Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Armchair Traveller

Barbara here. Rick has brought up the subject of traveling to research a new book, so I thought I’d continue this theme and provide some research tips of my own. He and his wife are currently in Italy, which brings me to my first tip. First, choose an exotic, faraway location for your next book. Second, set your book in the summertime, or at least not in the dead of January or February. Who wants to see the wonderful statues of Florence while shivering in a parka or under an umbrella? Third, make sure to sample the local cuisine and shops. You want your book to have realism, so readers can feel they are there on the streets. Take lots of photos, so that you’ll have those details to refer to during the later writing process. The grinning spouse in the foreground can be ignored.

Unfortunately I’ve been able to do none of this for my latest book in progress. The next Inspector Green novel, now going by the title THE WHISPER OF LEGENDS, is set in the spectacular world heritage site of Nahanni National Park Reserve in Canada’s far north. The Nahanni is a world-class wilderness river, which Green’s free-spirited teen-aged daughter has decided to tackle in a canoe. When her group disappears, Green is forced out of his comfortable Ottawa office and out into the wilderness. Those familiar with Inspector Green know this is not an adventure for him, but more akin to a walk into Hell.

I have set the book in the summer, for obvious reasons. The Nahanni in the winter is a frozen wasteland in perpetual darkness. But because of the publishing schedule and my own time commitments this summer, I will not be able to go there personally before the completed manuscript deadline next April. The more research I do, the sadder I feel about this reality. Luckily, I have been on a wilderness rafting trip to another river up in the far north, and can draw on those experiences for some of the feelings, the sense of awe and the experience of wilderness camping. I have sat on a make-shift privy in the middle of an alpine meadow with my trusty turquoise bear horn at my feet, savouring the extraordinary beauty of the glacial mountains and alpine flowers while at the same time keeping a sharp eye open for grizzlies. Without those “gut-level” experiences, I don’t think I could bring the story to life.

Beyond that, I have relied on the amazing amount of information available on the web, in books and in photos, as well as detailed topographical maps from The World of Maps, my local map store. Nowadays, it seems everyone who has canoed the Nahanni has written a blog about their adventures and posted photos to their site. There are even YouTube videos of canoes running each of the many rapids, allowing me to see not only what the scenery looks like, but how the canoe travels in the water and what paddling moves the riders have to make. Extraordinary! Without the web, Google, and the generosity of other travelers, this book could never have been written.

Next time I will post about the numerous connections and contacts I have made since I began this odyssey. All of whom have had their experiences and knowledge to share.

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