Three Rs: Research, Research, Research

I’m currently deep into the edits of my third book (called A Match Made in Venice! I looove the title) and, even though my editor has told me I need to take some of the detail of my research out when it interrupts the flow of the story (facepalm), I thought I’d blog about my book research, in case anyone’s wondering.

It’s not the best time to research a travel romance, given that the most enjoyable option – going there – hasn’t been possible for some time. But ultimately, unless you have months to spend in your setting, the bulk of the research happens online and I think this genre has blossomed since we have the internet to check everything.

It’s important to have an impression of the place, which is best gained from a visit: the feeling of arriving for the first time; the spark of ideas for characters/elements of the story; a 360 degree view of a place to give you an idea of what was behind the camera lens of all the photos you’ll look at later when you’re at home in front of the computer. But geography, history and architecture all require further digging.

I think every author has something unique that they bring to their travel romance research. For me, it’s language and culture. It would be my absolute dream to live long-term in my settings, but I just can’t do that for every place I want to write about, so I have to dig very deep into the internet to get to know the people and their language and my poor internet browser gets very confused about what language it should show me (I keep forgetting to switch it back to English and my husband and kids wonder why the computer is suddenly spitting out Italian).

For My Christmas Number One, I listened to all sorts of Colombian music on repeat, I read lists and lists of proverbs and sayings (my Spanish improved so much while I was researching that book), news articles and my pot of gold: YouTubers.

With A Match Made in Venice and my fourth book, which I’ve tentatively titled A Wedding Made in Venice, I’ve dived right back into the rabbit hole. Let me tell you Venetian proverbs are hilarious. Lots of them are about bodily functions (and when you think about old Venice itself and its sewage challenge, perhaps they have a point) or drinking or relationships. How about: ‘Women are like farts: you let them go or remain choked’? It’s romantic comedy gold, which I mostly wrapped up into one character who was probably my favourite. I’m just trying to work out how to get him a cameo in book 4.

The biggest kick I’ve got out of all of the research has been the Veneto dialect. I love languages. I have a degree in them! I was always disappointed I could only do two as part of my degree. And I’m endlessly fascinated by turns of phrase and connections between words. The oddest thing about the Veneto dialect is that it sounds more like Spanish to me than Italian (which helps, because my Spanish is much better than my Italian). But it’s been a challenge to find snippets of Veneto dialect to put into the book because everything official is in Italian. There are a couple of YouTubers (one is a TikTokker actually) who demonstrate the Veneto dialect in different situations, to hilarious effect.

Perhaps I’m so fascinated by the dialect and languages in general because I grew up in Australia, where it’s possible to travel more than 3,000km and still find people who speak roughly the same way you do. In Europe (including the UK) language is a matter of identity. You can pinpoint where someone is from, sometimes to the county. The variation is incredible and has persisted for centuries.

That connection to the past is very much a running theme in these two books about Venice – more than that, it’s about the things from the past that we keep alive: language, tradition, stories. And with so much material, it has been a joy to bring Venice alive on the page.

So many places and traditions have gone into the book, but this one I think is my favourite: the stunning romanesque basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato in Murano. It has a special place in the early chapters and again in the epilogue.

The church of Saint Maria and Donatus in Murano

But, after all the online research I’ve done for A Match Made in Venice, it looks like I will actually be able to get down there before I’ve finished drafting book 4. I’m still half expecting an outbreak of you-know-what to foil my plans, but I have a train booked (a train! I love trains!) and a holiday apartment and I’m dragging my kids down there with me in August (for a very non-relaxing visit, but it will be something to remember!) I’m ridiculously excited, so prepare yourselves for lots of very amateurish pics.

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