by Luca Veste
The story on the front of the paper wasn’t even the main headline. I only picked the paper up on my last day in town wanting a memento of my trip.
“First Case Confirmed in State”
It’s early March, 2020, and the story is on the front page of the local Connecticut newspaper, The Day. You don’t need to be a connoisseur of mysteries to know what happened next. It’s been almost three years since that time – my first research trip out of Liverpool, England – and it still makes me shake my head. How did I manage to coincide this massive trip just at the onset of a global pandemic?
You Never Said Goodbye is my eighth novel. The previous seven have all been set in the same place – a place where I step out of my front door and I’m instantly on a research trip. My home city, Liverpool. All research took was walking around, trying to find new locations for different scenes in my books. For this new book, I made a decision.
Setting has always been important for me. I’ve always tried to make Liverpool, England, a living and breathing place that bubbled underneath the surface of character and plot in my previous novels. When I decided to move away from what was so familiar, I took a long time to decide on where the action in You Never Said Goodbye was going to take place. I had the idea for the book a long time ago, but I knew it wasn’t going to work without broadening my horizons when it came to settings. This was going to be an expansive novel, taking place in two very different places – the beginning in a small town in England, the majority of the novel somewhere different …
And that’s how I found myself in a small town in Connecticut, USA, called Mystic.
I looked at a number of small towns in northeastern USA, perusing thousands of photographs, reading numerous articles, before deciding on Mystic. The fact it was on the Amtrak route from Boston, made it a lot easier to get to as well. I flew into Boston, alone, with a small suitcase, my cell phone, and a notepad.
I spent a week in the town and its surrounding area. Soaked up everything I possibly could. Thankfully, the people couldn’t have been more inviting, more amenable. I ended up in bars, bookshops, and diners until late every night. Early mornings, I would walk until my feet began to protest. Evenings, I would talk to strangers and hope to catch an idea or a line for the book. I ended up with more than I would ever need.
And when I got home, the world was about to change.
I wrote the book in lockdown surrounded by pictures and voice notes. I had taken hundreds of pictures, recorded hours of my own voice (and overheard conversations). In the book, Sam Cooper, the main character, takes the exact journey I did. He’s a fish out of water throughout, which I wanted to experience myself. Without all the violence and heartache, of course, but having walked the same streets he does in the book. Having eaten in the diners and drank in the bars, it all added up to a sense of place in You Never Said Goodbye that I was hoping for when I started.
I can’t wait to take my next research trip.
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