Saturday, July 28, 2018

Living The Tuscan Child

RHYS BOWEN: Every time I give a talk I am asked about my research. How do I research long ago and faraway places? Well, during the next two days I'll show you some of my research from this year's book and next year's upcoming book.

Whenever I can I try to go to the physical place. I can read every book on Tuscany, visit museums, look at photographs but nothing give me the real essence of the place like walking down a narrow cobbled street, listening to raised voices, a radio, a baby crying.. with the smell of garlic and baking bread and the sound of pigeons cooing under the tiles of the roof. And when I'm in a place I'm always finding things that surprise me, small things that will play a big part in my book.

So I'm sharing with you some of my photos that became parts of The Tuscan Child.
This is the hill town of Castellina in Chianti, where I have taught my writer's workshop twice now. I wanted to set The Tuscan Child here but I found out that the allies had recaptured this part of Tuscany in the month I wanted to set the story. So I had to move it further north and find a setting that exactly mirrored it. Not an easy task and several days of staring at Google Earth!

But here is my inspiration for San Salvatore in my book:


And this is the town square where Joanna is invited to join a group of men for a drink when she arrives in the area:
And is directed to Paola's farmhouse through a rather spooky tunnel cut in the side of the hill (old defenses. 

And ahead of her she catches a glimpse of Paola's farm:

And arrives at the farmhouse: (which now just happened to be our hotel, nicely modernized inside)

So you can see how a story took shape just from wandering around a small town and seeing what it had to offer and where it spoke to me. And of course I had to learn about the food as well....

So Reds, how do you form your stories from your research?

34 comments:

  1. Rhys, this is like seeing your story come to life . . . thanks for sharing your lovely pictures.

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  2. Hallie, here - for some reason I can't seem to post a comment under my own name so hoping this works.
    RHYS! This is reminding me of the weeks we spent in Tuscany... sigh. Great pictures. We're just back from a trip to Croatia and Slovenia, where the hill towns look much the same as the ones in Italy across the Adriatic.

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    1. Welcome home,Hallie. I'm dying to hear about your trip

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    2. Hallie, I had noticed you'd disappeared for a while and wrote to Roberta to make sure you were okay! Glad it was a lovely vacation, instead of something more dire.

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    3. Hallie, I think part of Slovenia used to be part of Italy? Do you have photos from your travels to Croatia and Slovenia that you would like to share with us?

      Diana

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  3. I love seeing these pictures Rhys! It looks exactly the way you described it and I imagined it.

    I do my research the same way (only not in Italy, LOL!) I am able to see the story unfold from the reality that way.

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  4. Since I was there with you in Castellina in Chianti, reading the book was a far different experience than usual, and so special. I loved picking out the different spots, Rhys.

    Did the Etruscan tomb site also figure in the story?

    Seeing how you wove the local details into your novel was almost as instructive as any writing class I've ever taken.

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    1. No tomb, Karen,as I had to move my fictitious town further north to fit in with the allies advance in the war, so out of the Etruscan area

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    2. Karen, this reminds me of when I come home from my travels and I read a novel set in the place I visited. Reading brings back memories of what I saw. And I studied abroad in England. Reading My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan brought back many wonderful memories of my time in England.

      Rhys, I remember a tomb or a cave in The Tuscan Child ?

      Diana

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  5. What Karen said, above, about having been there herself and then seeing how you wove the details into your story--this is the crucial part of research, I think. When it informs and enlarges the story--and the research doesn't stand out in obvious ways. There is one author whose books I could not get into, although I tried to read several because I was interested in the time period. The research stood out so clearly, it was like being interrupted for mini-history lessons every few pages. And I can see how your mind works, Rhys, from the lovely photos!

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  6. Very interesting. I loved the book, and this helps me appreciate the way you prepared to write it.

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  7. I was familiar with New Orleans (speech mannerisms, smells of cooking food, Louis Armstrong Park) and relied on my kids for all the details of the annual August Red Dress Run to create a short story. It was the first time I wrote about an event without experiencing it in person. I wrote a WW2 home front story based on family photos and stories, and did a lot of research. The Cape Cod beach terrain and bird life hadn't changed.

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  8. Lovely, Rhys, I haven't yet read the book, but when I do, these photos will form the framework of the experience.

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  9. I love the photos, Rhys. Your descriptions in the book are so evocative that the photos match the images I saw in my head while reading the book!

