Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Rhys on writing as therapy

RHYS BOWEN: Like many of you I'm finding it hard to concentrate at this time. There always seems to be that element of worry lurking at the back of my mind. I know I shouldn't check recent covid spikes etc but I do. Then I worry more. And I have to turn on the news, just for a few minutes, and there are protest marches and white nationalists and then I'm even more anxious.

And, like you, I'm stuck at home. Nowhere to go except a daring dash to the grocery store at seven in the morning. No, I'm not risking restaurants yet, or anything else except for our daily walks out into the marshes or around the lagoon. Every other year I'm in Europe at this time, sitting in a piazza in Italy enjoying a plate of bruschetta and an Aperol spritz, or in France, having my morning coffee and a pain au chocolat. Or in England with a full English breakfast in front of me. And this year--nowhere.

So writing for me has been a great escape. I have just finished my book set in Venice, that now has a title: THE VENICE SKETCHBOOK.  I'm really sorry I'm done with it because being able to escape to Venice every day has been therapeutic for me. Every time i pour over the map or my photos I'm back there, having my breath taken away by the beauty every single time.  So I thought I'd take you there too, for a few minutes of escape:  Here is some of the opening sequence:  We are in Venice, 1928

We are here. We came out of the Santa Lucia train station and stood at the top of a flight of steps.
“Ecco Il Canale Grande!” Aunt Hortensia said in dramatic fashion, spreading out her arms as if she was on stage and had created the scene for my benefit. My Italian was limited to please, thank you and good day but I understood that this was the Grand Canal. Only it didn’t look very grand. It was wide, to be sure, but the buildings on the other side were rather ordinary. And it looked dirty too. The smell that greeted my nostrils was not particularly appetizing. It was a watery sort of smell with a hint of fish and decay.  I didn’t have much chance to study my surroundings, however, as we were immediately besieged by porters. It was a little alarming to have men fighting over us in a strange language, snatching our bags and bundling us into a gondola, whether we wanted one or not. But as Aunt Hortensia confessed, we had no alternative. We could not have managed all that luggage on one of their water buses they call vaporetti.  Of course I was thrilled to be in a gondola, even though the gondolier was not a handsome young Italian who sang love songs, but rather a grim faced man with a paunch.




As we came around a bend the Grand Canal became incredibly grand. On either side of us were amazing palaces, marble coated, or in shades of rich pink with arched Moorish windows. They appeared to float on the water in a way that was quite surreal—I wanted to get out my sketch book right away. It was lucky that I didn’t as the amount of traffic on the canal made the boat rock alarmingly.  The gondolier muttered what must have been Venetian swear words.
We were moving along quite nicely for a boat rowed with one oar but the canal seemed awfully long.
“Ecco Il Ponte Rialto,” Aunt Hortensia exclaimed, pointing at a bridge that crossed the canal ahead of us, rising up in a great arch, as if suspended by magic. It appeared to have some sort of building on it because a row of windows winked in the afternoon sunshine as we approached.  I wondered if Aunt H. intended to speak in only that language from now on. If so conversation was liable to be rather one sided.
However this fear was dispelled as she now produced her Baedecker and began to inform me about each building that we passed: “On your left the Palazzo Barzizza. Note the thirteenth century facades, and that large building is the Palazzo Mocenigo where Lord Byron once stayed.…..  This continued until an overcrowded vaporetto pulled out from its jetty, our boat rocked again and she almost lost the book into the murky depths.
At the moment I began feeling a bit queasy, another bridge came into sight, this one a more flimsy wooden footbridge,  spanning the canal at a greater height. I expected Aunt H. to say “Ecco Ponte something or other,” but instead she said, “Ah, the Academia Bridge. Now we are almost at our destination. That’s good. I was beginning to feel rather sea-sick.”
“You mean canal sick, don’t you?” I asked and she actually smiled.

And one more picture, because we all need cheering up at the moment, don't we? 

Stay safe! Chins up! This too shall pass. xxxxx Rhys


41 comments:

  1. What a lovely introduction to Venice, Rhys . . . now I want to read the rest of the book!
    Thanks for giving me a smile for the day . . . .

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  2. That was a lovely distraction, Rhys - thank you! Chins up, indeed. We're in this for the long haul. What a blessing we have books to read.

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  3. Thank you, Rhys, for the virtual Venetian getaway!
    And since it's also July 1...HAPPY CANADA DAY!!

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  4. Can't wait to meet Aunt Hortensia properly, Rhys. As well as her sassy niece!

    Now that The Venice Sketchbook is done, is there another project waiting to go? Maybe a Molly book?

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  5. Ecco Rys, il favoloso scrittore. Splendida introduzione a The Venice Sketchbook. Yes, I am inspired by Aunt Hortensia. Thank you for the tidbit, longing for the full Italian delight.

