Will Travel For Words
I’m a writer. An author. My first book is a travel memoir. My tactic, however, is not to write travel essays or guide books in order to make my living (although I wouldn’t whine about it if someone made an offer, hint hint). My quest is a bit different. The hand-painted cardboard sign I would hold up would read: Will travel anywhere, anytime, for words. I intend to make my living wandering the earth and traveling back through time in search of a great story.
Although my first book, Bonjour 40, is non-fiction, about happily suffering through 40 days in Paris to celebrate my 40th birthday, the rest of the books I plan to write are all historical fiction. I have a journal of book ideas I keep stashed in my office (many authors do), and my two current novels and future ideas all center around historical periods and questions that begin with the magical, “What if….”
Historical fiction story ideas come naturally to me. They come in these spark-filled moments where the world freezes and fireworks shoot off while all sound ceases. After those ah-hah moments, historical stories are a lot of work. A big heaping pile of research goes into them. However, what they
afford me is the ability to get out from behind this infernal machine to travel. I have traveled across the eastern states, down back roads, through city streets and into alleyways, into small towns and ancient churches, found ale and grub in pubs, looked across mountains and oceans, hiked forests, and all the while tumbling down these fabulous wormholes through time.
While researching my new book about the American Revolution, I’ve had the joy of wandering with Jennifer Patton from New York’s Fraunces Tavern and with Bill Ochester, who plays Ben Franklin in Philadelphia, as they helped me strip away 2012 to show me the cities of 1776. For another novel I’m working on about the 1969 Woodstock festival, I just returned from standing in the field at Yasgur’s farm where I felt the hum of peace, love and
human optimism that has sunk into the soil and still fills the air 43 years later. I couldn’t be there when it happened because I wasn’t born yet, but I can propel myself there to experience it as my characters would have.
I don’t understand authors who write about places where they’ve never been. Not because they can’t write it well. Some do. They’re simply missing an opportunity. Travel for work means it doesn’t feel like work, and when it doesn’t feel like work then life feels like a vacation. It means my curiosity is satisfied often. It means some of my travel dollars are tax-deductible. It means my butt gets a workout as my mind is filled with sensory perceptions I
can’t find on Wikipedia. It means I live here, but also there. Now, but also then. If we only get one life, historical fiction lets me experience more of them, and the travel will help give my writing more life.
So for me, I will travel anywhere, anytime, for words. If you see me standing on the side of the road, holding up my cardboard sign,
pull over and we’ll take a marvelous trip together. Buckle up. Trust me. It’ll be one heck of a fun ride.
Karen A. Chase is the author of Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log (40 years. 40 days. 40 seconds.). She is the owner of 224Pages, a design studio specializing in the creation of book materials for authors and publishers. Her weekly blog, Compositions, focuses on writing and creativity in fewer than 250 words.
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