First of all, many thanks to Maria Grazia for inviting me to visit Fly High!! It’s wonderful to be here today!

As some of you may know, I’ve been celebrating the release of my third women's fiction book, A Summer in Europe (http://tinyurl.com/3qk8nt8), by taking a journey around the web and talking about some of my favorite European sites, specifically the ones that appear in the story. I’d hoped to share a few personal memories of places I loved. Places that left their mark, not only on my heart and soul, but also inspired my writing.

This novel is about a character named Gwendolyn Reese, who gets a month-long tour through Europe as a 30th birthday gift from her eccentric Aunt Bea and her aunt's Sudoku-and-Mahjongg Club. She's hesitant to leave Iowa and her insurance-agent boyfriend behind for the summer, but she's never had an adventure overseas before and is soon convinced to go. Before long, she finds herself in Italy, and the adventure begins!

You all should know, there are so many places in Italy that I love…and I am, in no small way, envious of Maria Grazia and anybody that has the pleasure of living there! My husband is half Italian and one of the places we visited in the country was the Liguria region (on the Italian Riviera) where his mother’s side of the family came from originally. It’s actually not far from the city of Pisa so, while we were touring through Italy, my hubby and I visited Florence, zipped over to Pisa, then headed northward along the scenic/coastal Cinque Terra, saw the area where my husband’s grandmother was born and, finally, caught a train northward toward Genoa.

In the book, my characters visit the city of Pisa and, of course, the impressive and very well known landmark, The Leaning Tower. It was a structure I grew up hearing about from my dad because he spent a summer working odd jobs in Europe before starting college and The Leaning Tower was a site he recollected fondly. He passed his keen interest in it to me, and I couldn’t wait to see it with my own eyes!

In my novel, one of the elderly tour-group members gets the idea to start writing a thriller in the vein of J.D. Robb, and she’s speculating with another tour member in the story about how best to kill off one of her characters. In real life, I didn’t do that! (But only because I write comedies, not thrillers, LOL.) I didn’t even get to go to the top of the tower because, at the time we were there, restorations were in progress. So, my hubby and I spent at least an hour trying to take the perfect picture of this cool landmark—either pretending to “push” it or in some way call attention to the fact that it was leaning. The photo I included here is actually one of my favorite shots of him in Europe. He’s mastered the look of touristy cluelessness and, really, every time I see it I can’t help but laugh aloud.

Below is an excerpt from the chapter where my characters visit Pisa. Gwen, my main character, is listening with amusement as the math-minded members of the tour group discuss the tower from their perspective. I hope you’ll enjoy it:

Upon arriving in Pisa, Davis, Dr. Louie, Kamesh and Ani immediately began debating the Leaning Tower’s degree of tilt from the ninety-degree perpendicular.

“It looks to be about a five-degree angle,” Dr. Louie guestimated.
Davis whipped out his pocket protractor—yes, he actually carried one with him!—and held it up so he could gauge the correct angle from a distance.
“We learned in school that it was a little less than four degrees,” Ani said.
“Used to be five and a half back in the seventies,” his father contributed. “But they did all those renovations in the nineties to stabilize it, and they straightened it by eighteen inches.”
“Ja,” their tour guide Hans-Josef said, overhearing them. “It now leans three point nine meters to the southwest from where it would be if it were perfectly vertical, and it stands about fifty-six meters high. Who wants to go up to the top?”
Emerson shot Gwen a mischievous glance and mouthed, “More stairs.”
There were 294 steps on one side and 296 on the other, to be precise. She smiled back at him but waved him off. She didn’t feel like racing against anyone that day, not even herself. Instead, she hung around the grassy square, strolling past Pisa’s Cathedral and the Baptistery, drinking in the site of the famous landmark and the sunshine.
And she observed.
She watched and, yes, eavesdropped on two married couples this time—Connie Sue and Alex, Sally and Peter—as they sat on a shady bench on the edges of the square and discussed the date the tower was built, who was in political and religious power at the time, what the history surrounding the construction and reconstruction was like and so on. Aside from their professed delight in finally seeing such wonders in person, there was also a constant search for meaning within the numbers and patterns that made Gwen pause.
“It took 177 years to build in 3 stages and work was first begun in 1173…all 1s, 3s and 7s!” Sally exclaimed.
“And the same pope, Alexander III, that led the Church when they were breaking ground on the Leaning Tower also laid the foundation stone for Notre Dame in Paris,” Alex added enthusiastically.
On one level, Gwen found it funny—this incessant DaVinci Coding of Europe—but it also made her wonder what the point was of all the analysis. Like a game of Sudoku, wasn’t the puzzle merely an intellectual exercise? Even if a pattern could be found based on the scant clues given, it wasn’t as though it was the cornerstone to anything important…to any profound truth…was it?
If you’re a travel lover like me and would like to join me on my book tour/grand European adventure, the itinerary includes:

