I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post from author Siri Paulson, who answers my question:
ELF: What is one of your hobbies and how has it enriched your writing?
SP: I love to travel. I've been to seven provinces within Canada as well as to ten countries (USA, the UK, Ireland, France, Denmark, Norway, India, Thailand, Malaysia, and Nepal), often on months-long trips that let me sink deeper into each place. I've never been lucky enough to live abroad, but I did spend three months in Ireland and started to feel at home there.
Of course, travelling in a country is vastly different than growing up in that culture or even living there long-term as an immigrant. I'm mindful of different lived experiences, of my privilege as a white English-speaking foreigner from a rich country touring Asia, of barely scraping the surface of the cultures I see. But even within those limitations, there's immense value in travelling and experiencing other ways of living.
Travel has helped me to become more resourceful. I've travelled solo, sorting out all the logistics, keeping myself safe, learning to navigate in a language I barely know, having brief but intense friendships with others in the youth hostels I've stayed in. I've travelled with friends or family, negotiating differing travel styles and interests, pacing preferences and limitations. I've learned to pace myself and problem-solve on long trips. I've learned to value new experiences, satisfy my curiosity and my wanderlust, and appreciate home through new eyes.
How has that enriched my writing, you ask? All experiences enrich a writer, and that comes through in the writing. I've done a lot of travel blogging to process and share my experiences. I've been exposed to many cultures and ways of thinking, and at the same time, have been reminded of how similar we all are – great fodder for creating varied characters with depth.
As a reader, so many of my experiences of places came first through books. It's an amazing feeling to finally visit a place you've read so much about and feel it come to life. London, for example, was a mythical place in my head. So was New York City. So was Green Gables. Now, having walked through them, I know why people write about them the way they do. The books that live in my head have come to life. I see how other writers have translated place into words, and that helps me learn to do the same.
As a fantasy and steampunk writer, I love exploring old buildings, museums, and markets. I love being outdoors, soaking up nature and landscapes. I love talking to people. I love trying new food. I love reading about language, mythology, history. It all goes into my brain. Sometimes it even comes out.
Now I can write convincingly, and I hope sensitively, about:
- coming to the place my ancestors hail from in Norway and feeling deep in my bones that I had come home
- old trees in Ireland that felt sacred, and the intense green of the landscape from all that rain
- the damp tropical heat and amazing birdsong in Malaysia
- the harsh sound of tuk-tuks in Thailand
- the juxtaposition of high-tech and poverty, modern and old, in urban India
- the tourist-focused villages along the trekking routes in Nepal
I've written several stories inspired by my travels, including (from that link) "Still Waters Run Deep" (Thailand) and my story in the anthology Under Her Protection (India).
Whether or not I'm using travel as inspiration, I always try to ground my writing in a strong sense of place. That includes the province where I grew up, Alberta, home of wheat fields, ranches, and the Rocky Mountains, as well as my adopted province, Ontario. It also includes places I've never been (yet). My novel with Kit Campbell, City of Hope and Ruin, is set in two fantasy worlds loosely inspired by Eastern Europe. (Google was my best friend for a while.) I've also written about the Arctic, Yorkshire, Ancient Egypt, and outer space.
After all, the whole planet (and beyond) is just too fascinating not to mine for story fodder. And the more of it I see, the better equipped I am to write about it.
by Kit Campbell and Siri Paulson
GENRE: Fantasy (with LGBTQ romance)
Every night the monsters hunt.
A city that is the whole world: Theosophy and her companions in the City militia do their best to protect the civilians from the monsters, but they keep crawling from the Rift and there’s nowhere to run. Theosophy knows she’ll die fighting. It’s the best kind of death she’s seen, and at least she can save lives in the meantime.
They say the Scarred carve you up while you’re still alive.
A village in the shadow of a forest: Refugees from the border whisper about the oncoming Scarred, but Briony can’t convince her brother to relocate his children to safety. Briony will do anything to protect them. She owes them that much, even if it means turning to forbidden magic.
When Theosophy and Briony accidentally make contact across the boundaries of their worlds, they realize that solutions might finally be within reach. A world beyond the City would give Theosophy’s people an escape, and the City’s warriors could help Briony protect her family from the Scarred. Each woman sees in the other a strength she lacks—and maybe something more.
All they need to do is find a way across the dimensions to each other before their enemies close in.
Dean Prosody was pacing in her cramped office when Theosophy arrived. Her bayonet and whetstone lay forgotten on her desk.
Theosophy stopped just inside the door. "Sir?"
"He's not in his quarters, and he took his spear," said the dean, not looking at her.
Theosophy reached into her belt pouch and pulled out her double crystal, tuned to her partners. One side had gone dark, of course, but the other pulsed weakly. She could feel the direction of the pull—toward the ruins—but that meant nothing, surely he wouldn't be such a complete...
"What did you say to him?" Dean Prosody demanded.
"Nothing about avenging Rhetoric?"
"I should hope not," she said. "I was a little busy fighting for my life. With one partner gone and the other just standing there..."
The dean gave her a look, blue eyes snapping.
"What? I let him mourn after. But he still let the third one get away, and almost got me killed. I had to say something."
The dean sighed.
"There's a reason I'm the longest-serving fighter. And it's not because I'm nice."
"About that, Theosophy...maybe you should consider stepping down."
She opened her mouth, but nothing came out.
"I know you're the reason a lot of these kids are still alive. But you're turning sour. It's not healthy."
Theosophy grimaced. The thing was, staying alive the longest wasn't any kind of mercy. It just meant everyone you used to know was dead.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
It is a little known fact that Kit was raised in the wild by a marauding gang of octopuses. It wasn't until she was 25 that she was discovered by a traveling National Geographic scientist and brought back to civilization. This is sometimes apparent in the way that she attempts to escape through tubes when startled.
Her transition to normalcy has been slow, but scientists predict that she will have mastered basics such as fork use sometime in the next year. More complex skills, such as proper grocery store etiquette, may be forever outside her reach.
Kit can be found cavorting about the web at her blog or website, on Pinterest, and even occasionally on Twitter.
Siri Paulson writes all over the fantasy and science fiction spectrum, including (so far) secondary-world fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, Gothic, historical paranormal, and YA with spaceships. She is also the chief editor at Turtleduck Press. Siri grew up in Alberta, Canada, but now lives in an old house in Toronto. By day, she edits non-fiction for the government. Her other current passion is contra dance, a social/folk dance done to live Celtic and roots music. Her favourite places in the world are the Canadian Rocky Mountains and a little valley in Norway.
Siri's short fiction and the anthologies she has edited can be found on Turtleduck Press. She blogs and tweets.
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