The following is a guest post by author E.J. Simon. After reading, be sure to scroll down to enter the book giveaway he is offering.
Sitting in the Café de Flore in Paris, my imagination goes into overdrive. I watch the people go by. I take in the scene as though it was a stage set for a chapter of my novel, and I think about the famous writers who have sat exactly where I now sit.
It’s a scene that’s been repeated by generations of writers – so often that the ghosts of Hemingway and Sartre surely roll over in their literary graves each time a new writer enters the café.
At times, I may place a scene in my books at a location of historical interest – perhaps a restaurant in Berlin just steps from the site of Hitler’s bunker or outside of Hemingway’s apartment in Paris. It may have little to do with the story except to add additional texture. Life is like that too – often we carry on with our daily lives walking in the footsteps of Churchill, sitting in the exact spot he did for his daily lunch at the Savoy in London, or at Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s regular table at Le Perigord in New York. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve done this. Sitting in those chairs, I survey the scene as they must have, too – and that alone stimulates my thinking—perhaps because being right there is in itself, another form of travel: travel to another time and into another person’s mind, however briefly or superficially.
Everything is different when you leave your home – even more so when you enter a foreign country. Watching and taking in even the same opera performance—is a different experience at Lincoln Center than it is at the Palais Garnier, just as the taste of a fine wine is different when we sip it from Baccarat crystal instead of a plastic cup. It’s often the periphery surroundings that influences our core experience.
These changes – in people, their mannerisms, their culture, their language – along with the unfamiliar, and often, spectacular setting – disrupts the routines of my entire thinking pattern – and that disruption creates new pathways in my own mind, leading to greater creativity.
Travel also exposes the writer to vulnerabilities, he is no longer as sure of his environment, often no longer secure in the legal protections of his home country or as sure of his footing when entering certain neighborhoods. Vulnerability brings a sense of danger – always valuable when writing a thriller – and a greater awareness as his senses must work harder in order to function in a new place. These vulnerabilities become more severe if he doesn’t speak the language – yet, even here, his senses are forced to adapt and compensate in order to perceive what is happening around him. Reality becomes harder to discern and often left to the observer’s imagination. All this shakes up the writer’s world, stimulating his thinking and, even better, his imagination.
Travel allows me to be more knowledgeable about how people in other countries act and interact – thereby allowing me to confidently introduce them into my stories. This, in turn, makes the stories richer and the characters less predictable and more mysterious. It perhaps allows the reader to travel twice – first into the story and secondly, to the location where it takes place.
About the Author:
E.J. Simon was the CEO of GMAC Global Relocation Services (a division of GM) and the Managing Director of Douglas Elliman, the largest real estate company in NY.
He is a consultant to many leading private equity firms and has held senior level positions at prominent financial services companies.
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