I’m so happy to be partnering with Avon books to bring you this guest post on how character inspiration can come from real life, from author Sue Moorcroft, author of One Summer In Italy. So without further ado…
Although the majority of One Summer in Italy is set in Italy, much of which I was lucky enough to write while on a writing retreat there, the action does come to Bettsbrough in England in the end.
And all because I remembered someone’s dad! He’d owned a garage on a corner of the town where I spent my teen years. A lot of people thought it would be OK to take shortcut the corner by stepping over the low chain that marked the boundary and strolling across the forecourt. The owner – we’ll call him Mr Smith – obviously didn’t care for the practise because he used to shoot out and bellow, ‘Walk round my forecourt, please!’ or something less polite like ‘Off my bloody forecourt!’ if the transgressor was young enough (presumably, in his eyes) not to be worthy of courtesy.
In my teens, I had a Saturday job at a butcher’s shop. (Now a charity shop, its is the doorway where poor Matt spends his days in One Summer in Italy.) One Saturday, the shop manager
sent me up to this garage with a cheque to pay a bill for his car repair. Confident that I now had the right to walk on the forecourt – though, admittedly, I did step over the chain instead of going around the the entrance – I approached. Out shot Mr Smith. ‘Off my bloody forecourt!’ he bellowed. I tried to explain but he just kept making shooing motions and shouting ‘Off my bloody forecourt!’ So I returned to the shop and told my manager … who picked up the phone and rang Mr Smith. He gave him to understand that if Mr Smith wanted the cheque he could come to the shop for it and apologise to me at the same time.
He didn’t. He sent one of his employees! My manager, who’d been prepared to calm down, was newly infuriated and told the employee to tell Mr Smith that he would be taking his business to another garage in future ‘… so I don’t wear out his bloody forecourt!’
When I was looking for some incident that would make a character remember certain business premises eighteen years later, Mr Smith and his precious forecourt jumped into my mind. As ‘my’ garage owner is called Bryan Gunn I gave him the nickname of ‘Bullet’, who shoots out whenever anybody steps on his forecourt without good reason. I made him much nicer than Mr Smith! I had to send my teenaged character Amy there, after all, and Bryan (no one lets him hear them calling him Bullet) is the father of my hero Levi Gunn. Levi wouldn’t have ended up such a warm, responsible, balanced character if his dad had been too much like Mr Smith. He does believe in taking matters into his own hands when he sees a wrong to be righted though.
The real garage is still there.
I passed it recently. I know Mr Smith hasn’t been with us for a long time but still … I didn’t step over the chain onto the forecourt. Just in case. But I’ve never taken my car there either!
So there’s nothing for it but to escape to Italy’s Umbrian mountains where, tucked away in a sleepy Italian village, lie plenty of family secrets waiting to be discovered. There, Sofia also finds Amy who is desperately trying to find her way in life after discovering her dad isn’t her biological father.
Sofia sets about helping Amy through this difficult time, but it’s the handsome Levi who proves to be the biggest distraction for Sofia, as her new life starts to take off…
I’d like to thank Avon – especially Sabah Khan, and Sue Moorcroft for giving me the opportunity to bring this post to you.