Friday 11/25: Rome at Magical Musings
Monday 11/28: Pompeii at
SOS Aloha

Tuesday 11/29: Isle of Capri at The Stiletto Gang
Wednesday 11/30: Venice at Girlfriends Book Club
Thursday 12/1: Budapest at
Women's Fiction Writers
Friday 12/2: Florence at
Writer Unboxed
Monday 12/5: London at
Austen Authors
Tuesday 12/6: Salzburg at
Robin Bielman's Blog
Wednesday 12/7: Lake Como at
Brant Flakes
Monday 12/12: French Riviera at
Get Lost in a Story
Wednesday 12/15: Pisa at
Fly High
Wednesday 12/21: Vienna at
What Women Write
Monday 1/9: Brussels at
Tuesday 1/10: Paris at
Chick Lit Central

Any updates to the travel stops or new sites where there are interviews or giveaways can be found on my website. I hope you'll join me for a few other cities on the tour!! And if you'd like to read a longer excerpt from A Summer in Europe, which is a Literary Guild, BOMC2 and Rhapsody Book Club featured alternate selection for December 2011, you can find one HERE  

"Brant's newest...distinguishes itself with a charismatic leading man and very funny supporting cast, especially the wonderful elderly characters with their resonant message about living life to the fullest."  ~Publishers Weekly

Do you have a favorite landmark from anywhere in the world? I’d love to hear about that! I’ll give away one print copy of A Summer in Europe (open internationally) to one commenter, winner to be drawn randomly on December 21st. Many thanks to Maria Grazia and to all of you for the visit!

Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant  is the award-winning women's fiction author of ACCORDING TO JANE (2009), FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE (2010) and  A SUMMER IN EUROPE all from Kensington Books.
As a former teacher, library staff member, freelance magazine writer and national book reviewer, Marilyn has spent much of her life lost in literature. She's been told -- and not always with the intent to flatter -- that she's "insatiably curious" and "a travel addict." She admits to combining these two passions by taking classes in foreign countries whenever possible and, consequently, she's been able to learn lots of fascinating things in Australia, in England, in Italy and in universities across the United States.
She studied the works of Austen at Oxford University and is an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Her debut novel featuring "Jane" won the Romance Writers of America's prestigious GoldenHeart® Award.
Marilyn has travelled to 45 states and over 30 countries (so far -- she's not done yet!), but she now lives in the Chicago suburbs with her family. When she isn't rereading Jane's books or enjoying the latest releases by her writer friends, she's working on her next novel, eating chocolate indiscriminately and hiding from the laundry.


Alessia Carmicino said...

Your book seems extraordinary!I hope so much to win!for me England is the best place in the world...I was in London last year and it looked like a dream...I hope so much to return e visit the country this time...

here my email address:

Mystica said...

I haven't travelled very widely but a landmark which for me was stupendous was the Taj Mahal. It really is nothing like the photographs. Stunning.

Theresa N. said...

So many wonderful landmarks it's hard to say, but the Statue of Liberty would be a good start for me.
Theresa N

Linda said...

I've visited Washington D C several times and am always in awe of the memorials on the mall, esp. the Washington Monument due to the simplicity. Hopefully I will get to visit London some day and see the Houses of Parlaiment, Big Ben, etc. Thanks for the giveaway.

Kelda said...

My favourite landmark is what's locally known in Dublin ,Ireland as "the towers" ,They are no longer in use ,but they were attached to a hydro generating station at the Irish Sea coast .They are among the tallest towers in Dublin .They are red/white candy striped .The reason why they are my favourite is because they are usually the first things I see when I am decending into Dublin airport and I know I'm HOME again(I live in Toronto now)! They were featured in one of the early U2 videos....I would love to visit some of the great landmarks in London someday.Such wonderful history!

Liz said...

Marilyn, you know I'm back in Greece, with Cape Sounion.

I've read somewhere that Big Ben also has developed a pronounced tilt. It's been a number of years since we were there, and evidently the tilt is relatively recent.

Lúthien84 said...

I haven't been to many places overseas but my favourite landmark is Sydney Opera House. I wish to go to England and visit some of the famous sites like Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Big Ben, etc.


