Cities as Inspiration

Bernini's Apollo and Daphne

Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne plays a role in One Night in Rome

by C. Margery Kempe

An awful lot of my stories take place in London because 1) I spend a lot of time there or have done 2) I know parts of the city well and they inspire good ideas for stories and 3) I love that city, so even when I’m not there I like to spend time visiting via my imagination. I setΒ Swan Prince in Hyde Park and most of theΒ Chastity Flame stories in parts of the city from the National Gallery to the Millennium Bridge.

But I’m putting the finishing touches on my new novella for Tirgearr which takes place in Rome. Ah, the eternal city! After many years of admiring the ancient world, I visited there for the first time just a couple of years ago with my friend (and fabulous poet) Alessandra as guide.

I cannot imagine not enjoying Rome but seeing the city with a Roman guide is sine qua non.

She took me to the Jewish ghetto where we had the most exquisite roasted artichoke — a flavour that lingers yet in my mouth, nutty buttery perfection. We saw the Caravaggios that never travel, hidden in small dark churches, turned a corner and stepped through a small doorway into a tiny church full of golden Baroque splendor that the outside never betrayed and she made sure I experienced that golden afternoon light that painters had sought to capture in oil and watercolors for centuries, a treasure that exists no where else.

And the food! Should I even try to describe the food? No. You have to experience it for yourself.

What’sΒ your city? Why? What magic does it hold? What keeps you coming back?

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  • Kemberlee
    May 9, 2014 at 4:37 am

    I’ve never really been a city person. Too much traffic, too much litter, too many rude people. However, as I’ve been sort of forced to visit more cities as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned patience AND to look beyond those things that irritate me. Like museums and galleries, quaint shops, and sites of historical significance. Now, I find it hard to chose one city that I really enjoy, not that I’ve been to a lot of them, but because they’re all special in their own way.

    Edinburgh’s city heart is fabulous for all the medieval architecture, some of which has been restored to original. And you can’t beat the castle on the hill πŸ˜‰

    Irish cities —

    Dublin, with it’s tiny enclaves within the city that are like dozens of little communities within the larger city one.

    Cork, formerly a marsh, the lands reclaimed in medieval times to support shipping channels which have given way to automobiles, yet the heart of the city is not effectively on an island, situated between two channels of the same river.

    Derry, the only fully walled city in all of Ireland, with a rich, although sometimes tragic, past.

    Then there’s Amsterdam. Love the canals. Like Dublin, with the tiny enclaves within the city, each with it’s own personality. And of course, the clog shops and the frites πŸ˜‰

    And of course San Francisco, a place near where I grew up, close enough for a day trip, with it’s cable cars, steep and sometimes windy streets, monuments, and Ghirardelli chocolate, of course!

    My favorite city? Absolutely favorite? My hometown — Carmel-by-the-Sea. Technically a small town which the locals have always called a village. Population around 3500, but granted city status around 1916, I believe. Founded by artists and writers, including Scotland’s own, Robert Louis Stevenson, as well as Jack London, George Sterling, Mary Austin, Nora May, Sinclair Lewis, and so many more. And of course, over the hill in Salinas was John Steinbeck who set many of his stories in the region, giving way to the moniker, Steinbeck Country when referring to the overall Monterey Peninsula.

    Of course, growing up there, I didn’t appreciate it like I do now. But there is some irony in it all. Going back to my original statement about not liking cities. How could I not, when I was raised in the heart of what’s probably the prettiest little city in America? πŸ™‚

    • C. Margery Kempe
      May 9, 2014 at 6:23 am

      I have been to Carmel and can vouch for its beauty. It’s funny how many lovely cities there are out there — and how personal taste is. I have never been seduced by Paris, we just don’t mesh. But Brussels is a very much an underestimated city with quite wonderful beauty. My new favourite is GruyΓ©re! Amazing little medieval town.

      • Kemberlee
        May 9, 2014 at 6:36 am

        I think we often equate ‘city’ with the likes of New York, Chicago, London, and other huge metropolitan places with high populations. Look at St David in Wales. Smallest city in England, and I think Europe. Tons of history, medieval architecture, quaint shops, and right off the coast so you have beaches too. Population, 2000+/-, but that includes the community outside the city center. I’d say just a few hundred actually live within the commercial ‘city limits’.

        I didn’t know you’d been to Carmel. Or did I? When we move back to CA, you’ll have to visit and we’ll take you back πŸ™‚ (if you want to see it again that is, otherwise we’ll show you around where we end up)

        • C. Margery Kempe
          May 9, 2014 at 6:44 am

          I’m trying to remember the last time I was in Cali. Must have been PCA in San Diego. No — MLA in SF. I haven’t been overly eager to go back after I left LA, but I have friends I should visit.

