Saturday, April 17, 2021

Sue Moorcroft’s "Under the Italian Sun" is #229 in the never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION

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****Sue Moorcroft’s "Under the Italian Sun" is #229 in the never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  

Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us?
My new book’s called Under the Italian Sun and is set in Umbria, Italy. (Right) It’s a book about identity, beginning with Zia discovering that not only has she never known her father but there are two birth and death certificates for her mother, Victoria Chalmers - bearing different dates. The working title was A Starry Italian Sky but I’m never precious about titles. My publishing team knows what will sell.

What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction? This is always such a hard question to answer because it’s been a spark in my imagination for a long time. I wrote notes in my Notes app a year before I began working properly on the idea. The first draft would have been written April-September 2020 but then there are a couple of rounds of edits. I finished proofreading queries in February 2021. (Left: Sue Moorcroft in March of 2020. Copyright by Sue Moorcroft)

Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work?  And please describe in detail.  And can you please include a photo? Two places, actually. Deprived of my usual writing retreat and writing week away because the UK was in lockdown, I wrote a bit in my back garden. (Right:  Sue Moorcroft writing in her garden.  Copyright by Sue Moorcroft)

I made a lot of use of headphones because my husband was home, too, and was building a shed. Mainly, though, I wrote in my scruffy little study at the back of my house. It’s overcrowded and the only piece of new furniture is the chair. I’m supposed to be moving to a bigger room with new furniture but it hasn’t happened yet. (Sue Moorcroft's study.  Credit and Copyright by Sue Moorcroft)

What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day? I wrote as I write most things - onto my computer, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. I do like to scribble thoughts and plans in longhand on a pad or scrap paper, too. I took a break each day for a long walk. In more usual times, I take a break for a dance class or yoga. I drink a lot Redbush tea and my bin is always full of wrappers from cereal bars. My favourites are vegan bars but it’s not because I’m a vegan. It’s because they have good chocolate. (Right: Sue Moorcroft doing Yoga.  Copyright by Sue Moorcroft)

Please include just one excerpt and include page numbers as reference.  This one excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer.

Pages 13-16, the end of Chapter One:

The next letter was dated a couple of weeks later and Gran had taken up her pen again, beginning with anxious enquiries. 

Are you sure you’re managing? Do you need money? Are you getting enough sleep? It’s all very well burying your grief in the baby, darling, but tinies are exhausting. 

Then Zia gurgled a laugh. ‘Here comes Gran’s usual bluntness. “Exactly how long do you think you can keep this up? We thought you were flouting convention when you lived with that Harry Anstey but that was nothing compared to this current caper.”’ 

‘What caper?’ demanded Ursula.

Zia was already rifling the stack of envelopes. ‘Harry Anstey! There are letters here from him too, amongst some from Mum’s friends. I didn’t know they’d ever lived together. He visited us about once a year and it was like a mini-holiday. Mum would cook big dinners and we’d go on days out to parks or beaches but I don’t remember them acting relationshippy.’ She found the letters she wanted and pulled out the one with the earliest date. ‘This is January, ’92, around the same time as Pap’s letter.’ 

The letter read: 

Vicky, babe, I can’t bear it. I’d gladly take time off work to stay with you and help with Zia but I’m sure you hate me. Do you? Can you ever, ever forgive me? 

Zia met Ursula’s fascinated gaze. ‘Why would Mum hate Harry? They were mates.’ 

‘Old flame?’ Ursula suggested. ‘All that “babe” and “forgive me” stuff? And living together? Perhaps he did a Brendon and got caught with his pants down.’ 

‘Maybe.’ Zia read on, quickly. ‘But, no, this doesn’t sound as if Harry’s begging forgiveness for straying. Listen. “If only I could relive that time when Tori disappeared! I’d sit up with her all night.”’ 

‘Tori disappeared?’ Ursula breathed, eyes saucers of astonishment. 

