Guest: Deborah Cooke

I’m so happy to introduce you all to Deborah Cooke today!  Or is that Claire Delacroix?  I’ve been a fan for a long time, and I hope you’ll all join me with a gleeful squee as she talks about her favorite kind of travel.

Armchair Traveling

By Deborah Cooke (

Also writing as Claire Delacroix (

I’ve always loved to travel. I love the adventure of discovering new places, trying new foods and seeing history that is new to me. My husband and I have traveled a lot but in recent years, family commitments and our tendency to buy and renovate old houses has kept us closer to home. He is still an avid reader of National Geographic, we still take day trips, and I live vicariously through my characters.

My books are always set in different places than the one in which I live. That makes each book an opportunity to visit someplace new. The location might be a place I’ve visited before, but if so, my characters always want to go to different parts of town than I visited. If I’ve never been there, then there’s even more research to be done.

I always begin with a desperate desire to go to the actual setting. Over a period of days, I realize that this isn’t possible if I’m going to make deadline, so armchair traveling has to fill the void.

I often start my research with my husband’s stash of National Geographic magazines. The pictures are amazing, often there’s an interesting bit of information about what it’s like to live in that particular place. This works for contemporary and historical settings. I particularly like when the articles have accompanying maps.

I love maps. Maybe the maps are part of the appeal of travel to me, because I have dozens of them. Never mind the atlases! Wherever my book-in-progress is set, you can be sure I have a great big map of that location spread across the floor of my office. I need to know where the characters might find themselves, what they’ll see on the way from A to B, what the landscape will be like, what the cityscape will be like, how long it will take to get from A to B once they get started on their journey.

With contemporary settings, I pick up travel guides (the ones with lots of maps) as well as moving guides to the cities in question. Those give me ideas about neighborhoods and what it’s like to live in that town. I also cruise around the internet, getting more pictures of specific landmarks – or even MAPS of them! – and interesting tidbits of information. My Dragonfire paranormal romances have contemporary settings – since dragons can cover a lot of territory in a hurry, each book can have more than one setting. DARKFIRE KISS, for example, began in Washington D.C. and concluded in London England – with a subplot journey to Bardsey Island off the coast of Wales. I really enjoyed choreographing that dragon fight at night over the Reflecting Pond on the Mall! Can’t you just imagine it? FLASHFIRE, coming next January, is set primarily in Las Vegas, which was a lot of fun to research.

My YA spin-off trilogy, The Dragon Diaries, in contrast, takes place almost entirely in Chicago. The other setting used in the book is the landscape of Zoë’s dreams – and Zoë dreams of a snowy otherworld occupied by the three Wyrd Sisters of Norse mythology and Yggdrasil, the world tree. So, I dug into mythology books for that second setting – and I love the contrast between pragmatic Chicago and this dreamy otherworld.

 Historicals are both more fun and more challenging to research, because the world has changed since the time of the book’s setting. Doing the research was one of my favorite parts of writing medieval romances. There’s not just the landscape, but also the social history of the location – the story needs to be put in the context of what would have been possible in that place in that time. My Claire Delacroix historicals are primarily medievals, some set in France, others in Ireland or Scotland.

Ideally, I love to visit historic sites – there is nothing better than exploring the ruins of an old castle! – to get a sense of the place myself. When that’s not possible, guidebooks to the country of choice or even of the specific holding are invaluable resources. I also use stories and myths of places and times, to get a better sense of what those people believed in that time. You might think that it’s not truly possible to visit medieval France, for example, but there are places where a traveler can catch a glimpse of that past. Old churches and cathedrals can offer a view of past centuries, particularly when they haven’t been changed or have been restored. My favorite taste of medieval France is in a little royal chapel called La Sainte Chapelle Be sure to look at some of the images. This church is a beautiful gem!) on the île de la Cité in Paris – it is as close to looking as it did when it was built as is possible. Another wonderful resource is museums, like the Musée de Cluny ( Click on Collections), which is located in a building that was the home of a medieval bishop in Paris. You can also see the famous medieval tapestries of the lady and the unicorn here. And Scotland is positively thick with castles, both ruined and restored – – it’s a marvelous place to do research.

This year, I’ve been re-releasing some of my Claire Delacroix medievals in new digital editions. The Rogues of Ravensmuir series begins at Ravensmuir, a fictional castle inspired by the very real Tantallon. Located near Ravensmuir in my fictional universe is a castle called Kinfairlie, which is a composite of a number of square-towered keeps I visited while in Scotland. The Jewels of Kinfairlie series begins at Kinfairlie, with the heroine of THE BEAUTY BRIDE heading to Wales with her new husband and the heroine of THE ROSE RED BRIDE heading north into the wilder parts of Scotland with her love. THE SNOW WHITE BRIDE takes place at Kinfairlie itself, when a mysterious woman arrives in search of sanctuary.

