The Next Chapter

How a trip to Venice changed Roberta Rich's life — and made her the writer she is today

The novelist and Vancouver resident shares the inspiration behind her Venice trilogy.
A Trial in Venice is the final instalment in Roberta Rich's trilogy of historical fiction. (Doubleday Canada)

Roberta Rich is the bestselling author of a series of historical novels set in Venice in the sixteenth century and revolve around the life of a midwife. The final book in the trilogy is A Trial in Venice. This interview originally aired on Jan. 1, 2018.

 "My life before I started writing was as a lawyer in Vancouver. I was always a writer, but it was not until I sold my law practice 15 years ago that I started writing full time. I had originally started writing mystery stories about — guess what — a Vancouver divorce lawyer. However, as a result of a trip to Venice that my husband and I went on, I decided to try writing historical fiction, in particular about the Jewish ghetto in the city. I was transfixed by the contrast between the luxury of the Grand Canal and the rather humble, dark dwellings of the ghetto. I thought, 'When I return to Vancouver, I will read a historical novel set in the Jewish ghetto and understand how people lived 500 years ago.' I found, to my surprise, that such a book did not exist. And so I thought, 'Here is a gap that must be filled' — that's how I came to write The Midwife of Venice. I started out knowing very little about the sixteenth century and midwifery and almost nothing about Jewish history. And to my utter surprise, it very quickly went on to the Globe and Mail bestseller list and then Random House wanted me to write another two books. I took a big gulp and said, 'Yes! I'd love to!'"

Roberta Rich's comments have been edited and condensed.