This is the last week of the tour for A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING, and I hope you’re keeping up with the lastest! The social media buttons on the bottom of the page will hook you up with my Twitter, Instagram, and FB feeds so you can come along for the ride even if you don’t live near one of our tour stops. In the meantime, here on the blog we’re revisiting some of my favorite reader questions from years gone by. Today reader Carroll R. wanted to know about the travel I do for research, particularly for CITY OF JASMINE. This post originally went up in August, 2014.
I loved the description of Damascus, the bazaars and the restaurant where they ate and the feeling of being there in that time—-What did you research to be able to describe it so well, and, as I was conjuring it in my imagination I wondered if their orders at the restaurant (I think it was this restaurant in Damascus) were typical of that time or was it a generic order you might do now as well as back then? I know that sounds weird, but I know you do a lot of research, and by the time we got the restaurant, I wondered about the specific orders—the same with describing riding on a camel — it was a great description and I just wondered if you tried riding one to describe it.
When I’m very lucky, I’m able to travel to the destinations I write about, but sometimes that’s just not possible. I haven’t been to Transylvania or Kenya or the foothills of the Himalayas, and right now, Damascus isn’t, unfortunately, on anybody’s travel list. When I can’t travel, I immerse myself in as much armchair traveling as possible. I read guidebooks, old and new; I read cookbooks, folklore, children’s books. I scour the internet for trip pictures posted by people who have been there. I print maps so I can trace my characters’ journeys, and I read memoirs written by people who grew up in my setting.
As far as the food goes, the meals I wrote about include traditional food of the sort you could order now or a hundred years ago in Damascus. It’s an extremely cosmopolitan city with food from all over the world, but I wanted to focus on the customary cuisine that would be fairly commonplace to someone from Syria but exotic to an English character.
And yes, I have ridden a camel. It’s not nearly as charming as you would wish!