Marilyn Brant said...

First of all, many thanks to Maria Grazia! It was so nice of her to invite me to visit ;).

Alessia, thank you! I love London, too...there is just so much to see there and so many of my favorite novels were set in England -- like all of Austen's books!

Mystica, ohhh, I'm envious that you've seen the Taj Mahal!! The closest I've ever gotten to it was...my kitchen...but only because I have a teapot shaped like the building, LOL. It must have been amazing to see it in person. Wow.

Theresa, my husband and I visited NYC for the first time in the mid-90s, and going to the Statue of Liberty was at the very TOP of my sightseeing list! I love it, too.

Linda, isn't Washington D.C. an incredible city? I didn't get to go there until I was in my later 20s, but I felt like a little kid racing around the Smithsonian museums, and I was especially impressed with the Lincoln memorial.

You've all reminded me of some great landmarks already! Looking forward to reading more comments in a moment!!

Marilyn Brant said...

Kelda, I've only had the pleasure of visiting Dublin once, but it's a *lovely* city! I can't remember the towers specifically, but I'm going to look through my photo album to see if they're in any of my snapshots. I love how they signal "home" for you!!

Liz, I didn't know that about Big Ben! I think this is one of those things we ought to see with our own eyes to believe it, right?! (*fantasizing about flying there and checking out this alarming report* :)

Lúthien, ohhh, the Sydney Opera House is SO COOL! When I was in high school, I joined an exchange program and, for a summer, the organization could send us anywhere... I was lucky enough to be sent to Australia (which is half a world away from the American Midwest), and I couldn't believe I was actually looking at the Opera House with my own eyes.

Thank you all for commenting already today! I'm looking forward to reading more thoughts later, and I so appreciate that you've taken time to share your favorite landmarks with me ;).

Bookfool said...

Oh, favorite landmark? That's difficult! I was really excited to see Mt. Fuji, this year. Otherwise . . . I love the Eiffel Tower (have walked past it but not gone into it) and Big Ben (which is always crooked when I photograph it but I don't know if it's leaning, LOL). Is Trafalgar Square a landmark? It's one of my favorite places. The last time I was in London, I sat in front of the National Museum on the grass, eating a cheese & onion sandwich and watching the tourists. Nearby, there were some Australians eating strawberries and drinking wine that made them wrinkle their noses in disgust. The people-watching is such crazy fun.

Good luck with your book! I would love to read it!

bookfoolery at gmail dot com

Meredith said...

I loved Marilyn's According to Jane, so even though this isn't my usual Austenesque type of novel, I would love to read it! All the destinations sound wonderful, I no I'm going to be living vicariously through Gwendolyn when I read it! I've never been anywhere! As for my favorite landmark? Well, I love the outdoors, so I guess I would love landmarks like the Grand Canyon and Niagra Falls, but I haven't been to either!

Dolly said...

I'd love to have a 'favorite landmark' in Italy *sigh*, but for now, it would have to be 'The Painted Church, St. Benedict Roman Catholic Church in South Kona, Hawaii. Just amazing.

Love your 'book tour'!

Marilyn Brant said...

Bookfool, how beautiful Mt. Fuji must have been! I've never been to Japan, but a friend of mine taught English there for a year and, ohhh, the gorgous pictures! And LOL about the people watching in London -- loved your story about the Aussie tourists! Must have been some sour wine!!

Meredith, I have relatives that used to live in Toronto and others that lived in New Mexico, so we visited Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon on family visits -- I think you'd really like them, too :). And thank you for all the sweet things you've said about According to Jane!! You know I'm so thrilled you enjoyed it...

Dolly, ohh, Hawaii (*happy sigh*)! That must be a beautiful setting for a church in addition to how stunning the interior of it is. I haven't seen it, so I just looked up some photos online and wow! I can see why you'd love it :).

Julienne said...

I liked Intramuros when I visited Manila, Philippines. We don't have any famous landmarks in the city where I live, but I love Davao!

Robin said...

I so want to lean with the Leaning Tower of Pisa one day! Loved that picture of your hubby! Let's see, favorite landmarks...probably the Opera House in Sydney or the Empire State Building in New York. The most breathtaking thing I've seen is the Grand Canyon - simply amazing!

maribea said...

Congratulations on such interesting book!!! How difficult to name just one of the places I love. I love travelling and each place I visited left something special in my mind: Egypt, Peru, Bryce Canyon, Seychelles....oh honestly I cannot choose!! And everytime I fly away, I'm happy coming back home...in Rome!
Have a nice day and enter me in this giveaway, please.

