A 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 do 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.
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.
We 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.
In 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 easily 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 dead 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.