One of the questions I’m frequently asked is how much research I do before I write my novels. My answer, normally, is ‘it depends’. Some books require huge amounts of research, others require little more than my imagination
Many of my books are set in places I know well (Bristol, Brighton, London) but, for Her Last Holiday, I travelled abroad to Gozo to research the setting for the story’s past thread – a wellness retreat that ends in tragedy.
I could have watched YouTube videos of Gozo and read travel guides but nothing replaces actually visiting a place to bring a story alive. As well as the sights, sounds and smells of a place you feel that sense of otherness, of being a stranger in a strange land, that can be only experienced by travelling there yourself.
In Her Last Holiday Jenna travels to a wellness retreat in Gozo alone, desperately hoping that Tom, the self-help expert, will be able to help her come to terms with the devastating news that she’s struggling with.
I’d never visited Malta before and as a taxi drove me from the airport to the ferry I soaked in my environment, writing notes about everything I could see and how what I saw made me feel. Those notes, with a bit of a tweak, became Jenna’s thoughts.
Once in Gozo I explored the island with my friend Laura, who was accompanying me on my trip. I only had the scantest of plots at that point and what I needed was inspiration; I hoped the things we saw would spark ideas for scenes.
We spent a day in the capital Victoria, exploring the Citadel and as I stood against one of the ancient walls of the old castle and stared out towards the sea I had an idea for a scene. I later wrote that scene and then deleted it in the edit. Was it wasted? No, because it helped me to get to know Jenna better.
The scenes that did make the cut were the ones inspired by our hotel at Ta’Cenc, the wasteland behind the hotel, and the terrifying drop from the nearby cliffs. I’ve put together a video showing some of the footage I shot, giving you a sneak peek into my mindset as I was researching Her Last Holiday. I hope you enjoy it.
Signed hardbacks of Her Last Holiday, with a personalised message (and doodle if you want one!) are available to pre-order from Max Minerva’s Marvellous Books. The last day to pre-order is 20th April 2021. After that it’s too late!
UK readers: pre-order an unsigned copy (published on 29th April 2021):
Bookshop (independent bookshops)
Readers from US / Canada / Ireland / Australia / New Zealand
This smart link should take you an online shop where you can pre-order Her Last Holiday: smarturl.it/HerLastHoliday
2 thoughts on “A behind the scenes peek into my research process for Her Last Holiday”
Enjoyed your clips SO much Cally, my husband is Maltese & it’s always good to see views of the Maltese Islands
I’m glad you enjoyed them, it’s such a beautiful place. I feel very lucky that I got to go there before the pandemic hit.