Sunday, 13 September 2009

Travel through books

I always loved the “journey” a good book took me on – if the author’s words grabbed me just right, I was able to believe that I was anywhere in the world the story took me even if it involved time or intergalactic travel. I felt like I was able to see a foreign city that I had never visited or lived in a time long before I was even born. My library card was always my passport.

Just like the common quip we so often toss out when we hear of someone else’s vacation plans – “pack me in your bags” – opening a good book gives me many of the advantages without being cramped in a suitcase!

I am by nature a “homebody” and feel quite comfortable in my own setting. I’ve had some delightful travel adventures, more than some and less than others. With the advantages of modern technology and the internet, I have also virtually visited many other interesting locales. Some of these other locations seem to become so familiar to me that I have been able to use them quite successfully in my own writings.

It was amusing when a reader of my second novel, Forgotten, commented how well she remembered some of the sights I described in Las Vegas, When I told her I had never been there myself she was quite surprised. I’ve had similar experiences with my novel Hostage Heart and my settings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Little Rock, Arkansas. Between listening to my husband’s tales about parts of Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and virtual visits to both cities mentioned, I felt quite comfortable setting my stories there. It was an actual online real estate listing that gave me the information needed for the Little Rock home that the hero bought.

Of course there are the places where I have been, all flesh and blood of me. Even then I find that re-visiting the spot via the net is helpful. LOL, I grew up in New York City and I remember the first time I went to visit the famous tourist attraction Empire State Building, I was already a teen-ager. Just like the beautiful parkland near where I presently live, most people seem to take “their own backyard” for granted, I had many friends who had NEVER been to visit the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty or many of the fantastic museums throughout the city. So a virtual visit helps to refresh the memories and sometimes even introduce new sights.

Traveling though books should be more than just describing a setting or listing the buildings that the place may be known for. Each town is an experience with colloquialisms, food, climate, manners and more. My research includes more than a few local pictures and tourist listings. I also research local restaurants especially where I can see a menu, I check local real estate listings so that I could understand what the homes are built like, I check the weather and the schools. It’s especially interesting to get a look at online newspapers for the area when they are available.

By the time I am done with all of my research, I feel like I’m ready to move in!

From Hostage Heart:

Ryan ate Veal Grillades over rice with a side of hush puppies. He watched the people around him and was fascinated by the variety of cultures that made up Louisiana’s Creole population. All day he had heard a variety of French words, smelled fragrant Cajun cooking, saw lots of Carribean-influenced architecture and enjoyed Zydeco, Blues and Cajun music coming from every tavern. Combined with traditional southern hospitality, he figured it must have been an interesting place to grow up. He had done his share of traveling, especially since he joined the agency, but he was a New York boy through and through.

He wondered where he and Deanna would settle and raise their family. He decided he definitely wanted more children although he was sure she’d like to wait a bit for the next one. Of course that was all assuming she would say yes. He was nervous. The ring box was in his pants pocket, he wanted to keep it close to him until he could slip it on her finger. Then he would just keep her close. He didn’t want to wait long to get married, he had lost too much time already. Maybe they should just go to the local Justice of the Peace. If Deanna had dreamt of a big wedding, they could always do that after the baby was born.

He checked his watch again. It was still several hours before she would be at work. Ryan realized he was going to drive himself crazy until he got to see her, until he got to propose. He had cafe-au-lait, coffee with cream, and another beignet for dessert. After the meal, which he realized he ate more out of nervousness than desire, he decided to take a walk in the area. As he walked down the street he passed a tavern with soft blues being played. The name on the tavern was ‘Laisez les Bons Temps Rouler’, Let the Good Times Roll. He was tempted to stop in but he didn’t want to propose with bourbon on his breath. He felt tongue-tied as it was.

Ryan walked. He walked past the university and he headed towards the Mississippi River beyond it. An old–fashioned paddle boat was slowly making its way up the river. Nerves were driving him and the later the hour got, the more nervous he became. Finally he headed back to the hotel. It was dark and his feet were hurting him. The lobby was getting emptier and it was still too early for Deanna to be on duty. He went up to his room, took off his shoes, turned on the television and set his alarm for one-o’clock just in case he dozed off. This way he wouldn’t pounce on her as soon as she came in, he’d give her a chance to settle first.


Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Chelle! Thank you for your super blog post. I agree with you about the thrill of 'armchair travel' via books: that's one of my key pleasures. Lovely excerpt - I felt to be with Ryan as he ate and planned and dreamed. You capture all the colours and flavours of other places perfectly.

StephB said...

I've been to a lot of places in Europe, but I've never been to New York. I'd love to go! I agree - research is so important and with Google Earth and the ability to search for pictures, it can give you a good visual for your setting.


Kimberlee Williams, Vanilla Heart Publishing said...

Here at Vanilla Heart Publishing, we always have a lineup of volunteers to read Chelle's newest manuscript. I usually have to beat them off with chocolates to be able to have first read, lol. One of my beta readers actually calls and asks me 'has Chelle sent anything?, I need something good to read!'

For me, I love curling up with one of Chelle's manuscripts and 'visiting' her settings.

Chelle Cordero said...

Thank you Lindsay, StephB & Kimberlee for your comments. The ability to escape in our fiction helps to explain why sales of escapist genres tend to go up (percentage wise) in times of stress.

Lindsay, I hope you enjoyed the flavors of Baton Rouge.

StephB-if you need to speak with a NY gal, just contact me anytime.

Kimberlee, thanks for swelling my head (as usual) ;>

Mona Risk said...

Chelle, you made my mouth water with the memtion of beignets. I could picture myself sitting at the "Café du Monde." Great excerpt. You use the food in a delicious way.

Savanna Kougar said...

Chelle, so true about traveling with a good read. It was one of the big delights of my childhood.
Yep, that is definitely one advantage of internet travel for us authors.
I did get a chance to visit New Orleans for a few days. Your scene brought it all back. Thanks!

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Chelle, I love virtual travelling too, and I'd love to visit New Orleans. Now I can do it through your book - yay!

Jane x

Cheryl said...

Hi Chelle,

I read one time that Diana Gabaldon had never been to Scotland when she wrote her first book, "Outlander." I would never have known it--her descriptions were so beautiful, I could see it all. But then, I'd never been to Scotland, either. LOL Still, I know she had done massive research on the place and that book was so well done that it gave me courage to know that I could write about a place I'd never been to--the old west.

It sounds as if you do much extensive research for your settings, too. I really enjoyed your excerpt, btw.


Zequeatta Jaques said...

Hi, Chello. Loved your blog. And I know what you mean about "journey" with a good book. With a good book I can sit in my comfortable reading chair and travel anywhere.

Chelle Cordero said...

Hi Mona, Savanna, Jane, Cheryl & Zequeatta - thanks so much for taking the journey with me.

Mona, part of the "flavor" of most cities is the cuisine - thank you for thinking it was tasty.

Savanna, how honored I am that my description reminded you of Louisiana!

Jane, so glad I can give you this brief get-away.

Cheryl, you really stroked my ego by complimenting the excerpt - thanks!

Zequeatta, my living room recliner is my favorite "traveling chair", lol.