The serial entitled 'The Lemon Grove' is set in Sorrento, Italy and I hope it will issue some time this summer. I am still only on instalment 6 of 8 instalments but it is going well. It has been a total pleasure in these cold and wet months to take myself away to somewhere sunny. I believe the setting may well have helped in getting my proposal accepted. Many readers will have been to Sorrento and the Island of Ischia, and fantasised about going to live in a holiday destination. Don't we all wonder as we come back home what it might be like to have stayed on and made a life in a place we have grown to love, possibly with a handsome stranger, even after only two short weeks?
When I was pitching the serial to People's Friend, I had two possibilities up my sleeve. Knowing that D C Thomson are based in Scotland and have many Scottish readers, my other idea was to set a serial in a search and rescue helicopter base somewhere in the Highlands. This I felt would have ample possibilities for hunky heroes and emotional situations. My first choice though was Italy and luckily the editor agreed to go for it. One of the best things about this setting for a writer has been the ability to appeal to the senses to transport a reader to my destination. Writing about the food of Italy, the scent of its herbs and the sheer joy of Italian ice cream has all hopefully added colour and life to the story (I've been on a diet the whole time I was writing it so perhaps that has something to do with it!) The other thing I felt was essential to include was characters of all ages. The hero and heroine are in their twenties, there is a young niece of fourteen and a storyline involving the grandmother of the hero, Nana Bonetti. Women's magazines which carry fiction often appeal to an extremely wide age range. I remember as a teenager reading the stories in my mother's magazines and if you can include a variety of ages you will appeal to a variety of readers.
On the sharper plot points there are elements of crime - something which I love. This also gave me the excuse to include a very sexy Italian policeman influenced not a little by the actor who plays Inspector Montalbano in the TV series set in Sicily (pictured above). My character is of course a perfect gentleman but he does have an open topped sports car and nothing's more exhilarating than being whizzed around those scary Italian cliffside roads.
The main difference in writing a serial to writing a pocket novel is that you do have to be somewhat more disciplined and more guided by an editor AT EACH INSTALMENT. Other writers with more experience may submit all 8 instalments and have the whole lot accepted. My experience though has been to submit the first instalment with a synopsis and then wait for the comments and any amendments/rewrites on each instalment before I go ahead and write the rest. It means I have come to know my characters very well as I reread what went before to refresh my memory. With the six pocket novels I have had published, the pacing has been largely up to me. I can have a fast moving beginning, a slightly more gently paced middle with incidents happening whenever I personally felt the pace was flagging. The pocket novel editors certainly ask for rewrites but not as you're writing every 5000 words or so. With a serial however, each 5,300 word plus instalment has to have it's own story arc and carry it's own emotional punch and a hook at the end. This is the cliffhanger ending to induce the reader to make absolutely sure to buy next week's magazine. That's not to say the cliffhanger needs to be over dramatic but it does need to make the reader burn to know what will happen next. Like pocket novels however, it is the characters which really make the reader want to know how the story ends. In that respect a serial is no different. All of which I think is the perfect excuse to post a pic of the wonderful Luca Zingaretti - a great inspiration for my Italian policeman - looking suitably dashing as Inspector Montalbano, and proving that hair loss is no bar to being seriously fanciable!