Isabelle Broom takes you to Lake Como – The Place We Met
It’s off to Italy today with a taste of love, new beginnings and finding yourself
Isabelle Broom is the author on location today and as soon as Lake Como was mentioned, out came the limoncello, Italian salad and a nice bowl of pasta…oh and let’s not forget the wine…
The Place We Met is your latest book set in Lake Como. Can you tell us a bit about this book?
For a long time, I’d wanted to write a book from the perspective of two women going through opposite ends of a relationship – the beginning and the demise – because of all the emotion, anxiety and messiness that comes with it. So, I had the seed of an idea, then I read an interview with Esther Rantzen, where she talked about this little village in France where she and her late husband used to go – and where she still goes. I loved that idea of a place having such a strong link to a couple’s relationship, and started thinking about place in a more general sense, too, and then how I could feed those themes into a novel. In The Place We Met, Taggie and Lucy both find themselves in Lake Como in the run-up to the New Year for very different reasons, but after meeting, they realise they have more in common than they ever would have imagined. It was so much fun to write, and weave everything together, so I hope readers enjoy it.
Why is location important to you?
I have always said that the setting is as much a character as the protagonists in my novels, because every place has something magical about it – something that gets under your skin and affects you, changes you or inspires you. When you’re away from home in a new setting, you have the headspace to think about all the stuff you don’t have time to mull over in busy everyday life. You’re cut off from work, from social media, from your family, and all this can lead to you making some big life decisions. I know I have. As well as that, I really enjoy sharing the cities and countries I visit with readers, and taking them on a virtual journey as well as an emotional one.
How do you research a novel such as this?
I would never, EVER write a novel set in a place I hadn’t been – that’d be madness! I had been to Lake Como before, but many years before I started this novel, so I went back again over the New Year to do more research. I’m very glad I did, too, because I found myself so incredibly inspired. Parts of the plot just fell into my lap as I explored, and the book owes all its best scenes to things that happened during that trip.
How do you manage to evoke the five senses into a scene?
I think when you sit down, say at a café table on the edge of an Italian piazza, for example, the first thing you do is use your eyes. What you can see comes first, then what you can hear, what you can smell, and what you can feel. I think sometimes we can become unaware of just how much we’re taking in, but I deliberately pull this process apart when I’m writing – I want every layer, and I want all of them to be rich. When I’m taking my notes, I always write as much about sounds and smells as I do about colours and people.
Something you found surprising while researching the novel?
How many dogs there are in Lake Como! Honestly, everyone and their gran has a dog over there, which was great, because I already knew I wanted my character of Elsie to have her three Chihuahuas. And being extravagant Italians, most of the dogs are coiffed to within an inch of their lives and dressed up in little outfits. Wandering around the centre of Como was better than an afternoon at Crufts – a dream scenario for a dog fan such as myself.
Where is a place you have met someone special? A special place which is memorable to you for any reason?
The most special place in the world for me is Zakynthos in Greece (where I set my debut novel, My Map Of You) because – and this is going to sound barmy, but hear me out – it’s the place I met myself. And by that, I mean, the real me, the best version of Isabelle Broom, the happy, relaxed, open-hearted, warm person that I try to be every single day. It’s also the place I met one of my best friends in the whole world, Ian. It has soothed my heartbreak, taught me about the importance and beauty of simple things and continues to inspire me to this day. It’s where my heart belongs – my true home, I guess. And yes, I will definitely retire there one day!
You’ve been to some fantastic places so far with your novels. Prague, Greece, Spain now Lake Como……any favourites?
Zakynthos has to take the medal, for the reasons above, but I love all my book settings for very different reasons. Mojácar in Spain is so mystical and beautiful, Prague is magical and oozes with history and Lake Como is breath-taking. Every time I think about how big the world is, and how much more of it I’m going to explore and fall in love with, I get tingles.
Well, I’m just putting the finishing touches to the first draft of my next novel, which is set in Sri Lanka, then after that I’m off on a fact-finding mission to New Zealand, which will become the setting of novel number six.
Where would you like to go on a Booktrail?
With The Miniaturist being adapted by the BBC and shown over Christmas, I think it’s high time I went back to Amsterdam again and explored the historical nooks and crannies that Jessie Burton brought to life so spectacularly in her novel. Amsterdam also has an incredible food market that I’m desperate to try! Who wants to come with me? (BookTrail : MEEEEE!!!)
And now just before you go Isabelle, a few questions for Taggie?
Strengths and weaknesses: “I’m very loyal and passionate, but I can be stubborn and bossy.”
Your wish for 2018: “My biggest wish has already been granted… so I’ll settle for a nice bottle of Barolo, please.”
Favourite ‘scene’ in the novel: “When Marco carried Elsie over the broken steps and down to the beach in Bellagio. It was the moment he really started to convince me that he was something quite special.”
Character in another of your novels you would like to meet:
Taggie actually meets Hannah, the heroine of Then. Now. Always. at the very start of this novel, when her best friend Rachel is hiding in the toilet before her wedding. I chose Hannah partly because I knew she and Taggie would be kindred spirits. There’s also a cameo by one of the characters from The Place We Met in my next novel, but I can’t reveal which one quite yet…
With many thanks to Isabelle for taking us on this magical journey…and promises of more to come! Yippee!!!