Marilyn Brant said...

Julienne, I'll bet visiting the Philippines was a fascinating experience! I've never been there, but would like to see it ;).

Robin, great choice of landmarks and I completely understand how awed you were when you saw the Grand Canyon -- it IS breathtaking!! And so, so vast... xox

Maribea, thank you so much! And I loved reading your list of special places!!! I've *always wanted to visit the Seychelles and I can only imagine how amazing it must have been to be in Egypt -- wow! But when "home" is Rome, that is very special, too! You live in a truly stunning city ;).

Literary Chanteuse said...

I used to be a back packer and traveled to quite a few countries but Europe has a special place in my heart I loved London! Thanks for the giveaway!


Rita Watts said...

I have several favorites but I am going to talk about two that are very important to me. The first one is the MAC - Museum of Contemporary Art in Rio de Janeiro (Niteroi), Brazil by Niemyer (see here http://www.stay.com/rio-de-janeiro/museum/2865/museu-de-arte-contemporanea-de-niteroi/) because it is HOME and just 3 blocks away from my apartment...like a five-minute walk smelling the sea air and listening to the waves. The second one has to be a street in Bath where I felt completely in the past (it was quite deserted). It is the same street they film a scene of Persuasion. Oh! The Houses of the Parliament in London were quite impressive too! I am trying not to mention London but it is impossible!!!!

I would like to travel much, much more but usually when I have time and money I visit my family in Brazil...so I never get to go somewhere else! Thanks for the giveaway and congratulations on your books.

PS. I hide from the laundry too!!!!


Marilyn Brant said...

Margaret, London has such an incredible number of interesting things to do and see, doesn't it?! And I think for all of us who love Austen, there's something extra special about visiting England ;).

Rita, I've had two good friends who were from Brazil and, after hearing them talk about your gorgeous country, I always wanted to see it... I hope I will someday! And I really love visiting art museums, so the MAC would be very high on my list! I have been fortunate enough to visit Bath, though, and I know what you mean about feeling "completely in the past" there. I felt that in the "Royal Crescent" area, too. p.s. LOL about the laundry!! Glad I'm not alone in avoiding it... ;)

Kristen said...

My favorite landmark is the Colosseum. My friends made fun of me - I was quite content to just plop down on a bench and stare at it. Amazing to think of how many people have done the same thing in the last 2000 years. :)

The book sounds awesome!

kly dot 327 at gmail.com

Marilyn Brant said...

Kristen, I was really awed by the Colosseum, too. You and I could have just sat there and stared at it together ;).

eyeballlucy said...

One of my all time favorite place in the world is the Grand Canyon in AZ.....just love that place so peaceful, serene, and full of God's precious glory.....babyruthmac16@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Would love to read this book. Had a short trip to Rome in Oct. 1985, that my husband won through work. I loved being there......amazing!!


kmannrn said...

I love the British Isles. They are beautiful and full of history especially the castles.

Marilyn Brant said...

eyeballlucy, it is gorgeous, isn't it?! So vast and beautiful, I agree!!

Lfsolomon, how fabulous that you and your husband won a trip to Rome -- wow!! What an amazing gift that must have been ;).

kmannrn, I was really awed by the castles on the British Isles, too! My husband is a world history teacher, so they were very high on his list of must-see sites!!

Many thanks to all of you for your wonderful comments this past week! What a pleasure it has been to be a guest here with you all and Maria Grazia :).

Kirk said...

Chawton or my grandfather's little town in Umbria. When I got back, he said "did they give you the keys to the town"?

Kirk said...

Chawton or my grandfather's little town in Umbria. When I got back, he said "did they give you the keys to the town"?

Kate Maxwell said...

We were fortunate enough to take a Best of the Med cruise a few years ago, and everything was amazing. But the highlight for me, despite the vicious hawkers, the almost knife/gun fight and the corrupt police, I would have to say the Pyramids of Giza were amazing! To have stood for so long, and the precision history and mystery of them! WOW!

I would love the chance to win this book, as it has been on my TBR Must Have's since I first heard about it!

oreannie at yahoo dot com

Marilyn Brant said...

Kirk, I would love to visit Chawton, too! I've been to other spots in England and still can't believe I missed that one. Umbria is so lovely as well :).

Kate, you saw the Pyramids??!! Ohhh, I'm very envious! It's a personal dream of mine to go to Egypt someday, but it's been so dangerous to visit, especially recently, that I've had to hold off. But one of these days, I hope...