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Friday, June 08, 2012

On the Road Again : : Anne McAllister

IMG_1928A couple of weeks ago I went to Quebec.  It was a research trip, but it was very open-ended because I just knew I wanted part of a book set there. I didn’t know which part. I didn’t know what was going to happen.

It was pure serendipity all the way.

And it was terrific. Being open to whatever happened was great. Not having any preconceived ideas about what I wanted my people to be doing was freeing. I could just IMG_1866do whatever the spirit – or my DH – moved me to do, and if it rang a bell with my characters, then I was delighted. If it didn’t, well, maybe it would someday.

And if not these particular characters, then some others down the road a ways. In fact I think Quebec will be for the book after this one, anyway.  But who knows?  That’s the joy – and the panic -- of writing.

IMG_1898It’s all about those three little words that mean so much: You never know.

Oh, you thought I meant those other three words?  I love you.

Well, they’ll doubtless figure in the story somewhere. But in the meantime, I am working with the conflict – the unloving bits – and finding places for my characters to go and things they can see and do.

IMG_2008We were several days in Quebec City and two on the Ile d’Orleans.  They were totally different – city and country – and I loved them both.  Quebec is a river city like the one I live in – only a couple of hundred years older. And the Ile d’Orleans was one of the first places in New France that was settled back in the 17th century. My husband’s ancestors were some of the settlers.

IMG_1907In some respects little has changed since.  The same names are on the tombstones as are on the mailboxes.  The same style houses have existed there for hundreds of years.  The same crops are grown. And while farming methods have changed some, it wasn’t hard to imagine how families coped there almost 400 years ago.

We wandered the streets, prowled the bookstores (naturally), took the ferry across the St Lawrence, walked down country lanes and climbed as many hills as I climb at home every day.

And we spoke French. Or did our best. 

I can’t tell you how many years ago I last took French.  But three years in high school stuck with me a little bit. And my far more extensive years of Spanish helped some.  But I was impressed at how easilyIMG_1943 bilingual many of the people I spoke with were. Not all, of course. But they shifted so easily between French and English, even within the same sentence, that I was in awe – and wishing I had more opportunity to practice the language.

We stayed at some great small inns and b&bs.  We ate some fantastic food. We discovered churchyard after churchyard of IMG_2086dead relatives. And we met far more really fun and interesting live Quebecois.  They made us feel right at home. 

“Oh, you’re from here,” they said. “And finally you’ve come home.  Welcome back.”

I’m not sure yet what parts of our visit will make it into my book, but I’m sure some will – especially the wonderful hospitality we enjoyed.

Merci beaucoup, Quebec!

Anne’s most recent book, Savas’s Wildcat, was out in April from Harlequin Presents Extra.  Her next, Breaking the Greek’s Rules, should be out just before Christmas.

16 comments:

Karen H in NC said...

Hi Anne,

Don't you love the fact you can travel and write it off as a business expense? Gotta love that! Your pictures are definitely inspiring. I've never been that far into Canada, which is sad. Because as a Michigan native, it is an easy trip to visit Canada but just never went beyond the Niagara Falls and Lakes Erie & Ontario. A more extensive visit is on my bucket list.

Rachel Lyndhurst said...

I've never been outside Europe, Anne, but your pictures are lovely. Inspirational even! Really looking forward to seeing how you weave it into your story. :0)

emaginette said...

Another beautiful reason to live in Canada. waa-haa-haa

Kathleen O said...

Quebec City is one of our beautiful cities throughout Canada.. I am glad you are basing a book here...

Annie West said...

Anne, what terrific pictures. You've inspired me to dream of a trip there, especially since you've talked about the locals being friendly and welcoming. Sounds wonderful. I hope it proves a terrific setting for one or more of your books.

Anne McAllister said...

Karen, yes, the tax deductibility is lovely, but I'd go there anyway! And I went to my husband's reunion, which I may also use part of, but won't deduct any of that. It was his thing. But I sure enjoyed it.

Anne McAllister said...

Rachel, I hope you get to Quebec some day. It's lovely. And I'm looking forward to seeing how it weaves into my story, too!

Anne McAllister said...

emaginette, Canada is beautiful from one coast to the other.

Anne McAllister said...

Kathleen, thanks. Quebec is indeed beautiful. I want to go back and spend more time there. Loved Vancouver, too. Haven't spent much time in Toronto or Montreal or Winnipeg or Ottawa.

Anne McAllister said...

Annie, Everyone was certainly friendly to us. We felt very much welcome and at home there. I hope you do get to visit. I think you'll love it.

Di said...

I almost went to Quebec last August but we ended up going to Boston instead. So thank you for sharing your trip, those pictures give a better & more realistic look than the tour guide photos.

marybelle said...

Quebec looks wonderful. I wish I had more than a smattering of High School French.

Eli Yanti said...

a nice place, sure you enjoy your research time :)

Anne McAllister said...

Di, I hope you get to Quebec. I think you'll love it. Boston is great, too, though.

Anne McAllister said...

marybelle, your smattering of high school French will be appreciated, but you won't have trouble communicating. I managed it -- even with the one farmer in Quebec who had probably skipped ALL his English classes!

Anne McAllister said...

Eli, I did enjoy my research time! Thanks!