 Do you like to travel? Or do you prefer to do it from your armchair? Where are your favorite places to go? What’s your favorite part of the journey? (We know mine is the maps!) Tell me what you think and one person who comments will win a signed mass market copy of THE BEAUTY BRIDE.  [contest open to US residents only]

Thanks, Michele, for inviting me to visit!

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26 Responses to Guest: Deborah Cooke

  1. Stonehawk says:

    I like to travel as long as I have a destination in mind to go to even if its to a store in town or a town library to look at their books. My dream vacation would be Scotland in Great Britain just to look at the lands and see the castles and take tons of pictures of the areas just to keep a good memory of them. I prefer to go to a place to visit than looking it in magazines and online but issues such as money and no transportation keep me bound at home for time to time which I would have to use my own feet to get around town. I really would love to visit some of the States in the USA and see their national parks if money ever gets there for me to do that. Oh well.

  2. debbie haupt says:

    Hi Deb, I travel from my armchair right now but hope to do some when I retire. I’m not a good traveler and prefer to vacation at home doing things that I don’t get to do when I’m working. I envy people who can sleep wherever and pack a bag at a moments notice and hop a plane or train and do a quick get a way for even the weekend. Ah,
    thanks for posting I feel like I learn a little more about you with every entry. 🙂

  3. Hi Stonehawk – It is expensive to travel, and it’s gotten a lot more inconvenient, too. But you know, no matter where you go, even if it’s somewhere you’ve been a thousand times, there’s something to see. My husband likes to drive different ways to get to places, mixing it up with new routes to familiar destinations. It makes you keep your eyes open. I like that.

    LOL Deb – Soon you’ll know all my secrets! I do think there’s a time in our lives for rough travel – camping, sleeping on floors, winging it – and a time when we need it to be a bit more cushy. I’m glad I did a lot of cheap travel when I was in university, because now I’m ready for cushy!


  4. Leanne Banks says:

    I’ll give a squee!:) Welcome to the convertible Deborah/Claire! I love your blog because it gives just a taste of your wonderful sense of location in your books!:) Good for you with the maps! I’m not very good with them. Can’t even refold them properly!lol

    As for travel, I love the anticipation of a trip. Yes, there’s way too much planning, and packing can drive me crazy, but having that trip in my future puts an extra spring in my step.:)

  5. michelehauf says:

    Hey, Deborah! I’m not much of a traveler though would love to have the time and bank account to go wherever, whenever. I’d only had the luxury of going to Paris, and will never forget it. So I too, use maps a lot. I love Google Earth! You can zoom in for some excellent detail on locations. Used it a lot in a recent book set in NY.

  6. pearl says:

    Lovely post today. I never had the chance to travel when I was younger and now I would love to travel. Especially travel to Italy, to explore the entire country, the beauty, history and culture. I love exploring new sites and interesting places in the U.S, Something that fascinating never gets tiring at all. It is all new for me.

  7. lizzie starr says:

    I enjoy traveling of most any kind, though I haven’t done much lately–except traveling through space and on the different worlds of my wip. 🙂 I get lots of ideas when driving. Often the place names listed on mileage signs or exits spark an idea. More often the combination makes for an interesting character name–and then an unusual character. Even the not so good experiences can make for a good tale—like this hotel room in…

  8. Kylie Brant says:

    Welcome Deborah! I love traveling myself (hope to do more when I retire!) but rarely am able to visit the settings I’m writing about due to time constraints. It helps to know someone in the area because I like to sprinkle in references to specific scenery, neighborhoods, routes, distances, etc. Luckily I have a large spread out family!

  9. Cindy Gerard says:

    Welcome Deborah. Great post and your books sound wonderful!
    I love to travel but am always more than ready to come home to my nest :o) Many of the places I write about I’ve never been too so I’m so happy for maps and travel blogs and tons of fantastic places on the web that help fill in the blanks. Someday, I hope to travel to South America where I’ve set so many of my books but until then … I dream:o)

  10. lois greiman says:

    Hi Deb. Thanks for joining us. It is amazing what you can learn from Internet and book research but to get the smell and feel and subtle nuances it’s so nice to visit. Thanks for sharing some of your adventures with us.

  11. catslady says:

    My first 18 years I never left my hometown and then I got married to an air force brat and we traveled as much as we could for 15 years and then we had kids…We’ve had a few smaller trips since but if I could afford to, I would still travel although I do think flying is probably more complicated but I don’t mind waiting (or traveling by car) because I always have books to read. Now that is how I do most of my traveling – through books. Thank goodness for you guys that write such wonderful stories that I actually believe I am there!

