By Maggie James
I have been passionate about foreign travel for as long as I can remember. During my twenties I did various solo trips within Europe, but yearned for more. My first big travel adventure started in 1989, when I embarked on a nine-month journey to Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada. Things were rough at first - nothing could have prepared me for India, my first stop. The noise, dirt, hustle and bustle almost proved overwhelming, especially when I was struck down by dysentery, a horror I hope never to experience again! Throughout the nine months, I grew more travel-hardy and overall had a fantastic trip. Over the ensuing decades I have carried on travelling, with my last big trip being a year-long visit to Asia and South America, which is when I wrote His Kidnapper's Shoes. Since my return I have become a full-time novelist, and in the future I'd like to combine the two great passions of my life by becoming a nomadic novelist. After all, I can write my books anywhere in the world via my laptop. I'm currently planning my next adventure!
As part of my 'Five' series, I though it would be fun to examine five other novelists who have been keen travellers, or whose trips have influenced their work. So, without further ado, let's pack our bags and journey to some amazing locations!
1. America's South-West - Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov was a Russian-American novelist. His most famous novel, written in English, is Lolita (1955), notorious thanks to its controversial examination of an affair between a young girl and an older man. Nabokov had an avid interest in butterflies, which was what led to his exploration of the region, rather than a prurient interest in children (we hope!)
The area is stunningly beautiful and includes Arizona, parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Texas, Nevada and California. As someone who has long wanted to drive acoss the southern USA, I'd love to follow in Nabokov's footsteps, although without the butterfly net! Monument Valley will be a 'must see' on my itinerary when I do so. Perhaps it's time to write a road trip novel?
2. The French Riviera - Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald and his family once rented a seaside villa in Cap d'Antibes, where he wrote his most famous novel, The Great Gatsby. The French Riviera is located in the south-east of France on the Mediterranean, and became popular during the eighteenth century as a winter vacationing spot for the British upper class. It has also played host to other famous writers such as Aldous Huxley, Somerest Maugham and Edith Wharton.
I've not visited the French Riviera for many years, but I well remember the fabulous wealth of Monaco and the beauty of the scenery. France isn't on my immediate list of countries to visit, but it would be good to return one day and explore further, following in the footsteps of the famous novelists I've mentioned.
3. The Florida Keys - Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway is inextricably linked with the Florida Keys, in particular Key West, where he wrote To Have and Have Not. He also worked on the draft of A Farewell to Arms while living on the island.
The drive from Miami through the Florida Keys is spectacular, and one I remember well, my destination being Key West with its relaxed atmosphere. When I was there in 1994 I visited Hemingway's house where he lived for eight years. As an avid animal lover, I was entranced by the cats there, all descendants of Hemingway's own felines and sporting six or seven toes rather than the usual five. The house itself contains much of interest and was one of the first on the island to benefit from modern plumbing and a swimming pool.
4. Henry Miller - Paris
Henry Miller was an American author who developed a new form of writing novels, penning semi-autobiographical books involving social criticism, philosophy and explicit sexual references and language. His best know works include Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and Black Spring. He lived in Paris between 1930 and 1939, which is where he wrote Tropic of Cancer, telling a friend he'd write it as 'first person, uncensored, formless'. Whilst there he became friends with the British author Lawrence Durrell and began his affair with Anaïs Nin.
Paris is an easy trip for me, being a short hop on the Eurostar, and I was last there about eight years ago. The city has been home to many famous writers, including Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo, George Sand, Marcel Proust, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean-Paul Sartre.
5. Cornwall, UK - Virginia Woolf
I've not visited Cornwall since my teens, but seeing the BBC's recent adaption of Poldark reminded me how beautiful that part of the UK is. I also read The Fire Child by S K Tremayne recently, which features the old Cornish tin mines along with photographs of them. The town's lovely coastal scenery, including Godrevy Lighthouse, may have been the inspiration behind Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse.
Other authors, including Poldark's Winston Graham, have used Cornwall’s landmarks in their books. Mary Wesley's The Camomile Lawn features Roseland House; the Headland was used in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches. Daphne Du Maurier's books also rely heavily on Cornwall as their backdrop. Perhaps it's time I paid the county another visit - who knows, I might get inspired for a future novel!
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