Today, fellow Wild Rose Press author, Amber Leigh Williams is my guest and this is Amber’s blog…
THE THINGS WE LEARN WRITING HISTORICAL ROMANCE….
When I decided to write a book based in ‘40’s-era Italy, I was shocked by how little information there was on the Verona region of Veneto. World War II was the first highly-photographed, -recorded, and -documented war in history. There was very little to work with in photos, reels, battle sequences, and cultural details from 1944-1945 Italy.
But that was ten years ago. Between then and the final draft of my historical romance Forever Amore, detailed books on the subject were published. I was delighted when I happened to peruse the WWII section of the Military aisle at my local bookstore. On my sixth and final revision of the novel, I used some of the information in these books to add scenes that involved Lucille, the heroine, trying to find Charles, the hero working as a spy, in Nazi-occupied Milan. The new elements not only adrenalized the formerly-lagging middle: it gave the story underlying layers of suspense and intrigue.
Fashion was an important issue to contend with, as it should be in any historical romance. Lucille comes from a wealthy, almost aristocratic, wine-making family and Italy is one of the most fashionable countries in the world so when it came time to dress her, her sisters, and the other members of her family, they had to have the finest, most luxurious wardrobes in period fashion. The problem, however, I discovered was that the story begins in March 1944…a time when rationing was in full effect. Lucky for me, conservative fashion came back with a vengeance after the promiscuous ’20′s and the slinky women’s wear of the ’30′s. This made it easy to add a collar or high neck to all of Lucille’s blouses and gowns in order to hide Charles’s dog-tags, which she wears underneath.
Another important research aspect of Forever Amore was the vineyard sequences. In the original draft, Lucille is giving Charles a tour of Villa Renaldi, her family’s expansive estate. I eventually cut the twenty-five pages spent detailing how grapes are grown and harvested and how winery machinery works (the technology used in the ’40′s-era Italy, that is). Though this information was not necessary for the overall story, it was good to fall back on for reference during seasonal transitions. When spring rolls into summer, the vines are growing taller, easily cloaking Lucille and Charles’s twilight rendezvous in the romantic vine labyrinth.
One of the final subjects I had to cover for this book was military. Like wine, before Forever Amore, I knew nothing about flying or fighter pilots. Movies came in handy here. I spent hours watching films that featured dogfighting just so I could learn fighter-pilot-speak. When I was happy with the terminology, I went looking for Charles’s plane. Thanks to the movie Pearl Harbor, I knew how a B-17 operated. The plane goes on to have significance in Forever Amore along with the WWII-era P-38, which I use in the opening sequence of the book to bring Charles and Lucille together. (Thanks to the Military Channel, I also learned that P-38s were some of the first planes to be steered by yokes, a term I never would’ve known or used otherwise.)
You can learn more about Forever Amore, a Best Book of 2009 nominee, at my website: www.amberleighwilliams.com
Over the crackle of flames, he heard an engine approaching. Looking up, he went alert and reached for the gun at his belt when he saw the green pickup. He took a deep breath before rallying enough energy to stagger to his feet.
Charles took a step forward and blinked to clear his vision as the truck skidded to a halt and the driver and passenger doors opened.
Two figures swam through the smoky haze and Charles had to squint to make them out. One long, rangy man with a mop of black hair growing into his fierce eyes and … an angel.
His heart thudded. I’m dead. He could find no other explanation for the vision that drifted hesitantly toward him in a long, cream-colored gown and hair the color of angel wings falling in gilded glory down her shoulders.
She made a move toward him, but the man barked at her to halt, catching her by the arm. Pointing at Charles, he gave a short, terse order he couldn’t make out.
Oh, hell. Italian. Charles had less than a rudimentary inkling of the language.
The man who looked no more than twenty barked again. Charles saw him point toward his gun. With a frown, he lifted a hand to it.
The woman gasped and the man stepped in front of her as if to shield her.
Carefully, Charles unclipped the pistol and threw it at the man’s feet.
Movements slow, the local bent and picked it up, pointing the shaking barrel at Charles’s chest while scanning him closely. “Americano?” he asked.
Now that he could understand. “Si, si. Americano.” He thought he saw relief pass over their faces before his vision dimmed. He swayed on the spot.
As he went to his knees, the woman rushed forward, snatching out of her companion’s grasp to catch Charles before he could hit the dirt again.
She looked even better up close. A pixie’s face more than an angel’s, her big green eyes yawned in concern in front of his. “You are wounded?” she asked in English thick with regional inflection but not at all broken.
Huh. Angels speak English. Thank God.
Thanks so much for sharing and for the great excerpt. My daughter and her husband visited Italy last year and saw some of the vineyards. They didn’t go to Milan, but they were in Pizza and Cinca Terra. Italy is a beautiful country and your book sounds like a fantastic read! It’s been a pleasure having you on my blog today.
Calisa Rhose said:
I must admit, Amber, that research is addictive. I don't really like it- but I just can't help myself at times. Thanks for sharing yours here!
Clover Autrey said:
It's fun to research, but even funner to take what you've learned and incorporate it for your characters. Great excerpt!
Vonnie Davis said:
I think the best use of research is not putting it into a book, but in allowing us to write with a sense of authority. By knowing a period or a place via research, we can add snippets with confidence to flavor our words. As Hemingway stated, our writing should be like an iceberg with a third of our knowlege visible and two thirds beneath the surface for strength. Sounds as if you've followed that idea. Much success to you.
Lilly Gayle said:
Vonnie, love the Hemingway quote! So true. Thanks for stopping by, ladies.
Mona Risk said:
Amber, I love the title and the book cover. I am sure the story is great. I love to read books set in Italy and France. I agree with Vonnie. The research should give you enough information to ground your story in its setting. I love to write about places I visited in order to make my characters act according to their cultures. The Internet has a well of informations and I continously use it.http://www.monarisk.com
It's not just authors who learn, but readers as well. I love that.
Lilly Gayle said:
So glad to hear it Marybelle. And thanks so much for stopping by.