Today you can discover what Sue Moorcroft told me about her research into the seasons for her romance novels in the interview for the #240 Dec 2021 issue of Writers’ Forum.
Sue explained writing a summer novel and a winter novel each year makes weather a consideration. When she was writing about Switzerland she used an online snow-cam and other online resources for typical temperatures and daylight hours.
She also keeps my eye out for seasonal events or traditions that she could be used in her novels and keeps a note on any posters about seasonal events – a Christmas tree competition or an artificial beach in the local town centre during the school summer holidays, etc.
“I had a Christmas wreath made last year and the florist explained it was compostable so I brought that into Under the Mistletoe and found a demonstration of how to make one online.”
She revealed when writing a Christmas book she bears in mind Christmas can affect everything. For those who celebrate the season, things are worse or better if you tag ‘at Christmas’ onto a situation. He lost his job at Christmas. She found her long-lost sister at Christmas. Christmas affects what restaurants or pubs look like, menus, what shops sell, what’s on the radio or TV and how people spend their time. Even a Christmas gift is meaningful for both plot and characterisation.
“Ideas are like gold dust. When I get one, I write it down. I can usually make my ideas fit the season with a bit of plot dexterity but definitely an ice hockey player fits nicely into a winter book and a vineyard owner into a summer book.”Sue Moorcroft
Sue told me people with knowledge are key to her research and she is always interested in what they have to say and will follow up with more questions. She revealed she often uses social media to find the people she needs. For Under the Mistletoe she needed help from a teacher on the subject of bullying and help from an artist, as it’s my heroine Laurel’s occupation. She explained people can be incredibly kind.
When writing Under the Italian Sun she saw a documentary on the subject of post partum psychosis and followed the filmmaker on Twitter. He was the subject of the documentary, too, as he’d lost his mum young and didn’t understand why there was such a mystery around it. Sue told him how much she’d enjoyed the documentary and she was writing a book that covered the same subject. He offered her a video chat where she could find out more information.
In Just for the Holidays a forced helicopter landing took place. The process is called autorotation, the skill of keeping the rotors moving using pitch and yaw when the engine cuts out – a bit like a sycamore seed twirling to earth. Sue had trouble finding a helicopter pilot who wanted to help but eventually, via a friend of a friend, she found one. He took her up in a helicopter and they ‘pretend crashed’.
“It was awesome! I absolutely loved it. We shot down to earth and then he just pulled it up and landed (this is called ‘flare and run-on landing). Chatting afterwards, although it had taken ages casting around to find him, it turned out he knew my auntie.”Sue Moorcroft
Sue also loves to visit the countries she write about. She regularly goes to writing retreats and courses in Umbria, Italy and has used the setting for several of her novels. Under the Italian Sun and One Summer in Italy are both set there so she was able to use her extensive photo library as a resource.
I know a lovely Italian lady and I asked her if she could help with things that were hard to research from here, or are cultural, such as what kind of beer this person would drink or how people behave if they have nuns to lunch, and she answered every email. She also put the Italian phrases right for me. It gave me a lot of confidence in the authenticity of the setting and themes.
On a visit, Sue told me she tends to eat local food, especially any particular to the region. Menus are also helpful, and available online. Settings can help an author weave a romantic spell around the reader. Her tip is to pick a setting that heightens the emotional stakes and visit it.
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