by A.L. Knorr
The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice (1730)
I moved to Italy (by accident, but that’s a story for another time) in June of 2015, and since then, one of the things people at home are most curious about is what it’s like to live and work there. When I first arrived, I had stars in my eyes, just like anyone who steps into the Italian life for a short time. The Italy in the imagination of someone who has never been there is an Italy of fantastic works of art, thousand-year-old churches, fine cheese and wine, and villas built into cliff faces over teal seas. That is all true. Whatever your taste, Italy can meet expectations. But after a time you begin to notice other, not so obvious, traits of the culture which could easily feed the appetite of an author looking to create conflict and tie in elements of the supernatural and fantastical. Italy is rife with conflict, danger, corruption, not to mention a rich history of unexplained and paranormal events. Rich ground for a storyteller.
Specifically, it was living in Venice for 8 months that yanked the rip-cord on my creativity and led to a work called Born of Fire. The story is a fantasy about a young woman who goes through an intense and dangerous elemental transformation. I had the idea for the story for a while, but the setting for it didn’t materialize until I spent time walking the canals and islands of Venezia. At first, I rejected the idea of setting it in Venice, after all, it is a city built on water, how could I possibly tie it into the element of fire? But as I toured the Palace of the Doge, visited underground prison cells, the bridge of sighs, and walked the uneven marble floors of the basilica and saw the true cost of building on top of a lagoon, I learned that Venice had a torrential relationship with fire and many boroughs had been completely destroyed by it. I was surprised by this, the city appears not only to be surrounded by water but to be made of stone, which doesn’t burn easily.
In actuality, the stone faces of the beautiful architecture in Venice are a facade. Underneath is brick, which is lighter and keeps the building from sinking but is also much more flammable. There were so many deadly fires that by the mid-sixteenth century, the Venetian government moved all of the glass-blowers along with their dangerous ovens north to the island of Murano. I suddenly had a relationship between fire and Venice. A setting for Born of Fire had been found and with the selection of a setting, so much of the story just fell together. I hope that, in addition to enjoying a fantasy story about a girl who finds herself in desperate need to take control of the fire raging inside her, readers who have never visited Venice will also feel like they’ve been transported to one of the most unique cities in the world.
You can check out A.L. Knorr’s books here.