Talking Location With author Charlotte Rixon – Newcastle
Romance novel set in Rome… Plus we talk to author Tilly Tennant about location
10th March 2017
Rome is Where the Heart is by Tilly Tennant, romance novel set in Rome.
“…the eternal city – eternally present and eternally busy”
The ink is hardly dry on 30 year old Kate’s divorce papers as she heads to Rome for a bit of a break. She shares a taxi into the city with gorgeous Jamie – it’s ok, though, it turns out he is gay so will not be making any moves on her – and they share dinner together. A hiccup that evening sees her drinking too much and falling asleep on the Spanish Steps, but policeman Alessandro soon assists her back to base.
Having her purse lifted out of her handbag at the Colosseum the next day, a sadly common experience for many tourists, she happens upon this rather sexy policeman once again. This of course is not the last time they meet and she soon finds herself in Alessandro’s company at St Peter’s Basilica and much, much more…. As a dab hand at dress making, she is also invited into the bosom of his family to make a few alterations to his sister’s wedding dress, a vexing situation all round. But being in the heart of a typical Italian family, even eating delicious dishes made of lentils (yes, really, they are yummy!), all begin to sow the seed of a possible life in Rome….
Meanwhile things between her and Jamie get sorted and they soon progress to being good friends. A “phew” development as he proves to be good listener and enabler.
But her sisters are concerned that she is in a vulnerable place, so soon after her marriage break up. Anna in particular shows her concern in an overbearing way, it is done out of love of course, but nevertheless is intrusive and stifling. And there is mum who is as needy as any little child. And, so with a family trauma happening out of the blue, she returns to her family, with a heavy but loyal heart, from her wonderfully romantic sojourn in the Eternal City. Her ex husband isn’t making life easy for her either, trying to inveigle himself back into her life; her confidence dwindling, does she have the courage to leave everything she knows behind her in England to start a new life with someone whom she has only known for a week? Can love conquer all? Enjoy the twists and turns of romantic adventures, as exciting as any ride on the back of Alessandro’s Vespa.
“You’ll always come back to Rome in the end; it’s like an irresistible force. Why do you think all the Roman roads lead here?”
Tina for the TripFiction Team
#TalkingLocationWith….. Tilly Tennant
Writing unfamiliar locations, while taking you to a place where you can let your imagination run wild, also presents its own challenges, and if it’s a real place you have a duty to get it right. You can visit a place but many locations, particularly large cities, change so quickly that by the time you get to write the story your details are already out of date. This happened to me once writing a YA book where I set a scene in Los Angeles. Naively, or perhaps arrogantly, I assumed that a holiday there fifteen years previously qualified me to describe it, to build the details into my book world. I recalled a particular building and wrote about it, only to have it pointed out by my editor that the building in question had been renamed since my visit and all my references to it were incorrect. It made me realise that personal experience was not enough to get it right however valuable it was in understanding the feel of a place.
So when I started Rome is Where the Heart is, I relied on lots of different resources to build the world Kate was experiencing. While visiting will let you soak up the real atmosphere of a place, you need hard facts too. If wanted to get her from A to B I had to study maps of the city and figure how long it might take to walk or public transport timetables to decide which bus she might catch. I had to trawl through photos of buildings that might not be so familiar to tourists, such as the police station, so that I could give the reader a mental picture of these locations when they featured in the story. I watched endless YouTube videos of tourists’ visits to gain the tiny nuances of experience that vary from person to person so I could lend authenticity to the scene I was trying to set. I spent hours staring at real time webcam footage from iconic landmarks to watch how visitors engaged with their surroundings, gaining inspiration and real human stories from simply seeing their reactions. I even had to research customs and laws, things like what the Italian police carried with them on duty so I knew what to put on Alessandro’s belt, as well as everyday mundanities like shop opening times and gelato recipes. I spent one very odd afternoon googling photos of the Questura – the police station – not a location many tourists hope to visit! I don’t think I’ve ever been so knowledgeable about a place as I was once I’d finished this series, even the bits nobody wants to see!
Reaching out to friends and readers was another appreciated resource. My best friend – an ex-chef – comes from an Italian family and she must have been positively sick of me asking her to create fictional lunch menus! I also had invaluable help from one multilingual blogger friend who kindly translated my English into Italian to lend the dialogue some authenticity. Google translate, while useful in a functional capacity, is just not the same. Friends shared their anecdotes of visiting too, so there was a wealth of inspiration to draw on from other’s experiences of the city.
The more I’ve learned about Rome the more I’ve fallen in love with it. If you spend long enough immersed in such a beautiful and fascinating place it’s difficult not to allow it space in your heart. My greatest reward for all the time I’ve spent on this series of books would be that readers turn the last page loving Rome too.
Thank you to Tilly for sharing the real detail involved in researching setting!
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