My novels are often sparked by my own experiences, my research, and interviews with interesting people I meet. Today I’m sharing the spark that prompted my romance novel Catalina’s Lover.
I’d written eighteen romance novels for my publisher, Mills and Boon Limited when my editor suggested I write a book set in South America. My husband and I had recently returned from a two-year sailing trip to Mexico, and scraps of Mexican scenery, culture, and characters had crept into my romance novels during that trip.
That’s the closest I’d ever come to South America. I didn’t have a story idea, and I didn’t know anyone I could interview about South America. The year was 1990 and although Tim Berners-Lee had invented the World Wide Web in 1989, the first Internet product wasn’t introduced for homes until 1994. My research would have to be done with books and magazines checked out from the local library.
At that time we were still living aboard the sailboat we’d traveled to Mexico in, moored at a Vancouver Island marina on Canada’s West Coast. I recall our boat’s salon being littered with piles of library books about South America. In the beginning, I considered using Brazil as a setting, but I had zero knowledge of Portuguese and I lost my enthusiasm when I stumbled across several accounts of Brazilian street children being killed.
Peru, however, fascinated me. I loved the research, and my husband Brian got interested as well. Soon we were reading and discussing historic accounts of the legendary Inca and the network of stone roads they’d built in the Andes mountains. I was fascinated by the mythology of Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, and the history of the Spanish conquistadors.
I’ve been fascinated with archeology ever since my college archeology course, and so much of Peru’s history could still be seen in a rich deposit of archeological sites, and the written records from the Spanish who flooded to the country.
If I set a book here, I’d stay away from the Pacific coast, and cities, and the politics I read about in the news. I would set my story in the mountainous areas that hadn’t been taken over by urban life.
When my friend, author Naomi Horton, showed me a National Geographic picture of a hand-crafted Inca rope bridge spanning the gorge over a roaring river in the Peruvian Andes, my mind filled with the story possibilities in that bridge.
However, before I could write the story, I needed to understand today’s Peru. In what ways were modern Peruvian descendants of the Spanish similar to, and different from, the descendants of Spanish explorers Brian and I had met during our two-years in Mexico? How much of the legends, language, and culture of the Inca remained after their nation was largely decimated by Spanish conquistadores?
My local library didn’t have the answers, but I finally found what I needed in a small Vancouver bookstore, in the form of two amazing books.
Most importantly, I stumbled across archeologist Ronald Wright’s Cut Stones and Crossroads. I can’t do better describing this amazing book than this paragraph from the description I found on Amazon.ca
Travelling through Peru, tracing the history of the Incas from their royal cities of Cusco and Machu Picchu to their mythical origin in Lake Titicaca, Ronald Wright explores a country of contrasts–between Spanish and Indian, past and present, coastal desert and mountainous interior.
In his highly entertaining and perceptive account, Wright brings to life a complex culture, a land of ancient traditions seeking its place in the modern world. Embracing history, politics, anthropology, and literature, Cut Stones and Crossroads is both a fascinating travel memoir and the study of a civilization.
Thanks to this book, I had confidence that I could make my fictional Peru true to the spirit of an expert whose vision I trusted.
The second book I found that day was an extremely useful traveler’ guide to body language, customs and taboos around the world. This book proved to be a fantastic resource for writing dialogue and describing my Peruvian characters’ body language.
I decided that my heroine had grown up traveling with her archeologist father, and went on to become an expert in the artifacts of indigenous North American coastal peoples. My hero, a Peruvian archeologist of Spanish descent, was caught between the culture of his ancestral home in the Andes, and the influences of the international education he’d received as a young Peruvian of Spanish descent.
I loved researching and writing CATALINA’S LOVER and when the book was published, I was thrilled that the publisher’s art department used the Incan rope bridge as the basis for the cover art.
Where do I get my ideas? The idea for this story came as a result of following an editor’s suggestion, was fertilized by Peruvian research and a picture of a frighteningly fragile looking rope bridge. And finally, I couldn’t have written it with confidence if I hadn’t read Ronald Wright’s amazing CUT STONES AND CROSSROADS.
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