Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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My ghost decade: 1953

Two days and The Devil Under the Sea hits the shelves (but you can preorder it right now), and I got thinking about the 1950s.
Now, the 1950s are sort of a gray area as far as I am concerned – a gray area for my generation of Italians, really: the history program in school stopped at the Second World War, and we were born in the late 1960s, so the ’50s sort of fell between what we learned and what we experienced. A sort of “ghost decade”.

And yet, with hindsight, it was a pretty exciting decade1.
It was the decade of bebop and rock’n’roll.
It was the decade of revolutions and uphevals.
It was the decade of the New Look, and of the Dolce Vita.
A lot of stuff happened, and the world was shrinking.

1950s_decade_montage

The density of events in the 1950s is both a joy and a horror when writing The Corsair.
I wrote about 20 pages of what was planned as the third story, set in Egypt in 1953/54, before I checked my facts and found out the whole action took place during a coup that basically locked down the nation under martial law.
Oooops.
Scrap the thing, redo from start.

But I already told you I like doing research, and after all the events in the ’50s were quite influential on my life, and exploring the decade is becoming a hobby (another one!) of mine. Continue reading

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The Deep (1977)

I don’t remember exactly when I saw Peter Yates’ The Deep, the movie based on Peter Benchley’s novel of the same title, for the first time. I know where I saw it – in an open-air movie place in Diano Marina, while on vacation with my family. A movie about the sea, in a seaside movie theater.
It was 1978 or something.
I am absolutely sure that my devastating crush for Jacqueline Bisset has its deepest roots in this movie.

Jacqueline Bisset + fish - The Deep (1977) 2

Now, I re-watched it yesterday afternoon, in a pause in my writing, while I enjoyed a big serving of chocolate ice cream with whipped cream.
And truth to be told, with the exception of the underwater footage and Jacqueline Bisset (yes, I’ve still got that crush), this is not a particularly good movie.
It was filmed two years after Jaws, but it does not have the stopping power and the persistence of Spielberg’s movie. Continue reading


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Visit the Mediterranean

mediterranean cruiseWhen I started writing The Corsair, the idea of setting the stories in the Mediterranean area was one of the main premises of the series.
I wanted the glamour, exoticism and variety of the Mediterranean coast, along which three continents meet.

As part of the research for the series, I collected a number of travel posters from the 1930s (the era in which I originally planned to set the series) and the 1950s.
The posters were useful both in determining the main tourist destinations in the area in those years, and in defining a certain atmosphere and style.
Here’s a very small selection.
Enjoy!


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Researching far and wide

Something I often discuss on these pages is the joy (and pain) of doing research when writing.
Being a naturally curious individual, I actually enjoy doing research, and quite often I see writing as an opportunity to explore some issues that interest me.

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Also, the amount of research is connected with the volume of work I am planning.
For a quick short story, say, set on Titan, the moon of Saturn, a selection of articles on the topic, plus the usual resources found online are normally more than enough.
Something particularly interesting and useful for the story might emerge, and then I’ll go in deeper on that single detail, usually while revising the first draft.
But in general, let’s say that, as a rule of thumb, a 6000-words story should be based on no more than one weekend of reading and note-taking. “For Dummies” books are a great resource when writing short fiction1. Continue reading