    I'm working on my first mystery novel and the plot is inspired by all the school shootings in the news. In my story, a college instructor (who is a former police detective) stops a school shooting -- then things go very wrong for her.

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    1. You have set yourself a challenge, Cathy, since your story will be charged with so much collective emotion. Good luck with it.

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    2. Cathy, please let us know when your novel is published.

      Diana

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  10. You do a marvelous job of setting the scene. I still remember the northern Italian village and clinic when Georgie helped her pregnant friend.

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  11. Readers benefit when reading well-researched books. Before I visit a place for the first time, I try to read as much fiction and non- fiction as I can about the place. Your books always give me such vivid mental images of the settings!

    DebRo

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    1. Yes, readers benefit from well researched novels.

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  12. I loved The Tuscan Child, and you really caught the atmosphere perfectly. Your photos are just like I imagined San Salvatore!

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  13. I love walking the streets of my town and imagining it in the late 1800s, because it's the setting for my Quaker Midwife mysteries. And the 24-hour live-in I did in a Maine 1870s home, complete with in-character staff, was invaluable for the hands-on details of life back then.

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    1. Edith, this reminds me of when I was a kid and I visited historical places. I could imagine what it was like to live there back at that time in history.

      Diana

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  14. Great pictures, Rhys! Looking forward to hearing about the next book tomorrow!

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  15. Rhys, they are gorgeous photos! When I was reading the Tuscan Child, for some reason I imagined the farmhouse as being smaller than the farmhouse in your photo. Now that I have seen your photos, I am going to read The Tuscan Child again. When I travelled to Tuscany as part of my "Grand European tour" with the RS tour, we went to San Germinago (sp)? and it was beautiful. The Tuscan farmhouse, where we stayed, was several miles from where the bus dropped us off. We had pizza in San Germinago. The farmhouse was nice, though other people in our group complained about the laundry. I brought drip and dry clothes so it was easy to wash in the sink and hang dry. San Germinago (sp?) is where the bathroom was for men and women, with no privacy stalls!

    My fantasy is to write a novel set in a place I would love to visit again so I have the perfect excuse to travel there :-)

    I loved your Constable Evans novels. I remembered visiting Wales and it was so green! I was surprised that I did not see any coal mines. I was studying abroad in England. Our class took a day trip to visit Wales - the Wye Valley. I want to go back and visit! And Lady Georgie novels is another favorite. I loved my visits to London, especially the tearooms.

    Diana

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  16. Cool! Thanks for the pics. Interesting to see the "places" or at least the places that inspired the book.

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  17. Dear Ms. Rhys, Thank You, for the pictures, and the story! I had visualize the places you wrote in the story, but seeing them "in person" is very special! All of your standalone, and 3 series have given me much pleasure to read. I'm still reading Molly's stories! Georgie's new one is almost here! I'm pleased to see a new book in progress, can't wait for it's release, but time does fly! Jo

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  18. Rhys,

    Thank for sharing the lovely photos of Tuscany. I, too, like to set my books in places where I've actually visited. I feel that it helps to provide authenticity for the reader, if I can describe the sights and sounds and feel of a town or city that made an impression upon me. The way the breeze felt as it ambled down the streets or ruffled the surface of the river; the chink of china as my characters sat down for tea with her friend in a quaint tea room; the way the sun cast shadows. It all helps to make the scene "real" for the reader.

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  19. Love seeing your pictures & how they connect to your stories!

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  20. Running into so very late! But Rhys, this is fantastic. I am so envious of you and your crew!
    We stayed in Castalina for a week, some years ago. In a big gorgeous old farmhouse, where I learned to love Frette towels and be grateful very grateful for modern plumbing. Everything was spectacular, the food the peaches the cypress trees the people the pecorino, the wine the history! Not so much the driving. But outside our house was shrub after shrub of Rosemary! Since it winters over, it is as big as boxwood, quite astonishing.

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  21. Rhys, I can easily understand how those places could inspire you.

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  22. When I was traveling I did enjoy the sounds, scents, and tastes that you can't get from pictures. Also was excited to see places that I had read about or seen on TV. In England, we went by a fete (wondered if the fortune teller got killed) and boys playing cricket. Saw the hotel that Jack Lord stood on in the first Hawaii 5-0. Not to mention all the historical places that I had read about. I'm happy now to travel by books, TV. or others' pictures but I will never forget my own travels.

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