Today Adriana Licio is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies, the first book in the Homeswappers Mystery series.
Welcome, Adriana. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies is the first book in a fiction series called The Homeswappers Mysteries, but the idea underpinning the series is somewhat autobiographical. For the past 15 years, my hubby and I have been taking all our holidays by swapping houses with fellow travellers all around the world. When Frodo, our golden retriever, joined the family in 2010, we gave up flights and started to drive all the way to destinations in Europe. We have been to large cities such as London, Prague, Stockholm, Vienna and Paris, but what we love the most is to discover tiny places that (almost) no one has heard of. We love small towns, villages and hamlets.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
Rothenburg ob der Tauber was one of the first places we visited with Frodo back in 2010. The place is enchanting, a quaint medieval town surrounded by ancient walls with pastel-coloured half-timbered houses and mysterious watchtowers. At night, you can join the Night Watchman for his tour as he takes visitors to discover the hidden corners and forgotten secrets of the town. The guy is really good at telling stories, but all the time during the tour, I couldn’t stop thinking, “What would happen if he were to drop dead with a halberd in his chest?”
Exactly ten years later, I decided to answer that “What if?” – with a purely fictitious Night Watchman, of course.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
There are two themes overarching the whole series and both are very precious to me.
The first one is friendship, both between humans and between a human and their pet. Can you think of anything more precious than friendship? I can’t. I also believe that friendship is a rather odd kind of a plant as it can blossom between the most unexpected individuals, for example two women with extremely different characters, or a human who can’t stand pets and a… Basset Hound!
The more obstacles it has to overcome, the deeper friendship’s roots will go.
The other theme is that of empowering women in general, and women over 60 in particular. My grandmother used to say (after having brought up 5 children and looked after a husband with a temper) that life started at 60. For now, I’ll take her word for it.
I was also inspired by my great grandmother, who was a very independent woman. She used to move around between Campania and Apulia anytime she felt the urge, driving her horse and carriage. She also used to go to the theatre alone at a time when most women would never dream of doing that.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
That’s part of the magic of writing. I knew I wanted to write a series set across a number of small European towns, but I had no idea who the main characters would be. A couple like my husband and me? Two sisters? A whole family?
Then one morning, from nowhere in particular, two ladies – Etta and Dora – sprang to my mind. At a particular point in their lives, they had just retired and were shocked to discover the paltry pension they would get – hardly enough to survive on, with nothing left to fulfil their dreams of living a decent life and enjoying a little trip away every now and then.
Characters have a tendency to come up with their own baggage. In fact, I soon found out the women were living in the two quaint villages we get to know in the prequel to the series, Castelmezzano, The Witch is Dead. Etta is strong willed and opinionated, whereas Dora looks on the surface of it to be a people pleaser… but she knows how to work things the way she wants.
And then there’s Napoleon, or simply Leon, a Basset Hound with an attitude who makes his debut appearance in the first book in the series, The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies. And he possibly is my favourite character!
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
I’m a travel freak. I’ve been dreaming of travelling since I was a child. And I do not need to travel to exotic places; I’d much rather discover new people and places, even quite close to home. The important thing is to have the “Traveller’s attitude” – that is, curiosity and being a good observer. And a well-developed sense of irony comes in handy because when you travel, the strangest things are bound to happen.
So to answer your question, when you write about something you love, you’ve already brought it to life before you ask yourself the hows and whys.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
Guess what? I travel. I love research trips!
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
Just that it’s giveaway time! If your readers would like to let me know which town intrigues them the most among the four shown on the covers of my books, I will pick a lucky winner to receive a free eBook of The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies, Book 1 in the brand-new Homeswappers Mysteries series.
Which of the four places featured on the covers would you like to visit and why?
1) Castelmezzano, a small fairy-tale town in Southern Italy perched up amongst rocky outcrops.
2) Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a medieval town in Germany with half-timbered houses in an array of pastel colours, ancient townwalls and mysterious watchtowers.
3) Mecklenburg, the land of 1,000 lakes and beautiful mansions in Northern Germany.
4) Aero Island, a small Danish island of cobbled streets and the most charming Christmas market.
Thanks for answering my questions, Adriana, and good luck with The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies, the first book in the Homeswappers Mysteries series. I’ve read the book and really enjoyed it. I’m sure anyone who reads it will fall in love with the characters.
The book is available online at the following retailer:
Amazon Free on Kindle Unlimited
About Adriana Licio: She loves loads of things: travelling, walking, good food, reading, small villages and home swapping. She runs her family perfumery and between a dark patchouli and a musky rose, she reads and writes cozy mysteries. She resisted writing for as long as she could but one day she found an alluring blank page and the words flowed in the weird English she learned in Glasgow.