When I decided to set The Wedding Proposal in Malta I knew that I was going to enjoy researching the setting – Malta has a special place in my heart.
As part of an army family, I lived in Malta when I was a child. When we left after our second tour of duty I was eight-and-a-half and had lived in Malta for more than half of those years. We referred to the UK as ‘home’ but I’d only lived there for a couple of years and didn’t remember it much. But when my dad’s next posting took us to London I discovered something.
I’d really thought of Malta as home all along.
Sunshine, dust, honey-coloured stone, palm trees, sea, snorkelling, scorpions, lizards, geckos, church bells, freedom, ramparts, festas and horse-drawn taxis – they were what I knew and loved. And now they were lost.
I suggested to my parents that we return but the army had other ideas and so I’ve had to make do with (many) holidays to Malta ever since. And setting a book on the island gave me an excuse to shoehorn in an extra visit.
So, what was I likely to have to research, given that I was a frequent visitor? A lot of detail.
|Flat overlooking Ta'Biex Marina|
I’d lived in a flat overlooking the Ta’ Biex yacht marina so when I decided to put Elle and Lucas together on a 42’ boat for the summer that was the obvious place to moor it. (Additional research note: Elle and Lucas had been together four years earlier and didn’t expect to have to share a small boat for the summer. The man who kindly showed me around the real life twin of the Shady Lady said, ‘If they’re not ‘together’ then sharing a boat this size is going to cause friction.’ He was probably surprised when I laughed and rubbed my hands gleefully.) Knowing the shape of the marina and the taste of the sea when you fall in, these things weren’t enough. I had to find out where in the marina each of the boats in The Wedding Proposal would berth, and how (stern-to, ie blunt end to the shore), how essential services were accessed – one yacht owner told me when it was the time for the ‘black waste’ to be emptied ‘You go far, far out to sea’. But there is actually an on-shore disposal point!Happily, most people don’t seem to mind falling into conversation about their boats and my brother put me in contact with one English person and one Maltese who’d moored at Ta’ Biex.
And when I needed to know a depth at an exact spot, I asked a fisherman. He stuck his rod in the water, pulled it out and pointed to the wet section. ‘That deep.’ We decided it was two metres. Basic research never fails me …
And even when I feel I know my subject well, I never fail it.
Sue Moorcroft writes romantic novels of dauntless heroines and irresistible heroes. Is this Love? was nominated for the Readers’ Best Romantic Read Award. Love & Freedom won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 and Dream a Little Dream was shortlisted for a RoNA in 2013. Sue is a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner, past vice chair of the RNA and editor of its two anthologies.
Sue’s latest book The Wedding Proposal is available as an ebook from 4 August 2014 and as a paperback from 8 September.
Thank you, Sue. You make research sound like a lot of fun.
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