Italian Inspiration – Part 2

HerculaneumChristina here with Part 2 of my Italian adventures.

Having visited Pompeii, of course I also had to go to Herculaneum. It’s a nearby town that was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD at the same time as Pompeii, and I’d been told that most people nowadays find it more impressive. This is because it is much better preserved, with a lot of the upper storeys of the houses still intact, and the paintings on the walls in situ. I’m afraid I have to disagree though.

H streetDon’t get me wrong – I loved Herculaneum too, it's a fabulous place! Walking around its narrow streets in the Italian sunshine made me feel as though I had travelled back in time 2000 years. The houses were beautiful and gave me a lot more details for the story I’m planning, and I can see why people would prefer it to Pompeii. But to me, the latter was more poignant because it’s so big and the scale of the tragedy that occurred there just hit me in the gut. I can’t explain it, but that’s how I felt.

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Italian Inspiration – Part 1

Christina here and as I was lucky enough to go to Italy recently, it’s time for some more armchair travelling. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey as much as I did, albeit vicariously!

VesuviusI was a little girl the first time I heard about Pompeii and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. This tragic event really stuck in my mind and ever since then, I’ve wanted to go there, but I never had the opportunity until two weeks ago when my dream finally came true. Sometimes, when you’ve wished for something for a very long time, it turns out to be a disappointment. Not Pompeii though, or any of the other sites we visited! I was enchanted.

BTW, this wasn’t just a pleasure jaunt, it was for research purposes. For a while now, I’ve had a timeslip/dual time story brewing in my mind set against the backdrop of Vesuvius’ eruption. I’d already done quite a bit of reading on the subject, but there is only so much you can do with facts on a page. Actually visiting a place is invaluable, and so my husband and I set out on our fascinating journey.

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Mood Music

Christina here. Lots of authors seem to listen to music while they write in order to get in the right mood – sometimes the same song over and over again to inspire a particular scene they might be working on. Many of them have specific playlists for each book with one song per chapter, which they mention either on their blogs or at the start of their books so that readers can listen along with them. I can’t do that. I need silence in order to compose my thoughts and disappear into my own little world, and music would drag me out of it because when I listen to something I really like, I get lost in that instead.

ThorThat’s not to say I don’t find music inspiring. I do, but I like to listen to it before or after I write, not during the process. And I also love to watch music videos as some of them are mini stories in their own right and they can trigger plots or characters in my head. Today I thought I would share with you some of the songs, music and/or videos that I’ve found helpful while writing my Viking stories and the reasons why.

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Authorly Curiosity

Christina here. Authors are by nature inquisitive – some people might even say nosey – but that is a very necessary trait. We observe the people around us to get inspiration for characters, we listen in on conversations in cafés and on trains and buses to help create good dialogue, and we try to absorb all the details of the world around us and store them in our memories. Because you never know when it will come in useful, or what will spark the beginning of a story. It could be any or all of the above that suddenly results in that lightbulb moment when a novel is born. All authors have their own favourite triggers, but for me it’s very often a house, which means that I am extremely curious about other people’s homes. Not just because the way they are decorated shows the owner’s individual taste, but the buildings themselves – the style, the layout, the interior décor, the era it was built. It all feeds my imagination.

Brochure spread 2I’ve mentioned before that I go to stately homes and ruins to find inspiration, but not every character is going to live in a place like that. Therefore, I’m always on the lookout for suitable properties, and although I can, of course, check out houses in the local community, it’s good to have a greater choice. And obviously, you can’t just go and knock on someone’s door and ask to have a look around as that would seem rather suspicious (and rude!). But there is a better way – real estate agents’ websites and brochures. I have occasionally pretended to be an interested buyer, just to obtain the particulars of some magnificent house or other, and these are extremely useful!

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Inspirational Grandeur

House backChristina here. Have you ever fallen completely and utterly in love … with a house? I have to admit I do this quite frequently. I love old houses, and usually the ones that appeal to me the most are grand aristocratic mansions, but more modest buildings that are quirky in some way also fascinate me. Whatever the type of building, me falling in love with it often leads to inspiration for a story, which is great and just what an author needs. My current “crush” is Tyntesfield, a Victorian Gothic Revival mansion near Bristol here in the UK. It’s a truly spectacular place and absolutely perfect as the setting for a timeslip novel!

Chapel backI’ve had a thing about Gothic architecture ever since the first time I saw a building in that style, and although I have no idea why, it appeals to me like nothing else. Maybe it’s the over-the-top decorations, carvings and gargoyles, or the pointy window and door arches? Or just the sheer extravagance and exuberance that seems to have gone into creating these buildings. Whatever it is, I want one! And I don’t just want a tiny cottage in the Gothic style, I dream of a huge stately home like Tyntesfield, complete with landscaped grounds and a walled garden. Obviously I can’t have one, as I’m not a billionaire, so I make do with the next best thing – using it as the basis for an imaginary house in one of my stories. And since my heroine will be living there, so will I, vicariously.

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