Scott D. Parker
When you can't write what you know, write what you see.
I've been reading a lot of Alan Dean Foster. While he is not a crime author--he writes mostly SF and fantasy--he did pen Cyber Way, a murder mystery set in the American Southwest and that is the ticket we'll punch to discuss him here, on this crime fiction website. Anyway, along with my reading of his early SF work, I've been reading some of the interviews available on the internet. One of his passions is travel. He has used travel to spur his imagination over the course of his forty-plus year career. There are some definite alien-looking things here on plant Earth that hold mysteries even to this day. Foster has used his extensive travels to spur his imagination and fill his science fiction and fantasy books with all sorts of interesting creatures.
Foster's use of travel as inspirations for his books was in the back of my mind as my family and I took a day trip out of Houston yesterday. We went west to Sealy (about 30 miles out) and then north to Bellville (another 13 miles). Along the way, we saw small town rural life on a beautiful spring day. The near cloudless sky was so pristine, the humidity barely present, and the temperature just perfect that I would not have been surprised to have seen a giant stamp in the sky, proving that I was, in fact, traveling on a post card.
With hardly any thought whatsoever, stories just flowed and bounced around in my brain. It didn't hurt that our destination was the Newman Castle. In the 1990s, the owner of a local bakery decided to build an actual castle on his land just outside of Bellville. He actually lives there, gives tours each day, and opens up his home to private parties and dinner theaters. Needless to say, you didn't have to be a medieval scholar to have a few scenarios bump around in your head.
Imagination is easy and takes almost no effort. Sitting at your writing desk, fingers on your keyboard, you can go anywhere you want in your mind. But it's a nice change of pace to travel somewhere new, somewhere different and see things that, perhaps, your imagination might not consider. Or, better yet, to send your imagination off into another branch of your internal discovery.
Do you use travel to initiate creativity?
Hell, yes. I have sent my series character, prostitute Diana Andrews, to Budapest, El Paso, and the rainforest of the Big Island of Hawaii. Hawaii also gave me a second series character, Detective Errol Coutinho of the Hawaii County Police.
Each location gave me more than landmarks and local color. It gave me the story.
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