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Travelling for Research – Is it just a holiday?

In my work as a content writer, being able to write about things just relying on research, scrolling through websites, mining forums for information, is necessary.

But writing for books is slightly different, as I found on when I started writing book 2 in the martini club series. All the previous books that I’ve set abroad have been based on places I’ve already visited. Finding out about Ischia, the island Prosecco and Promises is set on, was easy enough using the internet (how did anyone manage to research before the internet?!). However, whilst I could find out practical questions – where does the ferry come into, how many bars are on the strip, what’s the beach like – the questions I needed to know were the ones that would build a believable, wonderful world in a book. The things I love to know – what does the air smell like, who lives there, what do they have to say about it? What does the ocean sound like standing at the port, the feet on cobblestones, the voices in the square? Is there music? Is it sleepy, quiet, comfortable?

I’ve realised the thing that makes me a storyteller is the fact that I’m curious. Or nosey. Take your pick. I want to collect up stranger’s stories and put them down in pen. The way the waiter winks as you walk past, the story the receptionist is telling her friend at the hotel, the American tourists who tell you about the gardens they visited yesterday, how the birds sang and the marble shone in the sunlight?

Those, to me, are the things that make a book sing. I should probably be more concerned about whether there was car parking at the port, or how long the flight is, or if there’s a particular type of shop in the promenade. But it’s the human stories that draw me to a place.

So I’ll be in Italy this week, and I’m excited to really add that vibrancy and life of the island to the book, as well as supporting the industries on Ischia, after the earthquake they suffered a couple of weeks ago.

How do you feel about on-site research? Do you think it’s necessary, or can you make do without? Do you write about places you’ve been to?

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