Saturday, 12 September 2009

'It's a business trip'

Practise saying it: 'I'm working; it's a business trip.' Good. Now plan your writing life around places you want to visit. Don't - like Meg Rossof (why did she do that?) - set your novel in Luton. OK, she set it in the airport, so maybe she got to claim all her flights to wherever she felt like so that she could keep researching the departure lounge.

As the bats flit over the Grand Canal and the strains of Cosi fan tutte fill the palazzo, so kindly lent to me by another writer who has the good sense to set her stories in a wonderful place, I can honestly say 'it's not a holiday, it's work'. I'm killing off 16th century Venetians and following the exploits of Melampyge, the cat who lived in the Campanile and it is not, for tax purposes, enjoyable.

Actually, I didn't choose Venice for this story - it chose itself. I stopped by en route to the Bologna Book Fair and the story started itself in a pizza restaurant north of Rialto. Thereafter, I followed where it led, through the archives of the Marciana, the offices of the Istituto Cini, the manuscript room of the Corer and back, again and again, between the Palazzo Pisani Santa Marina and Zanipolo. But it has taught me a useful lesson which I will generously pass on - never set your story in Basingstoke when you could set it in Berlin, or Barcelona, or Sao Paulo. Or Venice.


  1. Plus Venice has the advantage that you can navigate it with the wonderful de Barbari map and thereby thrust yourself totally back into the 16th Century!

  2. Hmmn. I was born in Basingstoke, and can confirm the inadvisability of setting a story there. Unless you like 1970's concrete shopping centres. Or the AA building. Venice is a much better choice. Though it can lead to too much prosecco 'on deductible expenses'. Not that you would do any such thing, Anne!

  3. Basingstoke?? That's a family joke here...

    Meg is an American so may have been under the impression that Luton is, well, interesting, quaint, or some such thing.

  4. No danger of too much prosecco in Basingstoke! Jeannette, I have occasionally thrust myself into a canal following de Barbari - not quite, but nearly. Because it's not a real bird's eye view, there are bits where you can't make out whether there is land or water behind something.

    How sweet to think Luton quaint. But I'm sure Meg is too savvy to be so deluded :-)