#8 Brisbane to Berlin ... books and bullets

Two days to go ... and why books and bullets ... and bombs? And why head first for Berlin, a city so unlike Venice than anywhere imaginable? Except for that lovely river, of course. Although, to be fair to the German and Austrian empires, Vivaldi was very familiar with these two countries, and much more appreciated there in the 1700s than he was in his home city. He died in Vienna in 1741, Austria; buried amongst the common folk, in the same graveyard as Mozart was 50 years later. Sadly, after much rebuilding in the area, Vivaldi's last resting place was lost when Vienna’s Technical University car-park was built over the top (an intriguing story I won't tell you here). If you click on the im

#7 The stars align ... the story calls

It's funny where story ideas come from. For me, the best ones are those requiring the most dedication, work and perseverance. They're the ones that come with a personal passion ... like my family's travelling actor heritage from the early 1900s in regional Australia (Sweet Adversity). An interest in Australia's dinosaur fossils inspired my first novel, Secrets of Eromanga - at 12 years, I found my first 100,000 million year-old fossil (a marine whelk) in Porcupine Gorge, outback Queensland. This historical children's novel-in-progress, The Four Seasons of Caterina takes me to Venice. It, too, is a story requiring hard writing work, frustration, love, and proper research. It began with a pass

#6 My new career ... travel agent

Think I'll become a travel agent. But who'd have thought this much research, reading, organising, deciding, pouring over maps, distances, train and bus connections, currency, language difference, timing, baggage weight limits etc. goes into planning a 7-week overseas trip through three countries? I'm a machine. As soon as I see a map of Germany, France or Italy, I slip into travel agent mode. I know how to get the best from Booking.com, my favourite accommodation site (where my 'genius' status gives me 10% off). And how to strike at the right time to get a good deal on France's SNCF train system, and where the OUIBUS bus stop is in Brive-la-Gaillarde in the Dordogne region. I know how long

#5 Why this story? Why now?

Arts grant organisers always ask writers these questions - they want to know if you know your story's reason for being. Sometimes that's hard to answer. Sometimes, you know in your heart a story is gathering speed, like Frecciabianca, Trenitalia's high-speed 'white arrow'. And soon, your story and its characters will take over your life. So it is with The Four Seasons of Caterina. My five other w-i-p junior fiction novels now wait their turn, especially one so close to finishing it glares at me every day. Thankfully that novel, Sweet Adversity has the interest of a brilliant publisher who says I must be totally happy with it before submitting again (for the third time). This time differs

#4 The power of music ... and creating a story

Research for my story has been a thing of joy and discovery already. As I write, I live my young street urchin's journey to discover her past, and to follow her destiny as a great singer. A universal story ... the quest to find one's place in the world, and the love of a real family. Now, I embark on a journey to experience the sensory input that will come from walking in Caterina's footsteps across her island city. So, how to know what Venice looked like back in 1715 when my story is set? Luckily for me, one of Venice's best painters was out there every day doing his thing in the 1700s. Giovanni Antonio Canal, aka Cannaletto, most brilliant artist and recorder of the landscape, the architec

#3 Packing the write way for Italy

Deciding on clothes, shoes, boots for edge-of-season, northern hemisphere travelling is tricky enough - autumn in Venice can be warm, and cool, rainy and sunny - but adding in what I'll need to research 18th C Venice, the brilliant explosion of art, music and literature of the Venetian Baroque, Vivaldi's connection, and the girls and women of the famous choir and orchestra of the Pietà, requires careful planning. I have made a start on my list!! Better late than never. How lucky am I to have a print of Patricia Ward's stunning art - her Venice Carnevale image - to inspire me. Ultra-light coat (with furry-edged hood ... very Italian-swish). Scarpa walking boots (very non-Italian swish, but co

#2 The fine balance of story researching

There is no set way to research for a story - except that researching historical fiction is guaranteed to take you by the throat and heart, especially if you love your characters like real people. Researching is a journey of detection and discovery, of surprise, immersion, usually of love, and sometimes even fanaticism...that unknown book could have what you're after, or that endless list on Google. Research can also stop you writing too. Authors balance on that fine edge all the time in their stories' research journey. I've woven a significant sub-plot into my protagonist's story, Caterina's quest to find who she is and her true place in the world ... Vivaldi's turbulent journey to compose

#1 Story research-v-alluring foreign places?

In exactly 15 days, I head for Europe with suitcase, computer, writing journal and my other half, Ross. This trip has crept up too quickly and I'm mentally not ready. Writing lists, checking flights, accommodation updates, paying Captain Train (now called Trainline (fabulous site for booking train travel), organising tours to the Lascaux Caves II in France's Dordogne region, night cruise down the Seine, free walking tour in Berlin - but I'm getting ahead of myself. You may be aware I'm writing a children's novel set in 18C Venice. It's not just a story about Caterina, a feisty, young street urchin surviving in a dangerous city on her wits and the use of her fists and beautiful mezzo-soprano