When I start writing a new book I begin by finding the perfect location. I adore writing about gorgeous settings so I search the internet for photos of some of my favorites: Capri, Monaco, Rome, Paris, St. Tropez, Cannes, Portofino.
I didn’t set out to write books with wonderful locations, it just evolved. My debut novel, MONARCH BEACH, is set at the St. Regis, Monarch Beach. This was an easy choice because for the past eight years I have lived in a villa on the grounds of the St. Regis. It was wonderful to write about the things I know I so well: the beach club and the delicious buffets and the spa and the beautiful grounds.
My second novel, MARKET STREET, was set in a high-end department store in San Francisco. This also came easily because I lived in San Francisco for many years and was familiar with the high society world. I loved writing about San Francisco’s great restaurants and stunning views and wonderful neighborhoods like Presidio Heights and Nob Hill and Cow Hollow.
My third book, LAKE COMO, took me further a field, and that’s when I realized how much I enjoy setting my books in exotic locations. LAKE COMO is set in San Francisco and in a villa on the shores of LAKE COMO. I visited LAKE COMO as a child and flicking through photos online I was reminded of the breathtaking lake and the spectacular villas.
Every day when I sat down to write LAKE COMO I thought I was sitting by the lake, gazing at the glittering speedboats and brightly colored houses. I researched restaurants and menus until I could taste the bruschetta and pancetta and seafood pasta. I studied the clothing and filled the book with wonderful fashions from Milan.
Sometimes I’d check facebook and one of my friends would pose with Lake Como in the background (my friends lead a more exciting life than I do) and I was confused. I thought I was standing on the balcony of the Villa d’Este but I was only writing about it.
When I finished writing LAKE COMO I didn’t just think about what I want to write next, I thought about where I want to BE next. I knew that wherever I set my book is where I would imagine I was living for the next three months. I considered a lot of options and finally settled on Cannes, in the French Riviera.
FRENCH COAST, which will be released next April, is set at the Carlton-Intercontinental Hotel in Cannes. Every morning while I wrote, I pictured the delicious buffets and the sparkling Mediterranean and the soft white sand.
Of course, location is a small part of any story. A book has to have characters you care about and a plot that keeps you turning the pages and a satisfying resolution. But starting with the location works for me, and hopefully it works for my readers too.
Another wonderful aspect of setting my books in great locations is I end up with fabulous book covers. My publisher, St. Martin’s Press, has done an amazing job with my book covers – they all make me wish I was there right now. I love all my covers and I can’t wait to share the cover of FRENCH COAST!
Anita Hughes was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. When she was eight year old she won the nationwide AUSTRALIAN Newspaper writing competition and was named “One of Australia’s Next Great Writers.” She is the author of MONARCH BEACH, MARKET STREET and LAKE COMO. Two new novels, FRENCH COAST and ROME IN LOVE, will be released by St. Martin’s Press in 2015.