After forty or so books, I've decided that travel is one of the great perks of being a writer. (You thought it was money and fame? Sadly not so much!) Naturally, I love the other parts of the business, the camaraderie with other writers, the amazing readers who keep us in business, and of course, the talented editors and agents who make our books come to life (and give us a nudge in the right direction when we need one.)
But travel gives the opportunity to see new places, explore new possibilities, meet people who may turn up as fascinating characters in our books (or dastardly villains.)
I've swum with dolphins it the Florida Keys, dined with a real life Count in a 16th century chateau, and mingled with stars in Hollywood. As they say, "it's all material."
First, the story of the dolphins. It was a terrific experience, but in the interest of full disclosure, that scene was never used in the BoxCar book, Mystery at the Hidden Beach. Somehow I made the notion of swimming underwater with dolphins a little too scary, a little too dark and edgy for kiddos. Yes, I was surprised by that, too! I thought I was going for fun and exciting.
While in the Keys, I visited Sea Camp, which did make it into the book, plus some highlights in Key West, including The Hemingway House with all those famous six-toed cats!
My daughter wanted to get on the "wait list" for one of the popular Hemingway felines, but I persuaded her to hold off. We seem to have enough "deserving cats" who cross our path and become part of our cat family. I certainly didn't want to "pre-order" a cat!
Another iconic Key West attraction is the Mel Fisher Treasure Maritime Heritage Museum, which also made it into the book.
Mel Fisher devoted his life to the search for the Atocha, a Spanish galleon, and wrote a book about his experiences. I had read his book, The Treasure of the Atocha and was happy to include his museum in my book.
I wanted to include details that would interest kids and was fascinated to learn that they used dolphins to bring up emeralds from the bottom of the sea.
Onto the Count. I had been assigned a travel piece for Christian Science Monitor on an American woman who married a French count and lived in a fabulous, 60 room, 16th century chateau outside of Paris. (Chateau Thoiry).The story did a 180 because of a miscommunication. "Madame" was not available for an interview, but her husband was terrific and hospitable and I spent 12 hours there, exploring the Chateau and the animal park and dining with the Count. I was fascinated to learn that he spent one week each month in Africa, designing game sanctuaries and encouraging the villagers and chiefs to protect the wildlife.
Hollywood has been the backdrop of several of my books, including, MOVIE STAR and CONFESSIONS. Both are part of the Hollywood Nights series for teens--they're fun, hip and squeaky clean. You can read more about the Hollywood Nights series right here. Two books are set in Hollywood and one is set in South Beach, which is known as "Hollywood East" because of it's a popular location for film productions.
Hope you enjoyed this inside peek at some of my favorite locations and how they ended up in my books!