Reader Paula asked: Have you ever traveled to some of the locations in your books?
Yes! Not all of them, alas, but I do love to travel to the places I write about. For the Julia series, I’ve been to England–London, Yorkshire, etc.–and those trips were absolute magic. (The Yorkshire trip came as I was preparing to write SILENT ON THE MOOR and told my husband I needed to go smell a moor. And I’m glad I did! They’re far windier than I realized, and that wind has an impact on how sound travels. There’s also a glorious kind of desolation on a moor, and having tramped around one for a week, I knew I needed to incorporate that into the book.)
The more exotic locations–India, Africa, Transylvania–I haven’t visited yet, but would dearly love to. Sometimes constraints of time, budget, political situations make it less than feasible to travel to a location. In those cases, I do LOADS of armchair traveling. (Two of my favorite research tricks? First, start with the children’s section of the library. Those books will strip down the history, culture, and geography of an area so you can figure out where you want to put your attention. Then, find an author whose childhood was spent in that location and see if they wrote a memoir about it. M. M. Kay’s reminiscences about her childhood in India were tremendously helpful for DARK ROAD TO DARJEELING.)
A final note about travel: it isn’t absolutely necessary. It is a luxury, and one that you can’t underestimate. Being there lends color and detail and authenticity to your work that is difficult to achieve otherwise, but it IS possible to conjure another land without having been there. It takes more work and more imagination, but if you aren’t able to travel to a setting, never let that make you feel you haven’t been authentic enough. After all, none of us who write historical fiction are able to visit a Tudor court or the Battle of Waterloo or the storming of the Bastille.