I love to travel. I think it’s because I grew up in a small town and always imagined what it would be like to live in faraway places such as Shakespeare’s England or on a tropical island like the girl in Scott O’Dell’s ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS. Reading only stirred my traveler’s heart. The more adventures I had through books, the more adventures I wanted to have in real life, so my parents probably weren’t too surprised when I was off to see the world at the tender age of eighteen.
Now that I’m past the backpacking through Europe phase, I’ve learned that I also enjoy staying in places that have comfy mattresses, a Starbucks downstairs, and a neighborhood in which I can wander around and experience my travel destination’s culture. Naturally, my booklover’s heart still looks for literary connections everywhere I go, so in New York City I had a martini with my husband at the Algonquin’s Blue Bar where Dorothy Parker and her friends started The Algonquin Round Table in 1919. And just last week during a visit to Chicago, my book-loving friend Jennifer and I made our way to the Newberry Library.
Do you remember the cage in Audrey Niffenegger’s novel THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE? We found it in the Newberry. I was surprised that the cage was located in a place that library users probably never go and on the most part it was a pretty average cage, but we book nerds thought it was impressive. I also loved the idea that Niffenegger would have spent time in the very library I was visiting. As readers, you understand why seeing the cage was a major highlight of my trip, right? Only true booklovers can understand what it means to experience the setting of a beloved novel.
Sometimes when I travel I turn from being a reader into a writer, so on occasion I end up using the settings I visit in my own novels. In ROSE HOUSE I incorporate my travels through the Sonoma Valley, even loosely basing my fictional town La Rosaleda on the town of Sonoma, California. I loved the lush vineyards, rambling roses, and charm of the Sonoma region so much that I had to capture the setting in a story.
St. Augustine said, “The world is a great book…they who never stir from home read only a page.” And of course it was Dr. Seuss who said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Both statements have been true in my life whether in the fiction I read or in stories that I write. Travel and fiction go hand in hand, each making the other better.
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