Thursday, June 04, 2009

When the Sun Goes Down...: Travel and the Writer

Hi! Thank you so much for inviting me to blog here today! I’ll be giving away a copy of one of my Harlequin Blazes, ONE FOR THE ROAD, to someone who comments on this blog. Check back tomorrow morning for a winner….

Now, onto the topic… There are a lot of wonderful things about writing for a living: arranging your own schedule, actually making money from your daydreams, and giving free rein to your creativity. But, for me, traveling is the very best part.

Every trip I take is an opportunity for a story, whether it’s a casual weekend cruise with friends to Mexico (Check out my story in the Blaze anthology JINXED for that one.), a longer trip to London for devoted research (my most recent Vampire Babylon trilogy written as Chris Marie Green), or a road trip to write a chick-lit story that became a different book altogether (ONE FOR THE ROAD). I think that when you experience a setting firsthand, it becomes a strong character in your book, and that’s worth every penny you spend.

For my latest release, a Blaze called WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN… (June, 2009), I used a trip to Japan to build the setting of my novel. The rain-slicked night streets of Tokyo not only became its own character for me—I think it added to the development of the characters, too. In this Romeo and Juliet type story, the hero and heroine hail from two feuding families back in the States but decide to live for the moment with each other in exotic, erotic Japan, so there was plenty of opportunity to use my travel experiences in karaoke “snack bars” and even a ryokan, a traditional Japanese hotel.

What are some steps I normally take to make sure my travels lend to a story?

1. This sounds really obvious, but bring along a little notebook that fits in your pocket or purse. I even forget to do this sometimes, LOL. I can’t tell you how many times I sat on a bus, thinking about where I was, observing, coming up with a phrase to describe my experience, and then…forgetting it. All you have to do is whip that pad out and scribble down your impressions, and your words are gold when it comes to writing time. Also, when you take pictures, it’s great to be able to reference what exactly it is you were looking at, plus sensory details. I wrote WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN… a few years after my Japan trip, but with my notes, it felt like I was there again.

2. #1 leads right to another point—when you get home every night, try to journal, if possible. I’m not just talking about notes, I’m talking about full-on thought expansion, where you let yourself flesh out your experiences of the day. This also serves as the best souvenir ever; I go back to my travel journals all the time to see where I was at in my life on a personal level, too. Besides keeping a journal, you might want to keep a blog, if you have one. (To see my own travelblog from Japan, you can click here!)

3. Allow yourself to stop, sit, and take it all in. Oftentimes during travel, we’re so busy “doing” this or that (“Have you done a temple yet? Have you done Kyoto?”), we don’t take time to realize we’re there and how amazing it is. Sit on a park bench and look at the people around you. Linger with a glass of plum wine and look down on the streets below. Enjoy.

4. If you’re traveling with someone else, think about taking off alone for a day. Not to be antisocial, but I love this, especially if I’m on a long trip. I find that I’m even more aware of everything around myself because I’m not chatting with another person; also, personal space can be refreshing. And, if you meet your partner for dinner that night, you’ll have a ton of fresh things to talk about. You’ll find yourself describing your experiences to them in a way that gets you thinking about how to put these nuggets into your book.

5. Be the person you aren’t back at home. I’m not only saying this because that’s just what my hero and heroine do in WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN…, but traveling is the perfect opportunity to test yourself…and to think about how your characters might do the same. Would you be petrified of singing in front of other people? In Japan, you’re treated like a rock star in a karaoke bar, no matter how badly you sing, and everyone should feel like that at one time in their life. Would you swear that you’d never bungee jump off a bridge? Maybe, during a trip to New Zealand, you’ll get an unforgettable rush that’ll persuade you to live more “loudly” at home. Your characters might learn the same thing.

I hope every one of you gets to try these tips sometime. Meanwhile, we always have books to help us travel, too!


Anonymous said...

Hi, Crystal! I enjoyed reading your post. I haven't read any of your books before, but I really like the premise of "When the Sun Goes Down"! Romeo and Juliet (forbidden love) themed tales always hook me.

As for travelling...I wish! It sounds like you've visited some really spectacular locations. I, on the other hand, haven't so much as stepped foot outside the US. One day, lol. Until then, I get to visit other places through the stories I read.

Great post!

Crystal Green's Blog said...

Hi, Barbara--thank you! I'm glad you liked the post and the concept for WTSGD. :) I've been lucky to have done some traveling. I just have the wanderlust bug, you know? Hope you get to do the same one day!

housemouse88 said...

Hello Crystal,

Love the cover of your book, "When The Sun Goes Down". At one time, I loved traveling. Don't get to do much lately. Would love to win your book. Please count me in for the contest. Have a great day.

house_mouse88 at yahoo dot com

Maureen said...

Hi Crystal,
I think those are great tips even for people who aren't authors. I try to do appreciate the moments and get some pictures even when I'm just going to a state park for a sail like we did on Sunday.

Helen said...

Hi Crystal

What a great post and you have had some wonderful trips that is one of the reasons I love reading because the author takes me on wonderful adventures to places I probably will never get to.

As for bungee jumping one of my daughters went to New Zealand a couple of months ago and yes she went bungee jumping and has it on DVD I still cringe when I see it but she loved it.

I will be looking for your books they sound wonderful.

Have Fun

EllenToo said...

I love traveling but other than crossing the border to Canada in Glacier National Park and in Mexico into Nuevo Laredo and Progresso I have never left the US but it hasn't really been necessary as there are so many unique things here to see. As I started out to say I travel alone as I have no one to travel with me any longer. Traveling alone however gives you a lot of opportunities to sit and observe what is around you in relative quietness and it always amazes me what I notice. And I always keep a journal even though it only for me and I don't write.

Estella said...

I have read your Vampire Babylon Trilogy and am looking forward to reading your Crystal Green books.
I do my traveling in the pages of the books I read.

Crystal Green's Blog said...

Hey, housemouse, thank you--I've been lucky with the covers, thank goodness!

Thanks, Maureen, and I have to say that I'm jealous that you get to go sailing. I'll bet it was beautiful.

Helen, I appreciate that! And as for bungee jumping... Your daughter is brave, LOL.

Ellen, how cool! I mostly travel alone, as well. A totally different experience that going with another person or even a group!

Estella, thank you! I love traveling through books, too. Fairly recently, I read THE RUINS, which takes place at an out of the way site in Mexico... It felt like I was there (which wasn't particularly a good thing since this was a horror novel, LOL).

Mari said...

I would love to visit Japan. However, I have promised my niece I would not visit without her. Right now she is obsessed with Japanese comics, cartoons and fashion. So I'll have to wait until she gets a little older and then we'll go together.

Crystal Green's Blog said...

Mari, your niece will *love* Japan... Everything is manga, LOL. I'm talking about magazine covers, cookbooks, novel covers. They sell it (and tons of other random items) in vending machines that pop of everywhere.

Mariee said...

Great tips, especially number 3. I'm gonna try to remember that one for my next trip :)

Crystal Green's Blog said...

Thank you, Mariee--hope you have a great time. :)

Okay, you all, the winner of ONE FOR THE ROAD is Estella! Estella, please contact me at with your address. :)

Thank you for reading, everyone. Have a great weekend!