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particularly large cities, change so quickly that by the time you get to write the story your details are already out of date.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.
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 don’t think I’ve ever been so knowledgeable about a place as I was once I’d finished this series!
Reaching out to friends and readers was another appreciated resource, and I had invaluable help from one multilingual friend who 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.
Can a holiday romance ever have a happy ending? Escape with Kate to the sun-drenched city of Rome where a love affair is just about to begin …
When Kate’s husband Matt dumps her on Friday 13th she decides enough is enough – it’s time for her to have some fun and so she hops on a plane to Rome. A week of grappa and gelato in pavement cafes under azure blue skies will be just what the doctor ordered.
What she doesn’t count on is meeting and falling for sexy policeman Alessandro. But the course of true love doesn’t run smoothly – Alessandro has five meddling sisters, a fearsome mama and a beautiful ex Orazia. They’re all certain that Kate is not the girl for him.
Can Kate and Alessandro’s love last the distance? Or will she return home with the one souvenir she doesn’t want – a broken heart …
Fall in love with the colourful cafes and the cobbled piazzas of Rome and follow Kate’s dreams and her heart in this enchanting escapist read. Perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Carol Matthews.
Available for pre-order now on Amazon UK
About Tilly Tennant
Tilly Tennant was born in Dorset, the oldest of four children, but now lives in Staffordshire with a family of her own. After years of dismal and disastrous jobs, including paper plate stacking, shop girl, newspaper promotions and waitressing (she never could carry a bowl of soup without spilling a bit), she decided to indulge her passion for the written word by embarking on a degree in English and creative writing, graduating in 2009. She wrote a novel in 2007 during her first summer break at university and has not stopped writing since. She also works as a freelance fiction editor, and considers herself very lucky that this enables her to read many wonderful books before the rest of the world gets them. You can catch her on Twitter @TillyTenWriter or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TillyTennant/ You can also check out her blog at www.tillytennant.com