Talk about serendipity! Today in Verona, I was thrilled to happen upon this beautiful beast which is exactly the same model of Saab that we took to Europe on our 1978 trip.
Ours was green and we bought it because it was a left-hand drive and would be ideal for the trip. Although, I look at it now and think how inconvenient is a two-door car for three people? You never think of these things when you’re young.
I thought I’d address some of the questions I’ve been asked about this excursion:
Is the book going to be about the two trips forty years apart?
Not at all. The story is about the friendship of the three characters. I had a few different ideas of settings for the story and then realised that I had this prior experience from the late 70s and thought it could be an interesting and unique setting for the story.
Could it end up like a travelogue?
I sincerely hope not. I spent a month in France for each of the previous novels – The French Perfumer and The Yellow Villa – and the places I visited there were to create the setting, not intrude. Research needs to be invisibly woven into the story. This one is a bit more complicated because of the movement but I’m hoping that the momentum of travel itself will play a part in the story as well.
Are the characters based on the people you went with originally?
Definitely not. Back then, my travel companions were my (then) partner and my best friend (sadly we have lost contact and I’ve been unable to find her). One of the negative aspects of that trip was that, although we had all lived together for the previous year, those two were fed up with each other and argued – a lot!
Isn’t it expensive travelling around for research?
Having travelled with my family (who now have to pay for their own travel) solo travel is relatively economical, although not as glamourous as you might imagine.
All my accommodation has been hostels and small B&Bs, mostly with shared bathroom so the occasional ensuite is cause for excitement. All the journeys have been by train and public transport, which is also reasonably priced. I usually have one meal a day in a restaurant or cafe, and have something simple for the other meal.
I will lash out on a special/iconic bar or restaurant and pay an outrageous amount for a drink or lunch – because, to me, that’s an experience worth investing in.
Do you find it lonely travelling solo?
Travelling alone is easy and simple but more importantly, when you’re solo you meet people and have conversations because you make the effort to do it. But travelling alone for me is time sensitive, I’m happy for a week or two weeks, now in the third week I’m now longing to see a familar face.
I would find it very difficult to concentrate and observe places if I had a travelling companion. And if I had two of them who were arguing… well, that’s another story!
Do you know what you’re looking for and where to find it?
I wish! All I can do is be open to the journey and hope that ideas will come and locations will be useful somewhere in there.
Do you take notes about buildings and scenery etc?
I take a lot of shots with my iphone, as a record and because I enjoy sharing them on Instagram and this blog. It gives me a sense of purpose when I’m wandering around a new place and takes me down little side streets.
I also keep a note of any ideas that crop up in an Evernote notebook which is an app on my phone and my laptop. These might be character or plot ideas or anything I see that is relevent. You can add text or images, so it’s really handy to keep everything in the same place. I currently have 90 notes in my Sixty Summers notebook.
Do you work on the book while you’re travelling?
Hmmm… if I can. It’s sometimes difficult to have a sense of continuity or perspective. I do try to lay down 500 words a day but it’s just not always possible. Don’t want to miss what’s going on outside – or my train!