Fay Keenan is the author of the bestselling Little Somerby series of novels. Her fifth novel, ‘Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace’ was released in August last year. It explores the lives of a school teacher and an air ambulance pilot who just happen to live next door to each other. While writing the novel, Fay approached us to ask if it was possible to gather some research from one of our pilots. Mario Carretta kindly agreed and Fay tells us a little bit more…

“When I started working on the novel, I knew I wanted the main male character to be an air ambulance pilot. As always, when I am writing, I was hoping to be able to pose a few questions to someone who actually does the job. As an author, being able to have information about what it is like to work in a particular field or to experience a certain situation is invaluable to come straight from the horse’s mouth. It is invaluable to have and lends to much more authenticity in my writing.

After contacting the charity with a request to have a chat, the wonderful Unit Chief Pilot, Mario Carretta agreed to help me. Even though he had been on shift until about 3.30am, he spent the following morning answering all manner of questions; some straightforward, some a little more offbeat, with charm and good humour.

One of the things that struck me, was the way in which everything and everyone is part of that process of saving lives. The skill involved in being part of an air ambulance team is evident; from the high-tech equipment in the operations room to the onboard procedures and supplies that support the expertise of the crew and allow them to do their job so brilliantly.

But saving lives is not just about procedure and protocols. Something that was most evident to me in my discussions with Mario, was the sense of camaraderie and teamwork that permeates the daily lives and routines of Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. The constant ‘checking in’ with crew members, the ability to listen and support each other during the darkness and the light of the job and the relationships that make the most difficult situations bearable.

All of this was not just great to hear, but it also gave me a real insight into how to write my character, Sam, convincingly and well. Add to that some truly lovely details, such as the way fireworks look from above through night vision goggles (not to mention shooting stars!), I really felt as though I had got ‘under the skin’ of the fictional character I was creating, thanks to Mario.

‘Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace’ came out in August. I am so pleased that I got the chance to spend some time talking to Mario and to learn more about how Dorset and Somerset Air ambulance operates. It was not just useful for the novel, but a real privilege; I hope I have managed to do Mario and the team justice through my fictional lens. Thank you again for giving me a glimpse behind the scenes!"