Strolling along the banks of the Seine on a summer evening, I knew that this scene – the river almost too bright to look at, the lengthening shadows, the young couples sitting on the stone quay, their legs dangling over the water, the murmur of French conversation, the Eiffel Tower a silhouette on the Paris skyline – was one I wanted to capture in my writing.
Of course, these days it’s possible to research a location on-line, but I love travelling, and if I can, I like to visit the place I’m writing about to absorb the atmosphere – the scents and sounds that you can’t get from a video on the internet. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Paris, one of my favourite cities several times, but when I was writing the Paris chapters of my debut novel, French Kissing, I knew I had to visit it again. In the book, Anna, who is English, accompanies Alexandre, who is French, to Paris so that he can show her the city he adores, and I wanted to see the city through her eyes, and to make certain that their route through the city, could be followed by anyone exploring Paris for the first time – not that I need an excuse to visit Paris!
It was some years since I’d last visited the city, and as I walked the same route as my characters, I realised I’d forgotten the color of the bouquinistes on the Left Bank (dark green), how loud is the roar of the traffic as it circles the Place de la Concorde, and also how beautiful the Eiffel Tower looks when it glitters at night – all things that ended up in the book. And it was only when I was climbing up the steep winding streets of Montmartre, looking at all the typically Parisian apartments, with their French windows and iron balconies, that I knew this was where Alexandre lived.
It was a trip abroad that inspired the location of my current WIP. When I travelled from London to Athens and then on to Santorini, Crete and Kefalonia – my first visit to Greece – I knew I simply had to write a novel set in this beautiful country. I took lots of photos, wrote brief descriptions of white sugar-cube houses and silvery-leaved olive groves in my writer’s notebook, and also made quick pencil sketches – I find that drawing a scene means that I notice all sorts of details that hopefully will give my story a real sense of place when I’m back home in England, writing on my laptop.
Looking now at the sketches I did of the places I visited in Greece – beaches with black volcanic sand, glorious views from a hill top in Athens, fascinating ruins of ancient Greek temples – I can feel again the fierce heat of the Mediterranean sun, and the hear the chirping of cicadas, and this all helps me to recreate the scene in my writing.
Not everything I see on my travels makes it into my stories, but it’s all there in the back of mind, inspiring me as I write.
It was wonderful having you share your inspiration, Lynne! I can certainly understand how these locations were so inspiring. Here’s hoping for many more travels once things have settled. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla
To see Lynne’s interview previously posted, go here:
Lynne Shelby writes contemporary romance/women’s fiction. When not writing or reading, she can usually be found in the audience at a theatre or exploring a foreign city – Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Reykjavik, Athens – writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband and has three adult children who live nearby.
Her novels are available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
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