With StephanieBrowningRomance.com up-and-running, Susan and I are off to England and parts beyond. Not together of course…that would be too simple! Separate planes, separate schedules and separate plans, with just enough of an overlap for one of us to leave the other a note in the women’s toilets at Heathrow.
I can picture it now…Stephanie Browning was here! scrawled in hot-pink lipstick across the door of the fifth stall on the left!
We’re on a bit of a busman’s holiday really, searching out future locations while visiting friends and family. Susan will be spending most of her time in London, walking in the footsteps of our latest heroine, twenty-nine-year-old Alexis Kirkwood. As head concierge at one of London’s most prestigious hotels, Alex needs to know how to navigate the city’s major attractions, score last- minute theatre tickets and jump the queue at exclusive restaurants, and therefore, so do we.
While Susan’s busy scouring the antique stalls on Portobello Road with her family, my husband and I will be in the south of France, staying in a village near the fortified city of Carcassonne. Which just happens to be in the grape-growing region of Languedoc-Roussilon. Where, coincidentally, one of Stephanie Browning’s future heroines (she’s “on the books” for the second in our Bedford County trilogy) will be interning at a chi-chi winery before coming home to start her own vineyard. Lucky me! Tastings are required!
When Susan and I wrote Outbid by the Boss, our first Stephanie Browning romance, having a shared “sense of place” came in handy. We’d both spent time in England and hiked our way through Derbyshire’s Peak District, so when our main characters set out for the hero’s ancestral home in chapter two, we were “seeing” the same countryside.
And not just trusting it to memory, a lesson learnt when we were at a writers’ conference in Detroit, delivering a seminar on collaboration. During the afternoon break, Susan and I had tea with Gay Courter, author of The Midwife, River of Dreams and Code Ezra, among others. In preparation for Code Ezra, a novel of espionage and relationships, Gay had travelled to Israel with her family, a tape recorder and a camera. With her husband at the wheel, Gay was able to sniff the air and record the sights and sounds of Israel as an aide-memoire for a later date.
We take a similar approach, whether we visit a location in real time or check it out online, because capturing that sense of place is an all-important part of our writing journey. Knowing what type of spring flowers are blooming in Hyde Park during our story’s timeline, or what grapes are likely to thrive back in Bedford County are as necessary as picking the right shade of lipstick.
We figure another two or three trips per book, and we’ll have it sorted. After all, research does require sacrifice, and that’s what writers do.