandered streets (and ate and drank local food and wine, of course. All part of the research of bringing a place to life!)
This time in Stresa I was most interested in finding a villa and gardens that matched the setting I wanted for Lady Georgie’s stay. I was fascinated by some of the villas that must once have been grand and have now been allowed to fall into ruins. (Tempted to buy one and restore it!) But I did see one lovely villa that would fit the bill and then there were gardens at Villa Tarranto and on the Isola Bella, both of which are incorporated into my Villa Gloriosa.
Above all I try to get the feel of a place: when I sit in the little square and drink coffee what do I see, hear, smell? It is deliciously cool in the shade of the sycamore trees. Sound echoes from the surrounding alleyways. Italians in conversation always sound as if they are about to break into a fight. And then there is the weather: morning clouds draped over the mountains. Wisps of cloud attached to the peaks like strands of sheep’s wool caught on a fence. The far side of the lake swallowed into blackness during a storm. Weather is always important in a story so I take pictures and make notes of every weather change.
When I write a book my aim is to take my readers there, not tell them about it. If I’ve experienced it then hopefully they will took. Watch out for the book next year. It’s called “On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service.”