This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Our literary travel series has taken us to various far-flung corners of the globe in search of the settings behind favourite books.
Charleston in South Carolina – with its low country charm made famous in The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks; India for a tour of the locations that inspired Alexandra Potter’s The Love Detective and even Italy and Bali, where we followed in the footsteps of Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert.
Today, we’re joined by bestselling author Carole Matthews, who explains why travel has become such an important part of her research process.
By Carole Matthews
All my friends laugh their heads off when I say that I’m going on a trip for research for my next book. They think it’s all a big jolly and, when they see me on a beach with a colourful cocktail in my hand, I feel they might have a point.
But, over the years, I’ve found that travel has really enhanced my books and has thrown up ideas that I would have never previously considered. I’ve set books in Nepal and Peru and have written short stories in places like Venice, China and San Francisco. You can’t really set every story in your own town and while Google is the most fabulous tool available to writers on the planet, sometimes you just have to stump up the cash, get on a plane and go and see if for yourself.
With Calling Mrs Christmas, my heroine – Cassie Smith – is a Christmas planner who is tasked with organising the perfect Christmas for a millionaire’s children. So, of course, where else would they go but Lapland? It meant a magical trip during which I went dog sledding with huskies – the most fun you can have while wearing an Arctic suit – snowmobiling, cross country skiing and staying out in minus 36 degrees to watch the most spectacular display of the Northern Lights. That was more incredible and moving than I ever could have dreamed and I hope I’ve managed to convey that in my story. Everyone should see them at least once in their lifetime!We also spent a truly wonderful night at the world famous Ice Hotel, which was a cool minus 13 even in our bedroom! Luckily they gave us a space-age sleeping bag, which kept us nice and cosy. And the thing is, you just can’t imagine how that feels until you’ve experienced it.
But it doesn’t always have to be exotic landscapes that inspire. Several of my books are set in Milton Keynes – or the Costa del Keynes as I like to call it – where I now live. My books are published in 31 different countries and, to other cultures, I guess that is exotic!
In my latest book, A Place to Call Home, some of the chapters are set down in Dorset. We had a lovely trip there for the Sherborne Literary Festival and spent the weekend in the area. The scenery is just stunning and we spent a wonderful day in Lyme Regis and did a walk along the coast to Durdle Door. I didn’t know at the time how I’d use this particular location, but I knew that I wanted to and took loads of photographs just in case. Then, when I started this book, I knew that the location would be perfect for a romantic weekend and had lots of lovely experiences to drawn on.
Sometimes a location can even give you a whole book. Last year, after wanting to do it for ages, I took a canal holiday on a narrowboat with my dear friend, Sue. We picked up the boat in Paddington Basin, London, and cruised back to Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire. It took us seven days and the idea was that we’d do nothing but kick back and relax. My brain clearly had other ideas as, by the end of the week, I had an entire plot for a new novel, with the fabulous Grand Union Canal as the setting. And that’s going to be my summer book for next year.
Now I’m writing about chocolate and Christmas for a third novel in my Chocolate Lovers’ Club series and I’m planning a trip to Bruges Christmas market – purely for research, of course!
They say that travel can expand the mind and it certainly helps me as a writer to think of some unusual settings for my characters and my readers to enjoy. Now, where’s that travel brochure!
Carole's latest novel, A Place to Call Home, is out April 10.