    • Mary Louise says:

      Hi Deb and welcome. I love to travel and have been fortunate enough to have visited many foreign and exotic places by myself. But for the past 5 years or so I have been including my nephews in my trips. We have visited Alaska, Italy, Greece, Croatia and even rafted down the Colorado River! The best part of all this is that I get to share the experience with them. It’s a thrill for them to walk among ruins they have studied about in school. I guess when I look back at all the places I’ve visited it’s the memories of sharing that journey that makes it a richer experience. Of course, it’s always great to return home!!

  12. Lots of armchair travellers! I love being in such good company.

    You’re right, Mary Louise – it is magical to visit a place you’ve learned about in school. I remember my first visit to the Louvre museum in Paris and seeing all those paintings I’d learned about in art history classes. The same with visiting Florence. Incredible. That’s great that you’re travelling with your nephews, too.

    catslady – I agree. Books are wonderful for vicarious travel. Great to see you here!

    Hi Lois – Yes, there’s the feel of the place, and also those unpredictable travel adventures that are never in guide books. I like having the chance to interact with people who live in a place and hear their voices, too.

    LOL Cindy – Yes, coming home is often the best part!

    Ooo, Kylie, can I join your extended family? I could use some places to stay in interesting locations!

    *lizzie – how wonderful to see you here. Of course, in your books we can travel to fantasy realms that aren’t on even the best maps. 🙂

    pearl – you’re making me want to pack! (Or dig out a map.) I’m quite sure that it’s impossible to spend too much time in Italy.

    Michele, Paris is my all time favourite place to go. We have friends who just lived there for a year and I’m insanely jealous. Wouldn’t that be fabulous? (I might not come home.)

    And Leanne! How wonderful to see you! How it is that I didn’t realize this was your blog too. Tell you what – I’ll refold the maps and you can do the packing. 🙂


  13. MaryC says:

    Welcome, Deborah!

    I’m a big fan of your Dragonfire series and the historical Bridequest series.

    Mostly do armchair traveling at the moment. Recently had a relative visit and hit many of the historical sites and museums that I haven’t been to for a while in the greater Boston area.

  14. That’s another good tip, MaryC – acting like a tourist in your own home city is a good way to find new corners and sights. Thanks for reading Dragonfire and Bride Quest, and thanks for commenting, too. 🙂

  15. Helen Brenna says:

    Welcome Deborah!! I love to do both kinds of travel, both real and armchair. Don’t seem to get to do enough of either these days! It’s so wonderful for sparking creativity, isn’t it?

  16. Quilt Lady says:

    I guess you can say I travel in my recliner. I travel in books and I visit so many great places this way. Its a lot cheaper then traveling by road or plane. I have been all over the world in books and its a great way to travel. You don’t have to pack and load up a car or anything this way.

  17. Barbara Elness says:

    I love to travel, but I’m a bit timid and since I don’t have anyone to travel with me, I haven’t had a chance to do much. I’d love to visit lots of places, but my number one wish is to visit Great Britain. My favorite part of the journey is arriving and checking out all the great things to see and do. In the absence of a real life trip, I love to travel to faraway places via books, I’ve been doing that ever since I learned to read.

    • The UK is a wonderful destination, Barbara. You know, there are lots of tours if you don’t want to travel alone. We went on one to Morocco and the group was a lot of fun – some singles, some couples. It was also a terrific way to see a place we didn’t feel confident visiting on our own.


  18. LSUReader says:

    I do love to travel. Hubby and I just got back from a European trip–France, Germany and the Netherlands. Ahhhh–wonderful! I’m not decided on favorites, though; there are so many more places I’d like to see. I enjoy traveling vicariously through books, as well. Thanks for visiting today.

  19. Chelsea B. says:

    I love to travel! I wish I could do it more. I ahave so many places I want to see…. My favorite part is looking out the window and seeing things you were not expecting 🙂 Also, the getting there 😉

  20. Laurie G says:

    I travel vicariously through books. Even though I’m a planner, I don’t like the uncertainty of traveling. I find it stressful. Right now, we can’t afford to travel out of the country. I’d love to visit the Scottish Highlands and the Greek Islands of Santorini and Mykos. We do go to Florida for the winter.

  21. Did someone say passport? I keep mine in my jewelry box so it’s ready at a moment’s notice. I love that anything can happen feeling when I’m out of the country and have to fake a language. My husband and I go whenever we can. When he retired we spent an entire winter in Italy. We rented an apartment in a 13th century (highly renovated!) fortress in Spoleto, an Umbrian hilltown, went on to Sicily for two weeks then drove around the Italian countryside. Travel companions are so important – ask Cindy!

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