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.
By Deborah Cooke (http://www.deborahcooke.com)
Also writing as Claire Delacroix (http://www.delacroix.net)
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 (http://www.musee-moyenage.fr/ang/index.html 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 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_castles_in_Scotland – 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!