Developing a sense of place is one of the best tools a writer can use. When I’m teaching and coaching writing, I always encourage my students to immerse themselves in their fictional worlds. If we want our future readers to feel an attachment to the pages they’re inhabiting, then we have to do that too. We need to step inside the towns, villages, neighborhoods, and boroughs that we’re creating.
I took a research trip to the Northern California coast for this new project, where this book is set. Many of the shops and restaurants that I wanted to visit were closed due to Covid, but that didn’t stop me from spending a few days taking pictures and copious notes. I would sit on a bench with my journal, watching people pass by, catching snippets of conversations, and drinking in the salty ocean breeze. There’s nothing that compares to physically being there. As a writer, it’s my job to capture how the light filters through the redwoods or the sound of waves breaking on the shore. I want the setting to come alive, to feel like another character in the book.
I can think of so many novels that have transported me to far-off lands. Sometimes that means a gritty corner of a big city. Sometimes that means an idyllic remote island. Some of the places I’ve visited through the pages of the books I’ve read have been real. Many have been fictional, and a few have been a combination of both. Regardless of whether a place exists in the real world, what I love about books is that I can always visit those places in my head—time and time again.
Here’s a glimpse of my research trip. There’s much more to come, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear about some of your favorite travels on the page.