Incorporating travels into your work
We all know how important it is to give a feel for a setting in your work. We all know that it’s vital to really be authentic in our writing. The natural extension of these is to actually travel to wherever it is that your book is set.
The internet is fantastic at showing us places where we haven’t been, but it doesn’t give you the feel for a place–the sounds, smells and atmosphere. You can’t talk to people or watch them as they go about their ordinary lives on the internet.
No, the best thing to do is to go to wherever your story is set if it’s at all possible.
Naturally, as I write historical romance and no one has yet invented a time machine (that I know of), that’s not really feasible for me. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t still get a feel for someplace and sometimes even how it might have been in the early 19th century.
When I traveled to Basel, Switzerland when I was researching my novella A Spanish Dilemma, I got to much out of that trip. Going there added a new dimension to my writing. It gave it that authenticity.
I’ll be able to do the same thing, or close to it, as I’m writing My Gentleman Thief about a Greek man who is searching out ancient Greek artifacts in Regency London. I’ve been both to Athens and London (and, more importantly, the British Museum) recently and in the past, even to a smaller private museum in London where I got a feel for both a Regency home and the way collectors might have displayed antiquities they’d bought.
But I’ve just returned for a fantastic trip to Cyprus where I visited the museum in Nicosia (the capital). It’s got a large section of ancient Greek artifacts which were found on the island (which has been influenced by the Greeks since the 12th century BC). This is great! It’s fascinating! It’s just the sort of thing that I writing about in my story… um… kind of.
The question I’m grappling with now is how I’m going to work this into my book.
The book I’m working on is about a Greek looking for ancient Greek artifacts. What I saw in Cyprus are such artifacts, but they weren’t taken from Greece, they were made by the Greeks in Cyprus. Or if they were taken from Greece to Cyprus it was when these artifacts were brand new. In other words, they don’t fit the narrative.
The only thing I can do is to research archaeology in Cyprus (a surprisingly difficult task — I keep ending up with what they’ve found, not how or when they found it). I can use the pictures I took in the Cyprus Museum as examples of items my hero finds in London during the Regency. And I can even have him mistakenly think that some of these items came from Greece, when in fact, they came from Cyprus (I have discovered that “treasure hunters” went to Cyprus during the early 19th century searching for artifacts to sell, so it’s entirely likely that these things ended up in England in a private collection).
It’s all rather tricky and it involves a great deal of research. Does that mean that I’m not going to do my best to use what I’ve learned? Absolutely not! It means that I’m going to take an extra day or so to do that research. It means that I’m going to have at least one scene where Cyprus is mentioned. I won’t be incorporating the feel of Cyprus into my story since it’s not set there, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t at least work in what I’ve got and what is relevant.
Cyprus is a beautiful, fascinating country and the next time I go (and I truly hope there will be a next time), I’ll make time to visit the archaeological sites at Salamis (which I could only drive by on this trip). There is much to visit and explore, but for now I’ll use what I can and hope that it adds an interesting little something to my story, or even better, perhaps what I write will inspire someone else to do a little research into the history of Cyprus or even to go travelling there themselves.