Then Zia read the next few lines and almost stopped breathing. ‘“Lucia Costa has been here again. I wish Tori never gave her this address. I was in the front garden and suddenly she was there, asking about Tori, ranting that you should never have taken Zia-Lucia from her in Montelibertà. Nightmare! I was as gentle as I could be, repeating what I told her last time, that we’d lost Tori and you no longer lived locally. I do feel sorry for her because she was obviously fond of Tori but if it wasn’t for her sniffing around maybe I could bring you both home.”’ 

‘Jeez!’ yelped Ursula. 

Zia’s breath escaped as a gasp. ‘Lucia Costa! Who on earth was she? Why was she looking for me? And what the hell does he mean about taking me from somewhere called Montelibertà?’ She grabbed a discarded A4 envelope and turned it over, scrabbling for a pen. ‘Let’s list significant points and try and piece the story together.’ 

They spent the rest of the evening at the task, picking at their over-cooked meal absent-mindedly as they puzzled over the letters. By midnight their bullet points filled the back of an A4 envelope. 

Weary eyes burning, Zia ran her gaze down the list. ‘So, this is what we have.’ She used her fingers to mark the points. ‘Gran and Pap thought Mum was doing something wrong but shared her grief over Tori’s death.’ Another finger. ‘Harry suffered guilt over her death. Probably Tori is the second Victoria Chalmers. Mum had been to a place called Montelibertà in Umbria, Italy and fetched me from this woman, Lucia Costa.’ She reached the last finger on that hand as she came to the final point. ‘Just after Mum and I moved to the midlands, Lucia went to Exmouth looking for me but no one told her where I was.’ She paused to rub tired eyes. ‘This is like a TV drama.’ 

Ursula grabbed another letter and read aloud from it. ‘Then in 1999 Harry says, “Oh, Vicky, that bloody Lucia Costa turned up again after all these years! I told her I knew no more than I had when you first moved away. BLOODY woman!”’ 

‘And the last few letters from him are asking why Mum’s not answering his letters any more,’ Zia rounded out. ‘He sounds so sad. The very last says: “I didn’t tell Lucia where you live, Vicky! Why would I betray you now? I’ve kept your secrets all these years.”’ 

She laid down the letter, blood rushing in her ears. ‘Holy shit. What did Mum do?’ 

Why is this excerpt so emotional for you as a writer to write?  And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt? It’s the real jumping-off point for the rest of the book, the moment when Zia finds a place to start unravelling the secrets that her family have kept from her. Part of the time, I was frustrated with Chapter One because it didn’t quite work. I knew what I wanted but failed to find the key to achieving it. Then, after the first draft was written, my editor (Helen Huthwaite, publisher ad Director of Avon Books, Harper Collins)  suggested that the writer of some of the letters should change. She was so right. After that, everything fell into place and I took on Zia’s emotions of astonishment and apprehension, overlaid with a compulsion to discover the truth. (Left:  Facebook logo photo of Helen Huthwaite.) 

Were there any deletions from this excerpt that you can share with us? And can you please include a photo of your marked up rough drafts of this excerpt? The first draft is long deleted, I’m afraid … Here’s a screenshot of changes made during the line edit. (Screenshot of changes to UNDER THE ITALIAN SUN.  Credit and Copyright by Sue Moorcroft)

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times bestselling author and has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle UK as well as top 100 in the US. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Sue’s emotionally compelling, feel-good novels are currently released by publishing giant HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by an array of publishers in other countries. Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world. (Left:  Sue Moorcroft's web logo photo.)

Born in Germany into an army family, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta but settled in Northamptonshire, England aged ten. She loves reading, Formula 1, travel, time spent with friends, dance exercise and yoga. (Right: Sue Moorcroft in March of 2021.  Copyright by Sue Moorcroft)

Discover more about Sue at 

All of the Inside the Emotion of Fiction LIVE LINKS can be found at the VERY END of the below feature: 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for inviting me onto your fab blog, Chris, and for making such a great job of the post.