      • Kemberlee
        May 9, 2014 at 1:48 pm

        Apologies to anyone living in LA, but LA sucks. Too much traffic, smog, tourists, uppity celebs…Give me the laid back NorCA any day. And you can add me to the list of friends to visit πŸ˜‰ If we can swing it, we’ll probably be up in the gold country, but only 2.5 hours drive from San Francisco, Napa, and an hour to Yosemite. I’m ready now. Get your bag packed πŸ™‚

  • Madeline Iva
    May 9, 2014 at 7:52 am

    When you have a guide a city is at its best. It’s exhausting to see through all the touristy stuff that’s not for you on your own and a guide cuts through all that — sometimes you never get to anything touristy at all…that’s why I like visiting friends in cities.

  • Liz Everly
    May 9, 2014 at 9:04 am

    I’m not a world traveller–yet. But the cities I’ve been to that I love are New York City and Pittsburgh. London is getting closer to the top on my list. When we went to Ireland, I fell in love with the west coast and Galway–not a big city, is it? I’d love to see Paris, but it’s never really called to me, like the French countryside might. I’d love to see San Francisco and Portland. BTW, Kate, the Lady of Shallot is one of my favorite paintings. I have a print hanging over my bed. I saw it when it was in DC and stood in front of it for at least an hour taking it in.

    • C. Margery Kempe
      May 9, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      You know how I love Zgalway πŸ™‚ and the Pre-Raphaelites!

  • Elizabeth Shore
    May 9, 2014 at 10:50 am

    As many of you know, I just returned from Rome a few days ago. Glorious doesn’t even begin to describe it. It was my third trip there and I keep loving it more and more every time I go. Honestly, I could write a book on how much I adore Rome! It’s definitely my favorite city. That Bernini Apollo and Daphne sculpture that you’ve got pictured above in the Borghese Gallery is just absolutely stunning.

    Also, seeing as I’m typing this email from my office in midtown Manhattan, I guess I have to fess up that I’m most definitely a city girl. Small towns are lovely, but .. . um, kinda . . . well, not boring. But quiet. Yes, that’s the word I’m looking for. Quiet. πŸ™‚

    • C. Margery Kempe
      May 9, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      That’s the thing with the Berninis. I liked them until I saw them, then I was totally seduced! Jaw dropping beauty.

      • Elizabeth Shore
        May 10, 2014 at 5:17 pm

        That’s the perfect way to describe them – jaw dropping.

  • davidjmobrien
    May 9, 2014 at 11:08 am

    I liked Madrid when I lived there, though I would not like to live there now, since bringing up a kid there is not half as pleasant as here in Pamplona, with all its green spaces and easy escape. I lived beside El Retiro and spent a lot of time there. As a city, it’s a very welcoming place – more so than most capitals. There are many barrios and you get to know the locals in each barrio. In fact I went back to my old street and the waiter in a bar we used to go to was the same. He kind of recognised us, too. I am editing/rewriting my novella set in Madrid. It’s a great place for that kind of book (erotic romance) because it is a city that really doesn’t sleep much. People start their night out at 11pm or midnight, the buses run all night, the bars are open till 3 or 4 and the discos till 6 or 7am and it’s warm enough to walk around in tee-shirts and summer dresses all night, so you can show off your skin and your tan and your muscle tone (if you have any!). And I don’t know about the men, but the women are hot!

    • Liz Everly
      May 9, 2014 at 12:19 pm

      Keep us posted on that book, David! I love sexy romances set around the globe. Wink. Thanks for commenting!

    • Elizabeth Shore
      May 9, 2014 at 12:41 pm

      (Note to self: book trip to Madrid – pronto!)

    • Kemberlee
      May 9, 2014 at 2:07 pm

      Ladies, while trying not to sound like an add, C. Margery and David are writing books for Tirgearr Publishing’s new series called City Nights. Each story takes place over a 24 hour period in a city. Each book title will start One Night in… End of this month, One Night in Boise by Troy Lambert will be released as the first book in the series. This one is an erotic thriller. Next month is One Night In Paris by Lucy Felthouse, then One Night in New Orleans by Kristi Ahlers. As above, we have Rome and Madrid in the works, and I think Amsterdam, San Francisco, and if I can get my business together, I’ll be penning one in Dublin.

      Currently submissions are just open to Tirgearr authors, but that will change come 1 June! The doors will open then.

      Anyone interested can contact me off this post. General submission guidelines are on our website, but the guidelines for City Nights are slightly different. (

      Moderator, if this was too ad-like, let me know and I’ll delete.

      • Elizabeth Shore
        May 10, 2014 at 5:21 pm

        Sooo cool! Thanks for letting us know, Kemberlee. Come June 1, if you remind us, we Lady Smutters could send out a tweet about the submissions being open.

        One night in Boise . . . I think that’s a first. I know a ton about Helsinki. Now you’ve got me thinking. Hmmm …. πŸ™‚

  • C. Margery Kempe
    May 9, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Awesome opportunity! I can’t wait to see heat folks come up with, though I admit Boisie is a real hard sell for me O.o

    • Kemberlee
      May 10, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      I wondered about Boise too, but Troy wrote the story with a lightly darker, perhaps noir, setting that I think works. Roll on the 27th! πŸ™‚

  • C. Margery Kempe
    May 12, 2014 at 5:15 am

    Reblogged this on C. Margery Kempe and commented:

    What city sparks your imagination?


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