How many of you have traveled specifically to do research for your novel?
As the title states, I want to give you some practical tips for traveling for research based on my experiences. And then I will follow with some of the things I learned that will be important for my novel. These are the subtle nuances I picked up that wouldn’t have necessarily been found in online or paper research. This part will include a sharing of photos so I wanted to let you know that the nuts and bolts will be first, followed by fluff (in case you are in a time crunch) smile
I needed to do research for a story that has been in my heart to write for years. I could have written this book when it first appeared in my head. After all we do have the Internet and plenty of travel books to peruse, but I really wanted to travel to Spain. I am a kinetic learner and need to experience the hands on feel of a place to get the setting just right.
I finally had the opportunity to travel to Spain. My hubby wasn’t interested, but a girlfriend wanted to rent a car and drive around the country and she needed someone along who spoke Spanish. My hand went up immediately. And we all know how God's perfect timing works. I was free for the first time in years to go that far away from home and I had the money.
|Coast near Navia, Spain|
Nuts and Bolts of traveling to Europe (specifically Spain)
1. RICK STEVES TRAVEL GUIDE is a must. He focuses on cultural history sites to visit and sets you right in the heart of the interesting tourist part of the site. He even gives recommendations for places to stay in a range of prices. So we were able to stay in nice places at really reasonable prices where we could walk around and enjoy his self guided tours. He gives information for walking tours and recommendations for professional tours.
2. PACK LIGHT. Did you hear me? I took one small suitcase and had everything I need. See the photo below? My apartment in Seville was on the third floor of the building to the right. See why you travel light? We had to roll our luggage from the parking lot, down this narrow street and up three flights of stairs. The good thing about that is you can eat all the bread and fried potatoes they serve in Spain with every meal. LOL
|My apartment in Seville is on third floor above me|
Plan ahead to save sample containers of makeup and toothpaste, etc. Bring clothing that is polyester because they don’t wrinkle and when you hand wash, they dry overnight. My favorite pants were by PrAna. The pant legs zip off below the knee so they make capris or long pants and look dressy.
Pack everything in zip lock baggies. Take quart, gallon and two gallon spares. This makes it easier to sort through what you have. By squeezing air out of bags, you can fit more in your SMALL case.
3. Leave one fourth of your suitcase empty so you have room to bring back the things you want to buy.
4. COMMUNICATION: International phone service on your cell phone is available, but pricey. You can set up SKYPE. I talked to hubby every morning for free. I took a Kindle Fire HD to use for internet. My friend used her I Phone for Internet (not phone service). All the places we stayed had free wi fi. We purchased a cheap burner phone in Spain and bought minutes so we could call and make reservations, get directions, etc. By the way, in Spain they have traffic circles so you can just drive around and around until you figure out where you are. LOL
5. TRANSPORTATION: We rented a car before we left and it only cost us a little over $300 for the whole month. So you can see it is cheaper to do it ahead of time and while home. You can shop around for the best deal and also have it all set up so when you arrive at the airport, you hop right into your car. (Well after standing in line LOL)
All major airports have information booths with multilingual staff so you can get bus and train schedules. We took local buses and the metro while in big cities. It is easy to do with a schedule in hand. Every town in Spain had an information booth and I got the impression that most of the towns in Europe provide these. However, keep in mind that in Spain everything shuts down in the afternoon. They do take their siesta time seriously. You night owls will love it though because the towns are alive with shops and restaurants open until eleven or midnight.
6. MONEY: Spain uses Euros. No need to pay the exorbitant fees of money changers. Major airports have ATM machines. Most banks do charge for each ATM transaction so when you do get cash, get the full amount allowed. You will be charged the same fee for a $20.00 deduction as for a $200.00. So go for the one time fee. If you can find a bank that is online only, they have to give you ATM cards with no fees. My friend does this and saved lots of money. My ATM fees were more than my credit card fees.
You can shop for credit cards that don't charge international exchange fees. I didn't know to do that, (sigh) but did save myself tons of money by putting a credit on my account. My bank charged 3% daily. So if you charge something at the beginning of your billing cycle, that purchase will get charged 3% every day. By having a credit in my account, the purchase was paid off so only got charged the minute it came in. This saved me money. I used my credit card for most purchases.
A money belt is wise in crowded areas where pick pockets can abound. I rarely had to worry about this, but was glad to have the belt when I needed it.
7. TAX DEDUCTION: Remember any travel you do for your writing is tax deductible. SAVE RECEIPTS. These are a must. Keep a daily log with references to all the places you went that pertain to the research and why. Keep a log of expenses so if audited you can present your expenses in an organized and precise manner. Travel expenses are allowed, but you must use them in a book within two years. Oh dear--a deadline already.
8. RESEARCH: There are many ways to take notes: dictate in your electronic device, photos, write notes, send yourself emails. I took lots of photos of the displays in museums including the written descriptions and info so I will have a reminder of what they said. (See sample below) We took tours in each major city to start with which would lead us to specific places to find info. I also collected email addresses of people willing to help and answer questions that might come up in the future while writing the manuscript.
