Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Little Something for the Weekend - Passing Through Paris

The Pink Heart Society is delighted to welcome Jessica Gilmore, as she talks about the research she undertook that allowed her to virtually pass through Paris...

When Jo March or Anne Shirley sat down to pen their books all they needed was a shawl to fling over their flannel nightgowns, a sheaf of paper, a filled inkpot, a good nib and a candle. 

My small desk, on the other hand, is crammed. My laptop and laptop stand, a fancy ergonomic keyboard and a handshake mouse. I sit on an office chair that is supposed to support my back and wonder everyday about replacing it for something a little sturdier. I wrap a support around my elbow, another around my wrist and in winter there’s usually a hot water bottle on my knees.

Three cups of tea later and my computer is fired up. I select a program; Word for a first draft or first edits, Scrivener for revisions, and if the wrist doesn’t improve then I’m considering throwing Dragon into the mix. It’s a lot of kit – and yet when I’m out and about I manage perfectly well with a notebook and a pen. Back to basics.
But although Anne and Jo may have had a simpler (and colder) writing life they missed out on some great tools. In my latest release, The Heiress’s Secret Baby, my hero, aka Hot Younger French Guy, Gabe and heroine, Polly Rafferty, travel to Provence and Paris. Lovely – except I’d never been to either! Oh, I had passed through Paris, glimpsed the Eiffel Tower from the back of a coach on a school trip. Stood outside Charles De Gaulle airport while waiting for the bus to Disneyland. But I’d never actually walked down the Champs Elysee, seen Notre Dame, climbed the hill to Montmartre. 

So how can a writer make a place come alive when she’s never set foot there?

Imagination - and research! My go to website is Pinterest. I love it for mood boards, to visualise my hero and heroine, their clothes, their house – even Polly’s beloved ginger cat, Mr Simpkins, has a pin. But it really comes into its own when you want to get into the heart of a place, put together the landscape you’re trying to capture. Google streetview is equally brilliant. 

Want to make sure your heroine can actually have the view you’re claiming? Is the street cobbled or paved? How would they walk from X to Y? What kind of stone are the houses built of? These are the details the guidebooks can’t help always you with.
My other favourite resource is travel blogs and lifestyle blogs, the tips from people who live in or have visited the places I write about. To conjure up a place I need more than a few photos; I need the sounds, the smells, the atmosphere. To know where the locals go, what they eat, how they travel, what they wear…

In October last year, once The Heiress’s Secret Baby had been signed off I finally got the chance to go to Paris. I have to admit I was pretty nervous – what if I had got it wrong? What if my research had led me astray? Luckily it was everything I had hoped it would be and I’ll definitely set another book there and include all the places I didn’t get a chance to use last time round! 

Where are your favourite novels set?  What do you think is vital in order for an author to capture the heart of a place?

Jess's Paris-set novel, The Heiress’s Secret Baby, is available now:

The secret is out...

Polly Rafferty, heiress and CEO of glamorous Rafferty's Stores is back! And this time, she's prepared for anything—well, except for the half-naked (and utterly gorgeous) Frenchman Gabe Beaufils lying in her office. And, after sharing an unexpectedly earth-shattering kiss, discovering that he is her new vice-CEO… 

When Polly learns that a no-strings summer fling had very unexpected consequences, Gabe is the one person she can trust with her baby secret…but with a man so full of surprises, she has no idea what his reaction will be!

To find out more about Jessica Gilmore's writing, check out her website and blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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