Hannah Fielding talks about the inspiration for her new romantic novel, The Echoes of Love, which is set in the splendour of Venice…
What made you fall in love with Venice?
Its history, grandeur and beauty. I love the red sunsets on the canal that turn the water to fire, and then Venice at night, with all its floodlit monuments that glow in the dark and the silver moon that fills the narrow canals with romance and mystery. Venice is an elemental city of stone and water and its people are the flames.
How often do you get the chance to visit?
Not as often as I would like! I was last there early in 2013 – I like to go outside of the tourist season; during the colder, misty season I find the city quite charming.
What is your favourite place in Venice?
The Piazza St Marco, because it is home to so many beautiful monuments: the Basilica, the finest example of Byzantine architecture in the world; the Doge’s Palace, with its incredible Renaissance art; and the Torre dell’Orologio, whose two great bronze figures at the top first caught my imagination as a young child, and still fill me with wonder to this day.
Will you be attending Carnival this year?
I am going to try! My son is getting married around that time, so I might be pushed for time… but I will definitely try not to miss it. I love the Carnival and I have always been fascinated by the intricate masks. Every time I go to Venice I go to visit a specialist mask shop called Ca’ Macana on Calle delle Botteghe, in Dorsoduro, which is my favourite area in Venice for its artistic and bohemian vibe.
Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for The Echoes of Love?
I first visited Venice as a young child. Then, as now, I was wide-eyed and enchanted by the beauty of the city. I distinctly remember standing in the Piazza St Marco, gazing up at the stunning architecture of Saint Mark’s Basilica and feeling I had somehow entered another world – a fairytale world. Then I looked down, at the square itself, which was overrun by hordes of pigeons, which were quite spoiling the place. And it struck me then that Venice is a city of two faces: that which the tourists flock to admire, that makes the city the capital of romance and inspiration; and the other, darker side, that which is concealed in what Erica Jong called “the city of mirrors, the city of mirages”.
When I returned to the city as an adult, I became quite fascinated by the concept of Venice – what it means to be Venetian; what the city really is beneath the layers of history and grandeur and legend. Frida Giannini wrote, “Venice never quite seems real, but rather an ornate film set suspended on the water.” I wanted to know the city beyond the film set. Venice so captured my imagination that I knew I would write a romance novel set in this most elegant and fascinating of cities. But it had to be the right story to fit the place. For me, that meant a story that reflected the two faces of Venice – the mask she wears, and the true form beneath.
Hannah novel features in our Books section in February. As well as writing, she also reviews literature on her website at www.hannahfielding.net