One of the things that has always drawn me to a story, right from when I first started reading as a kid, is when I’m taken to someplace new, someplace I’ve never been. Now, when I was a teenager, more often than not, this meant to space or other worlds guided there by the capable hands of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and James White to name a few. Occasionally I would dip into the world of fantasy, visiting Tolkien’s Middle Earth or journeying along with Thomas Covenant in Stephan Donaldson’s original Unbeliever series or even to Shannara in the first Terry Brooks’ book THE SWORD OF SHANNARA.
These books were perfect for me because I was always dreaming about places that lay beyond the forever-tan landscape outside my bedroom window in the Mojave Desert where I grew up. I mean, who wouldn’t, right? Dirt, dirt everywhere, seeded only by sage brush and tumbleweeds.
I guess that’s why, in between those trips to space I took in my head, I was also pulled into the works of Alistair MacLean. ICE STATION ZEBRA, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, WHERE EAGLES DARE, BEAR ISLAND…holy crap, I could just go on and on. Don’t think I read everything by Mr. MacLean, but I tried.
He served not only as another means of escape for me, but he was also my introduction to the international thriller. Later I would move on to Robert Ludlum and get lost in his European landscapes where an innocent man – usually – got sucked into an far from innocent plot. And, of course, there was Bourne. What a great character. An amnesiac assassin who found he could do things that even surprised him, and who was desperately searching for clues to his past, but then found a life that this new Bourne didn’t believe in. Brilliant.
Not only did these novels instill a love of thrillers, they also fueled my growing need to travel and see the world. In high school I was twice given the opportunity to go on a trip to Europe…I accepted both times. And in the three years after high school but before college, I spent a total of at least seven months out of the country…more Europe but also a lengthy stay in Mexico traveling deep into pre-rebellious Chiapas.
My love of thrillers and love of travel never died. Over the years there have been several more trips to Europe and three to Asia. And I’m not through. There is much of the world I am still hoping to see. Most of it, in fact.
And I guess, because of these two loves, it was only natural that I would want to write international thrillers. To be able to travel to interesting places and write about them? What could be better than that? Because, you see, I don’t like to write about places I haven’t been. It does happen. There are a few locations in my first two books and in my new one coming out next summer that I haven’t been to. But for the most part, I have walked the streets of the cities I write about. I have eaten the native food. I have breathed the air, and listened to the language, and observed how the locals interacted.
Not all authors need to do this. But for me it is a necessity. It gives me the confidence I need. Because I like to think that the locations my stories are minor characters themselves.
This is all a long, round about way of saying that as you read this (if you’re reading on the day I posted or the several before and after) I’m in London researching locations for my next Quinn novel, the one that will come out in 2010. I’m sure I’m have a blast. I’m positive I’m taking TONS of pictures and shooting gigabytes of footage. And notes are no doubt being scribbled in my little moleskine notebook. And the smile on my face will be genuine and unmovable because I will know how blessed I am to be able to be doing what I’m doing.
You see, that’s the point. Those writers out there still trying to find your voice or your “hook” or your whatever you want to call it, my advice is to use something you enjoy in your writing…whether it be travel, or a hobby, or a love of history, or a knowledge of music, or…
You get the picture.
Bottom line: You don’t have to write what you know, but you should write what you love.
So, what is it you love? (And since I’m traveling I’m unsure if I will be able to respond, but know that I will definitely read everyone’s comments!)
Song of the Day: LONDON CALLING by The Clash