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    2. Trying to write Grazie and it keeps auto correcting!

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  6. Rhys, your books have been helping me get through this terrifying time, whisking me away to another place and another time. Now I have this one to look forward to, as well!

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  7. Thank you for mini-vacation. What a great way to start the day!

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  8. Congratulations on the new book, Rhys! I imagine the research is at least as much fun as the writing. Do you have a release date yet?

    I have been reading, reading, reading during this time of isolation. It's good to know I can look forward to yet another exotic escape when this one comes out.

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    1. The research is always fun but in this case, going through old books in a private room in the Corer library— that was special And of course making sure all the food and drink was correct!

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  9. Congratulations on your Venice book! Recent news reports have revealed a magical, quiet, clean(er) Venice with no tourists. I suspect the residents are enjoying their city.

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    1. I’d love to see the canals clean and enjoy silence without endless water taxis

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  10. Thank you for writing because, as Annette said above, your books have been helping me through this horrendous, and simply terrifying time. In fact, thanks to this blog for introducing me to so many splendid stories and authors who have lifted my spirits and many fellow bloggers who have such interesting things to share.

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    1. It helps us too, Judy, to be able to interact with our little clan here and to have each other

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  11. What a wonderful peek, Rhys!

    Things are spiking in Pittsburgh, but I took my son to the doctor on Monday. She must be part of the contact-tracing team because she said, "It's better than it looks - just stay out of the bars!"

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  12. Aunt Hortensia might need her own book — thanks for transporting us rhys! I do love Venice though never seen it from a gondola - we took a speedboat from the airport and then into traffic gridlocked canals. Still magical.

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    1. In those days there were very few motor boats. I have pictures of canals all full of gondolas. And the vaporetti were still steam boats, like their name

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  13. Thanks, Rhys--for the teasing intro and for the photos--I'm finding it equally hard to concentrate right now--quarantine fatigue, maybe. Can't even settle into a good book lately. Lots of weeds getting pulled, however....

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  14. Thank you for this excerpt Rhys. I never went to Venice but I'm looking forward to visit it through your book.

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  15. Exquisite writing, Rhys. I am already loving being in your witty protagonist’s head! And the photo at the end...LOL! Thank you for that hearty laugh. It scared the birds in my sunflower patch!

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  16. Laughing is good right now, Jenn
    I wish I were closer so we could have a socially distanced cup of coffee and laugh some more

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  17. Hahaha! That last picture is hilarious! Thanks for the laugh, Rhys. And, thanks for the lovely view of Venice from the gondola. Venice seems to be popping up for me in several places, and I’m beginning to think I’m supposed to go there. Sounds like good reasoning, right? Aunt Hortencia is sure to be a favorite character for me. I loved the excerpt.

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  18. Rhys, thank you for the morning treat! I can't wait to read this--and love the title. Can you tell us a bit more about the story?

    Love the photos, too, especially the last one!

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    1. It’s set in 3 periods of the narrator’s life and again after 9/11. An old woman dies and leave a secret

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  19. Rhys, love that quote "canal sick". LOL. What a treat to read an excerpt from THE VENICE SKETCHBOOK. Right now Britain and Europe are closed to Americans. This will pass and I look forward to being able to travel overseas again.

    Stay safe everyone!

    Diana

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  20. I love this excerpt, Rhys, and I can't wait to read THE VENICE SKETCHBOOK (I'm imagining all sorts of gorgeous possibilities for the cover!) I love how you capture the feelings of arriving at a foreign destination so well - awe at the beauty and the exotic new sights, but also being overwhelmed and stressed and a little worried.

    I've been to many places in Italy, but never made it to Venice. It's definitely going on my bucket list now.

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  21. Love this excerpt from THE VENICE SKETCHBOOK. It took me right back to Venice and the gondola ride on the Grand Canal, the beautiful palaces. I look forward to reading it.

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  22. After I got vacation time in my first job, I traveled every year. However, travel got more annoying and I had less vacation time in the second job. Now I travel by book or TV. My brother waited until his 50's to really travel but unfortunately he didn't have much time since he died at age 63 in 2017. I thought of him with your last book because one of his last trips was to Kenya. Stay safe and well.

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  23. We lived in Italy for five years and went to Venice many times. Thank you for taking me back! Now I want to read more!

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  24. Ah, Venice. I've only been there once and will be happy to go again via your new book.

    I used writing for therapy for years as an escape from the trials and tribulations of a family business...

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  25. Rhys,

    As always, I await with bated breath this book. I also share your love of travel. Venice is one of my most favorite cities. It's a world of watery enchantment. I had the pleasure of visiting again last August. It felt like I had never left. Sheer heaven.

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