Novel Addiction is part of the blog tour for Adventures Abroad! Author Jen McConnel is taking over my blog for today with a guest post. Enjoy!
Inspiration and “Somewhere Else”
Early on in my writing career, I was describing one of my books to my sister, and she pointed out that all my work takes place “somewhere else”. For my fantasy titles, that means another world, but even my contemporary titles tend to be set in places outside of my everyday existence. I think part of that is because I’m a travel junkie, and I build my “to visit” list the way some people make their shopping lists: obsessively and regularly.
Over the years, I’ve been surprised at the way going “somewhere else” can spark my creativity. My current New Adult series, the Adventures Abroad books, were inspired by the summer I spent abroad after my sophomore year of college. I kept a travel journal while I was in Europe, but it never occurred to me at the time that the experience could result in fiction: I think I was more fixated on the idea of eventually crafting a memoir based on the experiences, although looking back, I’ve realized that other than happening to me, there wasn’t anything about that summer that really sets it apart from the thousands of other study abroad experiences American students have every year.
Still, spots I visited and memories I cherished made their way into my writing as I crafted the series; I only wish I’d had traveling companions like Sarah, Joelle, and Camie to make the experience complete. Traveling alone is an intense, amazing experience, but so is traveling with friends. I’m lucky to have been able to do both over the years, but other than classmates I met during the study abroad program, I was relatively on my own during that first trip to Europe. Near the end of the summer, I navigated the Italian train system to spend a day at the beach. I’d only swum in the ocean once before, when I was a teen visiting family in Virginia, and I wasn’t prepared for how deeply I would fall in love with the crystal blue waters of Cinque Terre. If I close my eyes, I can still experience the sound of the waves, the site of huge beach umbrellas and chairs dotting the beach like something from a vintage travel ad, and the salty, buoyant water. Despite a wicked sunburn (which totally makes an appearance in What Happens Abroad) that day at the beach remains one of my favorite memories from my first trip to Europe.
As writers, it’s important that we remain open to adventure, whether that means a trip abroad or taking a back country road instead of your usual route. Inspiration waits around every bend, and one of my favorite parts about writing fiction is being surprised when my experiences and memories sneak into the stories I craft. You never know when “somewhere else” will be just the place your characters are looking for.
I’m so excited for the opportunity to join y’all “somewhere else” later this summer: I’ve never been to Emerald Isle, despite living in North Carolina for seven years, and I know that stepping away from normal, even for a long weekend, usually leaves me with more inspiration than I know what to do with. And besides, I’m always happy when I can stick my toes in the ocean.
ABOUT JEN MCCONNEL:
A Michigander by birth, Jen McConnel now makes her home in the beautiful state of North Carolina. She writes NA, including the Adventures Abroad series (Bloomsbury Spark), the award winning YA novel Beautiful Curse (Swoon Romance), and various other works. When she isn’t writing, she can be found on her yoga mat or wandering off on another adventure. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time. Visit www.JenMcConnel.com to learn more!
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