Will Travel For Words: Italy Meets the American Revolution by Karen A. Chase
I’m in a funny space right now. At the end of the month I’m heading to Italy for a long awaited trip. At the same time, I’m finishing the last chapters of a novel about the American Revolution that I’ve been working on for five years, determined to complete it before I go. However, trying to do both has my head spinning some days.
One moment I’m looking at guide books, and trying to learn basic Italian, and the next I’m reading a book about the colonial era Shawnee, and trying to learn how to make a poultice from Willow bark. Sometimes I’m refining my outline for the final chapters, and then I’ll remember I have to add deodorant to the travel list. I’m thoroughly surprised that my protagonist has not picked up mascara on the way to the Battle of White Plains.
In some ways I’m relieved to have this Will Travel For Words column because it allows me to bridge the two lives I’m leading right now. It’s given me time to think about how the two moments are shaping me and influencing each other. What I have discovered is that preparing for a trip, and doing the research to write an historical fiction book are a little bit similar.
On the one hand, it’s the research I do before that is so crucial. If I’m feeling anxious about the trip and unsure of where I will be going, it’s because I haven’t thoroughly read about the place yet. If I’m sitting before my keyboard unsure of where my characters are going, it’s because I haven’t thoroughly read about the history they’ll encounter yet. In those moments, it’s best to put down the pen and walk into a book.
The other parallel is that at some point the research has to stop and the doing has to begin. I kind of look at research like spelunking through caves. One cool factoid seems to lead to another, but soon you’re running out of rope (time) and you don’t remember why you went in there in the first place. How do I know when enough is enough? It’s the cross section between feeling fidgety (must move, must write), and boredom (not learning, just reading now), with a dash of guilt on the side (a book deal isn’t going to happen if you just do research). So, I read. Then I do.
Below are a couple of my favorite resources, and a rough outline for the trip. As for finishing the novel I’ve outlined before I go, you’ll hear me whoop and holler from wherever you are if I accomplish it. So, with my itinerary loosely set, and my last few pages awaiting me… Off I go to once again travel for words.
Top two guide books for Italy:
Top two books about the Revolution:
My Italy Itinerary:
Sept 25–30: Provence with friends.
Sept 30–October 4: Friends go with us to Cinque Terre
October 4-9: The Northern Lakes, Como and Maggiore
October 9-12: Milan
Follow my trip to Italy right here at Shelf Pleasure. You can come with me in posts about the trip, and hopefully there will be one or two from the road. Ciao until next time.
Karen A. Chase is a regular contributor to Shelf Pleasure, sharing journeys near and far in the pursuit of stories and novels in her monthly feature, Will Travel for Words. She is the author of Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log, winner of seven Independent Book Publishing Awards for travel and design. She is currently working on an historical novel set during the American Revolution. Find Karen on Facebook, or on Twitter.
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