Travel and Fiction

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by Marguerite Martin Gray

How many readers and writers here love to travel? I know it is not for everyone. Some can escape in a book or a movie and be thrilled and not ever leave the comfort of a beloved chair or room. I do understand that fascinating phenomenon of feeling I have been someplace out of my reach as I consume the pages of a good novel.

Unfortunately for me and my purse strings, I love to physically travel. The planning is half the fun and takes a lot longer than the actual journey. Or is it part of the travel experience? Definitely. I count the planning and research as the beginning of the adventure after the dreaming part. It really does not matter where the destination is most of the time. Say the word travel, and I’m there. At least in my mind.

Travel expands all my senses. Sight is a major one as I imprint the scenery, architecture, and people permanently in my mind. The Alps, the Andes, the Rockies. The Atlantic, Pacific, English Channel. Paris, Venice, Barcelona, Chicago. The Colosseum, Versailles, Tower of London, Golden Gate Bridge. Forever captured in a memory.

Smell and taste are huge enticements. I’m not afraid to taste unfamiliar dishes. Escargot, ceviche, mussels, octopus, elk. Real gelato and Italian pasta. French pastries and steak-frites. I can hear the bells of St. Peter’s and the waves of the Mediterranean or the Gulf. The laughter of children and call of the local merchants. And I love the fresh, pure cadence of Italian, French, and Spanish. Other languages though unfamiliar are music too—German, Swedish, Slovenian, Portuguese. My fingers touch ancient stones, delicate lace or silk, flower petals, and vendors’ wares.

Fiction is another love or obsession. I can choose to go anywhere I want, even across the eras within a book. My mind is limitless in accepting the potential of plot and setting. I learned as a child to explore the possibility of entering new worlds, making new friends, exploring new concepts, and speaking new words. Fiction, too, offers genuine access using the senses.

The descriptions in a novel have the ability to conjure up real images. Sometimes I will find a photo of a building, a dress, a carriage, a garden to complete the image, but most of the time, the author’s words relay what I need. Taste and smell rise from the pages and attach to my own memories of a damp basement, a bouquet of flowers, a rancid sewer, a spicy casserole. I love references to music and languages. These I can easily filter through my memory bank or look up in a search. Touch is real—a soft kitten, a wrinkled hand, a cold, damp stone building, a coarse log.

I have found another way to put my love of travel and fiction together. How about travel fiction. I don’t even know if that is a category. I’ll give three examples of what I mean. For research I’ve come across a few books of fiction that I’ve used as valuable resources. Since I write mostly historical fiction, I head in that direction. Here is the first book. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne is a wonderful read. I always love learning something about new places and places that I have traveled to before. This book gives an 1872 view of the world and travelers.

Slow Train to Switzerland helped in my research of a novel set in 1870 Switzerland. This novel retraces in 2016 the travel of Thomas Cook and tourists in 1863. The last one is a classic by Mark Twain—The Innocents Abroad. What a treasure as the reader follows his 1869 steps all over the world. The book also contains 234 illustrations.

I hope you can find rich, meaningful, personal experience through travel, fiction, and travel fiction.

Happy reading and traveling!

Marguerite Gray is the author of the Revolutionary Faith series, Gardens in Time series, and Room for Love in the Suamalie Islands series. Besides researching her novels, she enjoys studying history and writing fiction. An avid traveler and reader, she teaches French and Spanish. She lives in Louisiana with her husband. Her two adult children and two grandsons keep her up-to-date and young. Visit her website at



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