Apart from planned trips to India and Australia to research two of my books, these days I usually plan my holidays around painting – choosing locations I’ve never visited before and where I think there might be interesting landscapes. There have however been two short break holidays that were entirely down to my becoming inspired by reading a book.
The first was a few years ago when I was reading Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist. I was so captivated by her descriptions of life in fifteenth century Amsterdam that I immediately wanted to immerse myself in the place. I’d visited ‘The Dam’ many times before but always for work and I’d had little opportunity for proper touristy exploration. I put the book down, went online and booked a last minute cheap trip for the following day. After a wonderful weekend I wrote about my time there here and I reviewed The Miniaturist here.
The second time was a few weeks back. I was reading an advance review copy of Roz Morris’s fabulous new book, Not Quite Lost, Travels Without A Sense of Direction. Roz, better known for her beautifully written fiction and her non fiction novel writing guides (and not known at all for her mysterious multi-million-selling ghost-written novels) produced this gem of a book, a Brysonesque, serendipitous wander through lesser known parts of England (plus a little of France and Italy). While I was reading it, it became apparent that Roz and her husband Dave have a penchant for the quirky properties of the Landmark Trust – a motley collection of follies, towers, former lock-ups, castles and lodges.
Intrigued, I booked a few days for myself and a friend in Keeper’s Cottage, a wonderful gingerbread house – straight out of the pages of Lady Chatterley’s Lover right down to the “sitting house” where the game birds once nested. There was even a handy shotgun over the fireplace.
The cottage is set in woodland within the Old Warden country estate and has fuelled my imagination for a new book – probably a novella. Watch this space! Read my review of Roz’s book here and my interview with her here.
While at Keeper’s Cottage – which is in Bedfordshire – I also managed to visit Bletchley Park, which, as well as making me feel very, very thick and stupid – I was never much cop at maths – was hugely interesting and inspiring. As well as trying (and failing) to understand how they cracked the Enigma Code, I was fascinated by the insights into life there during the war. It must have been both exciting and desperately dull – basically depending on your gender. Either way, being stuck in those draughty huts in freezing cold weather can’t have been much fun for anyone.
I will definitely be staying at a Landmark Trust property again. It’s a wonderful way to visit little known parts of the country and discover places you’d never have come across normally – all while staying in beautiful, perfectly restored historical buildings WITH NO INTERNET, no TV and usually very poor cellphone connections! A break indeed. I have my eye on one that would make a perfect place for me to bury myself to do some writing – but in warmer weather so I can sit outside and take advantage of the views. I’ll let you know if I do!
So books can offer holiday inspiration which in turn offer writing inspiration. Win-win!
Have you ever travelled somewhere as a result of reading a book?
Clare Flynn is the author of five historical novels and a collection of short stories. To receive a free e-book of her short story selection, A Fine Pair of Shoes, and keep up to date with special offers and news from Clare, sign up here.