5. Writing about Travel

Welcome to my blog on Writing about Travel.

You might think that having worked in the travel industry for thirty years writing travel articles would come easily to me but in fact it doesn’t. For me they are one of the hardest things to write.

Each of the novels in my Culture Crime Series is set in three different countries. This does not mean that they are travel articles. They have to be locations I’ve visited or lived in so that I can bring them to life. Using the senses, I describe sights, sounds and smells to enhance the readers’ perceptions and maybe even remind them of their own experiences and rekindle memories.

For example, in GOLDEN ICON, I describe a hotel in Munich where I stayed one Christmas. Josephine flees from the apartment with the priceless icon in her bag and takes refuge in the hotel. There, she finds out about a shocking death that changes her destiny…
In MASTERPIECE the location of the apartment is Strand-On-The-Green, London where my oldest friend lived and where I stayed on visits to England from Spain. It is an area that I have returned to frequently to walk by the Thames and to have lunch in one of the lovely pubs along the towpath.

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Several years ago I stayed with good friends in Dresden and visited so many fantastic Christmas markets and drank so much mulled wine I forgot to take notes but fortunately my memory served me well. I also brought home lots of literature to read though and I was able to write about Mikky walking through the city and visiting the museums.

For the art gallery in Arta, Mallorca I used the home and art studio of an artist I knew from another part of the island.

However, Lake Como is still one of my all time favourite destinations. When I stayed with my friends they made me promise not to reveal the name of the village where they lived for fear that I might become a bestselling author, my book turned into a film and the village into a tourist attraction!

But not everything in the novel is true. There are some things that you just have to create. For example, the Theatre Il Domo.
Anyone who knows Como, will know that a prestigious theatre built into the lake does not exist. I made a creative decision to place this theatre there and in doing so, for my research, I studied architectural designs and glass domed structures and created a special and dramatic location as a venue for my protagonist, Josephine Lavelle to sing Tosca.
Travelling, taking notes and making observations is part of my life but sometimes you might do a lot of research thinking you may use a place or a scene but then you don’t use the research for your original intent.

For example: In Dublin, Daniel O’Connell championed Catholic rights to give their dead a dignified ceremony in a cemetery that was originally called Prospect Cemetery. This is now know as Glasnevin Cemetery and contains the graves of some of Ireland’s most prolific national figures; politicians, writers and musicians.
In my early draft of GOLDEN ICON I wrote a couple of scenes set in 1832 that revealed how and why the Golden Icon was made and how it came to Ireland to finance the rebellion against the English and how gravediggers stole it from a travelling Priest. I became so engrossed in this story that I decided that if I used it as a prologue in my novel it would detract from the modern day main part of the book, so I used it as a stand alone short story in RED SHOES called Dublin 1832.
This goes to show that research is rarely wasted.
I spent a fascinating morning at Glasnevin Cemetery and Museum and learned an enormous amount about the history and oppression of Ireland. Sometimes it can be a few years later that your memory is triggered and if you can locate your relevant notes then you can use that research to make your story more authentic.

I enjoy travelling and reading and I’m in the fortunate position to write what I like and what I enjoy. Quite honestly when I go on holiday I find it interesting to read something about where I’m staying. I remember years ago finding a book shop in Barbados and a novel that was very different to books on sale at the airport. I think my books are great to take away on holiday. Especially if you are visiting the location where one of the scenes is set.

REMEMBER: Travel well and wisely. Take a notebook and lots of photographs. Be kind to yourself – write what comes naturally to you.

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Next Blog Post: Writing History and Linking it to Today.

Lake Como

Janet Pywell

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