This was my world until I was nearly 40 years old; I’d never been west of the Hudson!
Things have changed since then.
Not only am I (temporarily) living in California, but as a writer I’ve gone to conferences and book signings in places I’d never have visited otherwise, like Carmel, Indiana, where there’s a wonderful dollhouse museum; and Winona, Minnesota, where a great indie bookstore had our names on a marquee and a reserved parking space in front.
Then there was that unnamed town near our southern border, where they told us not to leave the hotel alone after dark. But even that was interesting. Not so much the stolen luggage in a square state in the Midwest, but statistics tells me it had to happen at least once.
For several novels, I’ve had to travel through time and research earlier centuries. One of my favorite trips was back to Galesburg, Illinois, 1858, to the Lincoln-Douglas debates. I was writing scenes (for “Malice in Miniature”) where citizens of my fictional town of Lincoln Point, California reenacted the debate, and I ended up reading the texts of all of the long debates, plus Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” and several other Lincoln books.
(I never would have guessed the format for the Lincoln-Douglas debates: one candidate spoke for 60 minutes, then the other candidate spoke for 90 minutes, and then the first candidate was allowed a 30-minute rebuttal. A little different from our sound-bit political debates?)
But my best travels are to people, with professions and hobbies wildly different from my own. Talking to people with passions outside my wheelhouse is a great pleasure and a never-ending source of information.
I’ve spent time with experts on a gun range and hours in a trailer that houses medevac pilots and flight nurses. I’ve interviewed race car drivers and welders, an elevator maintenance man and an equestrian. I’ve read veterinary magazines and watched tap-dancing videos. One source gave me his set of books on mortuary science and a cop gave me a entire “murder book.”
For my latest release, “Mix-up in Miniature,” I researched the famous Fairy Castle of silent movie star Colleen Moore. I’d seen it in person in Chicago years ago and it was a delight to visit it again through books and videos. The Great Hall of the castle is pictured above.
For that book, I wanted the victim, a bestselling romance writer, to live in the most elaborate “mansion” in the Bay Area. I logged into real estate listings and “traveled” to Blackhawk, a gated community in Danville, California, and found 12- and 13-million-dollar homes. Thanks to the ‘net, I was able to take virtual tours of the houses and modeled my fictional home after them.
I felt sorry for the poor realtor who thought she had a potential buyer.
Whether they’ve been of the Please-Place-Your-Shoes-in-the-Tray kind, or the CyberCloud kind, I couldn’t write without my travels.
What’s your most exciting writing-related “travel?”
Filed under: Camille Minichino