Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of settings, is brought to you by novelist, short story author and publisher Barbara Quinn.
Settings are extremely important in fiction. Think about memorable scenes in your favorite novels and I bet you conjure up a picture so vivid you think you can smell and hear it. Whether it’s fantasy worlds such as those created in The Hunger Games or Lord of the Rings, the mansions and surroundings of The Great Gatsby, or the orphanage of Oliver Twist, memorable settings reel you in and deposit you on heady shores. They breathe life into a story and can become another character in the book, one that makes a reader want to visit in person and follow in the footsteps of the characters you come to know so well.
Siena is a charming walled city with medieval roots. Its winding streets and sepia light beckon you to wander slowly through its mazes. The central shell-shaped square, Piazza del Campo, is a jewel.
After walking the winding streets, it is breathtaking to spill onto the Piazza del Campo from one of the tiny narrow streets that lead into it. As you enter from dark passages, you are immediately immersed into light and air.
In the Palio, jockeys ride bareback and circle the Piazza del Campo three times. They cover the inner square with dirt to provide some traction, but it is not uncommon for riders to fall off and horses to stumble. The race itself takes only a little more than a minute. Events leading up to it occur over four days. Ten horses and riders representing sections of Siena ride around the square at a furious pace. The winning horse does not even need to have a rider. Amazingly, the horses without riders still run hard. The participants do it all for the right to display a banner.
I’m not a fan of crowds and have never attended the Palio, but the spectacle of that race has been a draw for me since I became aware of it many years ago. I knew I wanted to set a part of my novel there. So when I was writing Hard Head, I steeped myself in every article, account, and picture I could find to understand the rituals and pageantry. Incidentally, the title of the book, “Hard Head” is a term commonly used to describe people who come from Calabria, the place of birth of my main character’s ancestors. She journeys to several places in Italy including Siena and Calabria.
I did eventually visit Siena and its gorgeous Piazza del Campo, not during a Palio, but during the fall season, when the walls were covered in a fiery orange from climbing vines. There’s something magical about the square, and the history associated with it. I was most content to sit in the Piazza and sip an espresso. The square was all I had imagined it to be and I could imagine the thunder of the horses and the shouts of the crowd.
Is there a magical setting or event like Il Palio that you’d like to visit?
Thank you, Barbara!
Barbara Quinn is a novelist and award-winning short story writer, and Founder and Former Publisher of The Rose & Thorn www.roseandthornjournal.com.
She is the author of four novels: Speed of Dark, 36C, Slings and Arrows, and Hard Head. The novels run the gamut from light women’s fiction to dark paranormal suspense.
She practiced law for ten years, and held many jobs from lingerie sales clerk to postal worker, cocktail waitress to process server.
Her love of travel has taken her to four continents and 47 states. She splits her time between Bradley Beach on the Jersey shore and Montebello, New York.
In Hard Head, Rosanna Sweeney defies her father’s deathbed order that she never go to Italy. She and her teenage daughter journey across Italy to the Calabrian town of her father’s birth. In their quest, they find romance, learn about one another, and uncover a past that links them to secret societies far worse than the Mafia. Can they survive their dark legacy? Hard Head is available from http://www.amazon.com/Hard-Head-ebook/dp/B0075XR288 and Speed of Dark from http://www.amazon.com/Speed-of-Dark-ebook/dp/B005UI7B5E.
Photo of Piazza del Campo, Siena by Ricardo Andre Frantz
If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.
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