Sunday, July 28, 2013

Back Home from the Homeland

I am back to work after a four week trip to Italy.

Yes, you heard me correctly. The long planned, finally realized trip to the homeland of Italia is now officially over [cue sad music, preferably violin or accordion]. If this was a blog about travel experiences, I could easily fill a month's worth of posts. But since this is a blog about my writing journey, the real question is -- what did this trip have to do with writing?


First off, it was largely funded by writing earnings over the past few years. That was a nice feeling of validation. Something even more concrete than numbers and decimals on a bank statement. I took my wife and parents to Italy and at least part of it was paid for by royalties.  Wow. [For all of you wildly successful authors who pay for everything with royalties...well, remember how paying for that first thing felt?].

In four weeks, there were a number of writing-related events.

For one, my Dad brought along some light reading for the plane trip -- Some Degree of Murder by Frank Zafiro and Colin Conway. Wonder where he got that? And signed, even?

Seriously, though, it was pretty satisfying to hear him say repeatedly and intensely, "This book is awesome. It would make a great movie!" Yeah, he's biased, I know. Just a little. But it was still good hear it from him.

I also made my wife cry on this trip. No, I wasn't being mean. But she read a draft of the forthcoming novella Chisolm's Debt, and somewhere on a train between Riomaggiore and Siena, the ending of that story made her choke up.

Yeah, I know. Another slightly biased reader. But still...felt good to have that impact. Especially when I figured she was going to hate it.

As you can imagine, I did some reading while traveling. Some of it was on the train, some of it by the plunge pool in Praiano, some of it in hotel rooms after a long day of sight-seeing. I finished a great biography on Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman. Then came a literary crime novel by Michael Chabon called The Yiddish Policemen's Union. It reminded me of Dennis Lehane, inasmuch as it was a great crime story with beautiful language. I also read one of John Grisham's earlier books, The Summons, which was decent but not as good as The Firm or some of his other work. I also read a book by a best-selling author with a couple dozen books out...that was horrible. I guess they can't all be winners.

Mostly, I soaked in the Italian culture. And food. And wine. Lots of wine. I spent time in Florence, where we saw Michelangelo's David. Truly stunning, and surprisingly so. We saw the canals of Venice, the northern coast at Riomaggiore, the hilltop city of Siena, ancient and modern Rome, Praiano on the Amalfi coast, and Naples (along with Pompeii).

Out of all that, I had some wonderful experiences with my wife and parents. I also came up with three new novel ideas to add to the list. They are:
 * A thriller set in Venice
 * A murder mystery set in Praiano, and
 * A family saga set in a lot of places, but starting in Italy.

All of which officially makes this trip research. (Of course, when you're a writer, all of life could be categorized as research, but this is the sort that can be more directly applied and withstand the scrutiny of the IRS.)

Now that I've returned from Italia, it's time to get back to work. But in addition to the trip of a lifetime, it was an especially good experience to see through a writer's eyes. I have no idea when those three books will be finished, or where they will fall in the project list, but I do know that spending time in the homeland...well, it almost felt like home.