I’m somewhat afraid that my response will be shorter than the question, to be honest!
From where I sit, you cannot be a competent writer, let alone a good one, unless you are a voracious reader. You need to learn sentence structure, vocabulary and, frankly, what it’s like to have your breath taken away by brilliant prose. You learn what makes a story work, what tropes matter if you do genre fiction, and more. It’s important to read widely, across both fiction and non-fiction work, because both will improve your craft.
Besides, there are no “new and original” stories in the world. They all come from myths and archetypes far older than we are … no matter what story you’re talking about.
I didn’t have to think twice about the answer this time. The Restaurant Jardin-Notre Dame is kitty-corner from Shakespeare and Company, in Paris’ Latin Quarter. It has a gorgeous view of Notre Dame Cathedral. The food is good, the staff is congenial … and it’s in Paris.
The restaurant has been there for decades; one of the photos on the wall shows the Resistance outside the establishment during World War II. There are bullet holes in the walls (I am not kidding) from the fighting during that period.
I loved this place so much that I had Catherine and Farukh visit it during their first date in His Beloved Infidel. I can think of no better place to sit and write.
The short answer is yes. The long answer is a bit more involved, as you might expect.
In my debut novel, In The Eye of The Beholder, is a character named Gilbert Rochambeau. Gilbert was originally going to be a minor character. He had a function to play, and that was going to be that. Bye-bye, Gilbert.
I wrote myself into a corner at one point and realized that the problem was with Gilbert: he wasn’t done talking yet. He needed to play a far greater part in the story … and so he did, carrying right over into the award-winning sequel, In The Eye of The Storm.
The lesson I learned from all of this was that sometimes our characters have better ideas than we do!
Here’s a quote from the 2017 post, sharing one of the two examples I gave at the time:
I was still an active equestrian athlete when I wrote In The Eye of The Beholder … which features a woman whose job at the Opèra Garnier was to ride horses in some of the mid-show spectaculars that composers put in their productions. They were desperate to get opera-goers to look at the stage and not one another; in the late 19th Century, people went to the opera to see and be seen, not so much for the performance. My experience in dressage allowed me to write intelligently about what those performances might look like, what kind of equipment was used, etc.
In The Eye of The Beholder is currently available for $1.50 (a 50% discount) at Smashwords. Click on the link above to get your copy today!
Here’s a quote from the previous blog entry, explaining why:
I think what draws me most to historical fiction is the glimpse into how people lived in other eras. I have always found that fascinating. Social mores, fashions, even food! I recently completed a course on royal food and feasting from the Tudor to Victorian eras.
I enjoy the process of researching a story, and I love the richness of detail that comes from doing that work. I’m one of those rare birds who treats research as a treasure hunt rather than a chore; the hardest thing I experience is limiting how much research I do, because it is far too easy to go down a rabbit hole and never do any writing!