Guest post: Settings by Barbara Quinn

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.

One of my favorite scenes in my suspense novel, Hard Head, is set in Siena, Italy in the stunning main square called Piazza del Campo.

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.

Twice a year, once in July, and again in August, the interior of the square turns into a madhouse when the horse race called Il Palio is run and thousands of people manage to squeeze into the square.

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

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.

She and her husband have one son, Bret, and a grandson, Ammo. Barbara welcomes email at and would love to keep in touch via

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 and Speed of Dark from

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”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with contemporary and historical novelist, non-fiction author and spotlightee Dorit Kedar – the four hundred and thirty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called Short Story Saturdays where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

4 thoughts on “Guest post: Settings by Barbara Quinn

  1. dianeokey says:

    Really enjoyed your blog with Morgen today, Barbara. Raised on the Jersey Shore myself (Brick and Pt. Pleasant), I smiled.
    Once I’m back from RWA National in CA next week, gotta get around to doing my blog with Morgen 🙂 My debut historical romance releases next week…Oh boy, talk about running late!
    Best of luck, B. Books look great!


  2. morgenbailey says:

    Thank you, Diane, glad you enjoyed it (and thank you to Barbara for writing it!). No hurry, although I am already booking interviews into March 2013! (lead times on everything else = October or earlier)


We'd love you to leave a comment, thank you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.