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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

When Africa Looks Like Italy

by M. L. Buchman

I had a rather surreal month last month.

1) I was in Senegal Africa visiting some people for three weeks.
2) I was in Cinque Terre, Italy, sipping wine, tasting gelato, and generally having a great time.
3) I was doing these at the same time!

Okay, we all know writer's brains are weird. So, here's a dose of silly weird.

I was actually (physically) in Italy for my first time ever, two years ago. My family and I drove along the Ligurian coast (that's the upper left armpit-shape [nothing derogatory intended...no, really not] where Italy runs into France. Deep in the hills there...well, I'll get to that in a minute.

This year, I was in Dakar, Senegal. The heat was only moderately intense (80s mostly, humid, mid-March). The dust blowing off the end of the Sahara was everywhere. It defined the country in so many ways. It stuck to sunscreen during the day and bud dope at night (mosquito and malaria season had started). It coated the streets and gave us blisters in our shoes and sandals.

Don't get me wrong, there were some wonderful things that we did and saw there, but the climate was hard and harsh.

The street outside our B&B in the heart of the city (yes, with a family of goats)


So, I left. I went back two years and decided it was time to finish a book that I had begun in Italy.

I came up with my "Love Abroad B&B" idea several years ago. It's about a B&B that only appears when the heart most needs it--a "B&B of Requirement" much like the Harry Potter "Room of Requirement." Book #1, Heart of the Cotswolds: England, was such a joy that I couldn't wait to write the next one...

Of course a writer's life is never that linear and it would take me another year to tackle Italy. Conveniently, I suppose, the folks were were visiting in Dakar were available only a few hours each day. And Dakar is not a city for tourism; it is a city of commerce. So, after the first few days, we'd hit the main sites and I was looking for an escape.

So, I left Dakar and plunged back into the warm world of flowing Italian, stone cliffs, vertical vineyards, and lush gelato. I regaled myself with tales of a couple from who never would have met anywhere else, brought together by a curious little B&B in the tiny cliff side town of Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia viewed from high on the trail to Vernazza.
By day, I was the quiet tourist, observing the fascinating culture that is modern Africa. In the off hours, I slipped off to enjoy the warm sun and the cool breeze off the Mediterranean Sea. I admit to feeling a little guilty about this, but I deeply enjoyed myself.

What surprised me though was that after I finished the book (neatly about the same day I flew home), I passed it off to my first readers.

To say they were upset was putting it mildly...they wanted to go to Italy too. Now!

It was a very fun escape and I feel that I really captured something special about the place and the people who I so enjoyed. I'm going to have to think more about writing somewhere I'm not. I mean I do that all the time; my books are set all over the world. Perhaps it's writing from someplace I don't normally go that made the book and the story so evocative for me.

One of the things I love about this profession is that we can never know all of the answers. What fun! I can't wait to see what happens next.

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Booklist has selected his military and firefighter series(es) as 3-time “Top 10 Romance of the Year.” NPR and Barnes & Noble have named other titles “Top 5 Romance of the Year.” In 2016 he was a finalist for RWA's RITA award. He has flown and jumped out of airplanes, can single-hand a fifty-foot sailboat, and has designed and built two houses. In between writing, he also quilts. M.L. is constantly amazed at what can be done with a degree in geophysics. He also writes: contemporary romance, thrillers, and SF. More info at: www.mlbuchman.com.

5 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

The best feedback from any reader is that they want to go to where your book is set. "Now!" only adds to the joy of writing at least IMHO.

Can you see a Love Abroad B&B Romance set in Dakar?

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Great story, ML. And I love the concept of a B & B "of requirement." Have fun with it!

M. L. Buchman said...

A romance in Dakar would be very tough. I'd thought to use it, but as I mentioned, it is not a city of tourism. It is a city of growth, hope, and business...but not tourism and not a romance. I'm going to have to let that one simmer on the back burner for a bit before I can figure out what to do with it.

Barbara Rae Robinson said...

Your Italy story sounds luscious! Can't wait to read it. How nice that your alone time was used so productively while in Dakar.

Dora Bramden said...

I love revisiting my travels when writing too. Sounds like there'll be a novel set in Africa next.