Do you have to travel to your location to write an authentic setting? No. Just ask the other Seekers. There is plenty of info out there on the Internet and with the Internet you can connect with people who live in the areas you are writing about.
I am a writer who tends to make my settings a very integral part of my story and in order to do that, I have to experience the setting in person.
Anyone else out there like that?
All of my books are set in locations I have lived in or traveled to. My current release, LOVE’S REFUGE is set on an island in Puget Sound off the coast of Washington. My hubby and I spent a couple of weeks on a similar island where my aunt and uncle had built a cabin. The setting was so unique that I just had to use it for a novel. Then I had to think of characters who would live on that island or visit it. Hence, Skye and Danny were born. And many of their experiences on the island are similar to those hubby and I experienced.
CURRENT OF LOVE was set on a steamboat cruise up the Mississippi River. Hubby and I had won a trip to New Orleans and decided on taking the same cruise described in the novel. I interviewed crew members while on the cruise (hey, I’m a writer—what can I say?). I then came up with reasons my characters would be on the same steamboat. Hence Janelle and Rett were born. And many of their experiences are similar to those hubby and I experienced.
Are you seeing a pattern here? Can you catch a glimpse of the added value of traveling to the location of the setting of your novel?
Travel to these locations not only gave me hands on experience to write into my setting, but inspired the plot and characters of the novels.
I loved Spain. They have statues of Jesus everywhere. And holy days are national holidays. All Soul's day fell on a Friday so the Spanish had a three day weekend.
|Statue of Jesus|
|Hiking in Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park|
|Picos de Europa Natural Park (We hiked 9 miles here)|
|View of the forest from the hunting palace of the king|
A last minute decision was to swing by Jerez and go see the horse show put on by the Andalusian School. What beautiful horses and riders. Now my character will certainly use some of these moves to impress the ladies. smile I would't have thought to use them before this.
|Practicing for the show at the Andalusian School in Jerez|
We toured the bull fight ring and in the museum I discovered that my hero would be living in the period of time bullfighting evolved. The men training for battle would practice their horsemanship skills in the plazas and the bulls would provide the role of the enemy.
|Painting in museum shows evolving of bullfighting|
While roaming around the countryside, my character will be using old Roman ruins that are still in use today.
|Roman bridge in Ronda-Buses and trucks still travel on this bridge.|
|Roman bridge (See people walking on the top)|
|Cathedral in Segovia|
|Cathedral in Ronda|
My character wanted to serve God, so he thought he should be a priest. Circumstances prevent this but he does serve God in a mighty way that he isn't even aware of. (Don't we all know how that happens?)
Anyway, I visited the churches he would have worshiped in--huge cathedrals filled with statues and paintings on the ceilings and walls. To me, they seemed rather gaudy, but I was reminded by a tour guide that in the days these cathedrals were built, the people did not read. So the statues and paintings were put there to tell the stories in the Bible. In other words, these cathedrals are giant picture books. Now that tidbit of knowledge is going to change big time how my character views his time in church and his memories and thoughts of church.
|Gabriel talking to Mary (this is not old, but I really loved it)|
In Spain the story of Jesus is still told in the manner they used for centuries. Each church builds a float that tells part of the story of Jesus' life. On special holy days, they parade their floats in the order the story goes. As the floats passed by, parents tell their children the story. In Seville, the parade during Easter week is world renowned. One and a half million people come to see this event. The floats are huge. They weigh over a ton and are carried by the men of their parish. They have two sets of forty men who walk under the float and they take twenty minute shifts carrying this huge float.
|The float of the Roman soldiers confronting Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane|
|Famous float of Mary (as described in Revelations ) at the Cathedral of Macarena in Seville|
All of this information gleaned from touring the cathedrals in Spain will change how I portray my character as he attends church. I might not have picked up many of these subtle nuances from books.
Well, I hope I haven't bored you to tears. I actually have over 700 photos so be thankful. LOL
Pork is a favorite food in Spain so I will serve tapas with jamon (ham) and cheese. We have potato tortillas (these sound weird but they are to die for), paella, and fresh squeezed orange juice. Fresh bread and olives are always served with every meal. Most meals include fried potatoes and yummy salads. Deserts include a delicious pudding type crema.
Every block has a bakery with breads and pastries. Lots of chocolate too (after all they brought chocolate from the Americas). They also make churros to dip in hot chocolate. Every block has bars that serve drinks at night, but I loved them because they served coffee in the mornings. Expresso lattes are a favorite there. Be careful though because they make their coffee STRONG.
So enjoy the feast.
And tell us about any travels you did for research. All who comment will be put in a drawing for your choice of a copy of my new release LOVE'S REFUGE or a copy of my new audio release of LOVE'S MIRACLES. Or if you're traveling and want a Rick Steves travel guide you can choose that as well.
If you haven't already, join us for the blog tour of LOVE'S REFUGE set up by the amazing Amber Stokes at SEASONS OF HUMILITY and enter the rafflecopter contest for a kindle loaded with all of my ebooks.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING. I am always thankful for the Seekers and our friends in Seekerville.
|Excavation of Roman city of Baelo Claudia|