Summer is in full swing, and vacations and downtime abound. You may be working on some writing, traveling—or both. What if you want to combine travel into your story, or set it in a location that you’ve fallen in love with, or maybe haven’t even visited yet?
Everyone loves to be swept away to new settings or exotic locations by way of book, and what better time practice that craft than summer? So we tapped into SparkPress author Jackie Townsend on the art of writing a book set in multiple locations around the world—as well as from multiple POVs. Her novel, The Absence of Evelyn, came out in Spring 2017, and has been praised by Redbook, Yahoo!, Bustle, and more.
Foreign countries play like living, breathing characters in my novels, and this quote by Goethe is one of my favorites: “Nothing can be compared to the new life that the discovery of another country provides for a thoughtful person. Although I am still the same I believe to have changed to the bones.”
When I set out to write a novel, I begin with a relationship in conflict. Sisters, a mother and a daughter, lovers, or a married couple. I place those characters in a scene, start writing, and see where the story takes me. Usually somewhere far away. Actually, not usually. Always. Apparently, displacement is part of my psyche.
Whether in search of escape, truth, love, meaning, or redemption, my characters tend to cross seas to find it. To lose oneself in another language, culture, and geography, is to open oneself up to not only great possibility but great vulnerability, and as Goethe said, it is difficult to walk away from that experience unaltered.
What writer doesn’t want their characters to be altered?
Journeys live on long after you’ve returned home. They keep coming back to you. The trains, planes, and automobiles, the scooters, rickshaws, and bicycle taxis. The unrecognizable foods and indecipherable sounds. The sense of isolation and aloneness amongst such beauty and wonder. This is how I want to leave my reader feeling, as if they’ve been transported even though they haven’t left their bedroom. I want the feeling to stay with them long after they’ve put the book down, settling itself inside the grit and grime of their daily lives, for