One of the most profound journeys when writing a novel is the sensation of being in a place which has never felt your feet. This is what draws so much intensity and passion for me in the creative process. Especially if it’s a place your heart desires to experience, yearns to beat in rhythm with and is attracted to for some mysterious reason.
I’m talking about big, embracing arms of culture and religion, rituals, beliefs, laws, street food, markets, aromas and emotions; the elements which give you true insight into another’s life and lifstyle. You don’t need to have been in that place to be able write about it but, of course, it helps.
I do think it’s important to visit that place and stay there for a while, at least once during the writing of the book. However, again, not necessary. Take Miranda Dickinson’s Coffee at Kowalski’s, a light-hearted, witty rom-com set in New York, a city she’s never been to. HarperCollins’ Avon imprint offered her a contract last year in a three-book deal.
The secret, well not really a secret, is firstly, research. Tireless, thorough and lengthy research (Internet, libraries, travel documentaries, films, music etc.) Secondly, speak to as many people as you can who either come from that place or have been there and know it inside out. Deepen your knowledge as far as it can go. There’s another secret – knowledge.