In which we’re talking about book-related travel

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.


6 thoughts on “In which we’re talking about book-related travel”

  1. Carol Graham says:

    ssshhhh….I almost have my husband convinced I need 6 months on a world-cruise for something I will write someday.
    In all seriousness, don’t you find that research can be like a drug: one quick search leads to another leads to a day in a University library. Although I would never use it straight up, sometimes Wikipedia is a gateway: I have pillaged the sources list at the end of some articles…and some of them lead me to other sources…

  2. gladys says:

    is all your research done before you write or do you find yourself researching in the middle because something pops up

  3. I’m finally getting to London this fall, and I’m ecstatic. My husband and I are going together, sans children. To actually walk those streets is a dream of mine from so long ago, I can’t even remember when I first imagined it. For years, my husband has been going all over the world for work. In his current work, he doesn’t travel as much and this turns out to be a boon. Now I get to go with him when he gets the travel itch, and it’s my turn to start picking the destinations. 🙂

    1. Kristi Burch says:

      Jennifer,
      I’ve had the privilege to travel a good bit to places I read about (UK, central Europe, Egypt, Israel).
      It will come alive for you. What I enjoy most is listing (audible.com) to the stories on my way and while I’m there.
      I could so visualize Julia walking in her weeds down St. James.
      Deanna has a way of bringing to life something I would find in year of travel research.
      BTW, when planning trips I often start with children’s book too!!! Keep it simple.

    2. Lynne says:

      Jennifer, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven. London is wonderful. Have fun!!!

  4. Lynne says:

    I’d agree wholeheartedly about travel not being necessary. One can be an armchair traveler and learn a great deal. (True, you cannot smell a moor in a book…) I’ve only been to the UK once (still saving for the next trip), but I know so much simply by reading…travel books, history, fiction like yours, maps(Google!) and so forth. The library, a favorite bookstore, even friends who travel – all goldmines of info. Yes, climbing on a plane or train is great. But books are certainly a fine substitute until that next trip!

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