A Writer’s Vacation: Visiting the Places in a Novel’s Settings

A Writer’s Vacation: Visiting the Places in a Novel’s Settings

Saving up to travel on a writer’s vacation? Consider joining a literary vacation club.

Intrigue your readers with a strong sense of place by taking a writer’s vacation. Visit the places of your novel’s settings. If scheduling a trip to the place of your historical fiction book is not feasible, join a literary vacation club.

Literary Travel Away from Everyday Life’s Hum-Drum

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One reason we enjoy reading a good book is that it transports to a place away from the hum-drum of everyday life.

There’s even a Literary Vacation Club Reading Passport paperback by Ashley Nestler for your literary journey.

Paris, France
Place de la Concorde, Paris, France

Walk in Your Characters’ Shoes

Walk in your characters’ shoes by going to the country and city of your novel’s setting. Experience the era in the location, and pay close attention to your five senses. Try to relive the scenes.

Versailles, France
Elizabeth Pye Outside Versailles

As an example, in preparation for writing about the heroine’s ordeal in Return to Chateau Fleury, I visited the excellent displays in the Conciergerie, the atrocious prison during the French Revolution, formerly Louis XIII’s palace beside the River Seine– a short walk from Notre Dame Cathedral. The cell where Marie Antoinette was held was surprisingly small and sparse. Most other cells held many prisoners with only straw mats to sleep on, if lucky enough to get one.

Afterward, I walked the short distance to the Place de la Concorde, where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette lost their heads to madame guillotine. As you may imagine, I passed on the excursion into the catacombs.

On the flip side, I loved the Hall of Mirrors (photo below) at Versailles that look out over the gorgeous La Notre gardens. Each of the examples contributed to the authenticity of the scenes depicted in the book.

Versailles, France
Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, France

The French Connection series exemplifies how visiting historical fiction novel sites can be beneficial in writing the scenes. Three trips to France with my husband inspired settings in the series. The vacations, including staying in a chateau, made history come alive for me.

Taking a literal vacation to the place of your novel best provides a visual for you to step inside your character’s skin. But if an actual trip to the setting’s site isn’t possible, sign up with a literary vacation club. That could be quite fun and also enable you to get a close feel to walking in your characters’ shoes.

Literary Vacation Clubs

International travel to cities and countries in historical fiction settings is certainly beneficial to a writer. However, don’t let that hinder you from pursuing a literary vacation while writing your novel. Look up literary vacation clubs, and join one that you like. This will give you a feeling of what it would be like to live in a particular city or country. And similar to traveling to the place in person, you’ll be able to experience things through the five senses as your characters do.

Memoirs and Autobiographies

Research includes reading memoirs and autobiographies. They give a writer a sense of place also. Reading true stories about other people’s lives allow us to feel and understand different cultures. Read nonfiction books about the area of your novel’s setting. Travel guides are especially helpful.

Add to Your Literary Vacation Reading List

What book are you reading that takes you away to a fascinating place away from life’s hum-drum? Make a list of novels that look like an exciting read to you.

Are you a hobby reader, or do you choose books for research purposes? Whichever the case, you might like the literary vacation club option. If you do have the opportunity to actually go on a trip, bring a book or two with you to read for pleasure and enjoy the journey.

Consider adding The French Connection series (Elizabeth Pye, author) books one and two to your literary vacation reading list:

Silk or Sugar

Return to Chateau Fleury

Silk or Sugar and Return to Chateau Fleuery, the first two volumes of The French Connection, will take you to past eras in France with the series’ de Fleury family.

The third volume in The French Connection series, Mon Amour, Friend or Foe, was published in March 2020 (after another trip to France in 2019). The setting is 1939, and the book is about eighteen-year-old American Paulette Rousseau who arrives in Paris to study at the Sorbonne and ends up joining the French Resistance in May of 1940.

Mon Amour, Friend or Foe:

Mon Amour, Friend or Foe is available for purchase on Amazon:

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