The novel I recently submitted to an agent with working title 'The Grandson' is set in Siena, Italy. I lived in Siena for eight months in 1994. Five months of that time was spent studying Italian and three months was spent as an au pair. In 'The Grandson' the main character, Jessica is an au pair and she looks after an eighty year old lady called Sophia. Sophia's Italian-American grandson is the hero, Alessandro.
I have an album full of photographs from my time in Siena which I've used as inspiration for scenes in my novel. It's amazing how a photograph can jog a memory. The picture above was the view from the flat I lived in when studying. I've used that view as the opening scene in my novel. The heroine, Jessica is hanging out washing when the hero buzzes on the intercom.
In 2006 I went to Florence for the weekend with some friends and I got the bus to Siena for the day. I took some more photographs that day to help with scenes I'd written or planned to write. Here is a selection of photographs which I've used as inspiration for scenes.
Above: The view from Jessica's bedroom window. The other rooms in the flat overlook Tuscan scenes.
Above: Jessica's flat is the one with the washing hanging from below the window
Above: The grand entrance to the flat where Jessica lives.
The restaurant where Jessica and the hero, Alessandro go for dinner twice. The first visit is a success. The second visit at the end of Act 2 is a disaster.
The above photograph was taken at the August Palio in 1994. At the end of Act 1 there is a series of scenes on the day of the Palio. This photo provided me with so much information: The heads in the crowd facing the same direction, children sitting on parents' shoulders, contrada scarves wrapped around shoulders, people taking photos, the red material hanging from windows, the way people in the crowd are crammed together, the hot weather demonstrated by the boys with bare torsos, the fact that noone can see anything...(The Palio is a bareback horse race around Siena's main square, La Piazza del Campo. There are two Palios each year in July and August. Siena is divided into 17 contrade, meaning districts. In each Palio 10 contrade take part)
The photograph above was taken at the street party of the Tartuca contrada which won the Palio in August 1994. There is a street party scene in my novel where another girl, Natalie competes with Jessica for Alessandro's affection.
The family that Jessica au pairs for have a villa in Castiglione della Pescaia, a charming seaside resort not far from Siena. Alessandro turns up at this villa to surprise Jessica at the beginning of Act 2.
This is just a handful of the photographs I've used to help bring scenes to life when writing my novel. I'd be interested to know if you've used photographs as inspiration or if you have any other comments.