Saturday, November 22, 2014

Kathleen O'Brien: Imaginary Places

Imaginary places have always felt incredibly real to me—as I know they do to a lot of readers.

So when I got the chance to be a part of the beautiful, rugged little imaginary town of Marietta, Montana, invented by the creative minds at Montana Born Books and Tule Publishing, I couldn’t resist

Writers from all over the globe have added to the population, real estate, geography and utter charm of Marietta, making it come alive so completely I can hardly believe I can’t rent a car and drive there!

My two novellas set in this town, THE SUBSTITUTE BRIDE and THE LONG WAY HOME, were so much fun to write, partly because, while I was writing, I was living there in my head.  I can hardly keep from wanting to go to the closest real Montana city, just so I can imagine myself in my beloved little town.

It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve booked a ticket because I fell in love with a region through books.

The most expensive pilgrimage I’ve ever made to a place that didn’t exist was my trip a few years back to Cornwall.

See, I fell in love with Manderley, the doomed and haunted mansion in Cornwell that is the centerpiece of Daphne Du Maurier’s REBECCA, when I was about eleven.

From that moment on, Cornwall seemed like the world’s most magical place to me.  All it took to make me buy a book was that word anywhere in the blurb.  Du Maurier is the queen of Cornwall literature, of course—with My Cousin Rachel, Frenchman’s Creek, The King’s General, Jamaica Inn, and many other novels.

During my Gothic novel phase, I was always drawn to the Cornwall settings…of course.  Victoria Holt was a treasure trove of brooding mansions overlooking stormy seas, inhabited by enigmatic masters.  Swoon!  I even love the look and sound of the Cornwall surnames…all those Pen-this and Mena-that.

A little later, I discovered the fabulous Ross Poldark, and the copper mines, and so much Cornwall history in the novels by Winston Graham.  Then I found the old BBC series…and fell in love all over again.

Rosamunde Pilcher’s THE SHELL SEEKERS—among many—fed my hunger for more Cornwall, later in life. 

And then nothing could satisfy me except to visit the place myself.

Luckily, His Highness is one of those guys who is part genie.  If you have a wish, he’s never going to rest until he finds a way to make it come true.  And so, one exciting day, we found ourselves flying to Cornwall.  He’s never read REBECCA in his life, but he went with me to Fowey, where Du Maurier wrote the novel, and spent hours and hours looking up every location for every scene he knew absolutely nothing about.

And you know what was really cool?  While we were there, he discovered an old manor house that belonged to the Treffry family—which was his grandmother’s maiden name.  So apparently, when I was picking the guy I wanted to live my life with, Fate drew me to a man with Cornwall roots!  (And, in self-defense, I did also trek with him to Wimbledon while we were in England.  That’s the place I suspect many of his dreams are set. :) )

So…my own hero standing beside me, in my dreamworld come to life—doesn’t get any better than that!  Now…about that Montana wish…. :)

How about you?  Have you ever visited a town or a country primarily because you had loved a book or movie set there?  Do imaginary places come to life in your heart? Leave a comment for a chance to win one of my books!

*** Kathleen's winner is Connie! Please email with your mailing details!***


Connie said...

My family and I had the most wonderful chance to live in Paris for six years. It was a magnificent experience and we got to visit so many delightful places. Because I have always been a huge fan of the English Royal Family, I was thrilled to get to the UK. We only got to London, Bath and Bristol but those places were fabulous. Since I've read so many regency novels over the years, visiting Bath was so exciting. Imagining the people who used to go to Bath to "take the waters" was such a thrill. I still want to get back to the UK as I have so many places I want to visit. Cornwall is at the top of my list. (I love to try and say the word with the proper English accent. :-) ) So many BBC TV series that I have watched take place there and the scenery is just breathtaking. The books and people you mention here are great. I've read books by Rosamunde Pilcher and Victoria Holt and these are ones that made me a huge fan of historical romance novels.

I'm so looking forward to reading The Substitute Bride. I'm a reviewer for our blog, bookworm2bookworm and now that I'm retired, I have the time to indulge my reading passion.

Thanks for the informative blog today! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Kathleen said...

So glad you enjoyed it, Connie! What a wonderful adventure, getting to live in Paris! That really must have been a dream come true! His Highness and I went to London and Bath, as well. I'm still on the Jane Austen Center mailing list, and every time I open it I want to go back! Speaking of went to Haworth to see the Bronte Parsonage, and we had trouble finding the tiny town. Turns out the locals didn't know what the heck we were looking for, because our pronunciation was so wrong! :)

erin said...

I actually haven't ever visited any real locations due to a book. However, I would love to go to New Zealand and do the Lord or the Rings movie tour :) thanks for sharing and congrats on the new release!

traveler said...

I enjoyed your wonderful post which resonated with me. Cornwall is the epitome of fascinating locales. I have read all of Daphne Du Maurier's novels and still re-read them since they are unforgettable and captivating. Your emotions and photos are beautifully captured What a memorable visit you had and this is the most important experience of all your travels. Yes, when I saw the movie, Cinema Paradiso, I realized that Italy was romance, history, and much more more. The country was beckoning me and finally I had the opportunity to travel there.I was under a spell from the moment I arrived and throughout the entire visit. The trip opened my sense, my eyes and gave me hope. Best wishes and much happiness.

petite said...

I was entranced with your incredibly interesting and lovely photos and blog about Cornwall and all of the authors whom I have read. I have read every novel of Rosamunde Pilcher which were fabulous, as were Susan Howatch - Penmarric etc. as well as Victoria Holt whose writing was amazing, but when I was young I discovered Daphne Du Maurier and read every book which held me enthralled and gave me the beauty and uniqueness of Cornwall. I appreciated these authors and their writing. Incomparable. Imaginary places come alive in my heart when I am lost in the pages of a book and I can travel there in my mind. When I saw the movie, Il Postino, I was awestruck and mesmerized.

dstoutholcomb said...

I've never been to a place where a book is set, but I love visiting through books.

Mary Anne Landers said...

Thanks, Kathleen. I can think of a few places I've visited where famous novels and/or films took place. But in each case, I visited them before I read the book or watched the film, not after.

Examples: The Louvre, Paris ("The Da Vinci Code"). The Roman catacombs and the Coliseum ("Quo Vadis"). The Empire State Building, New York City ("An Affair to Remember", "King Kong").

Wish I could help you more, but I'm just not that well-traveled!

Laurie G said...

I haven't intentionally gone to visit a place that was mentioned in a book.
I have been to Montana twice. One time we stayed overnight in Missoula. The other time we camped at the park for several nights. Loved Glacier National Park!

I've been to Port Angeles, Washington twice. We camped in Olympic National Park both times. This was way before it became popular along with the city of Forks from the Twilight movies.

We traveled down the Pacific coast so we went through Astoria, Oregon where Kindergarten Cop was filmed. Beautiful views!

I used to drive to work in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I drove by the bridge to nowhere featured in the Blues Brothers movie.

I've been to some big cities: New Orleans, Washington DC, NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Nashville, Tucson and Orlando.

I would love to visit several of the exotic locales where the PRESENTS line from Harlequin are set: Greek Isles, Paris, Sydney, London, Rome, Copenhagen, the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany, Lake Como, and the Scottish Highlands.