A warm welcome to Patricia Steele from Arizona, a genealogist and prolific writer who shares my love of travel and talks about the settings for her novels.
Thanks so much, Jane, for inviting me to your blog. I have looked over the postings and spent over an hour “visiting” all the wonderful places you and your guests have written about. And I loved all the photos, so I will add some of my own, since they always bring the words to life. I love the settings I use in my books because living vicariously through others’ travel memories appeal to me and I love taking readers there along with me.
When I was growing up, my mother always said I must have gypsy blood; I loved to travel as a child and when I became an adult, the burning desire only intensified. Add that to my passion for writing and urge to see around every corner bloomed and grew. As a writer, many people have told me the importance of basing stories in a city, country or venue you are familiar with. To a point, that is absolutely true. However, with the advent of the internet and Google Earth, you can ‘go there.’
That said, I must admit that writing about places I have walked through makes it much easier to write in order to put the reader on the spot. So, I typically (nearly always) write about my favorite places; places that take me away and places I want to take my readers away to… And so I do.
My first novel, Shoot the Moon, and Tangled like Music were both based in Oregon, where I spent over forty years of my life off and on from the time I was nine years old. I love Oregon, especially Portland where I raised my children. I can get to the ocean within two hours, so my main character in the Callinda Beauvais mysteries also loves the beach. But, with my gypsy spirit and love of travel, I also take her to Paris and the south of France, to San Francisco and all the places in between. My newest book also takes place in Oregon, but the final book in the series will take her to Spain. She obviously has gypsy blood too.
France. Magic. The first country I visited on my virgin European visit will always be my brightest and best memory. I was nearly black and blue after pinching myself. Was I really there? Could I possibly push enough words together to bring readers there so they could feel the magic of stepping in red dirt, on gray cobble stones and smelling the lavender? The air I inhaled gave me the feeling of unearthliness and I wanted others to see and feel what I felt.
My main character, Callinda (aka Callie), has family who lives in the house where I first laid down my hat. It is located in Pertuis, north of Marseille, and my mind flies there periodically where I smell the lavender and feel the breeze in my face. The old couple who welcomed me was a host family for my friend whose friendship remained strong for over thirty years. On a fluke, I went to France with her because her sister couldn’t go at the last minute. Was I afraid to fly across the ocean? No. Did I take more than two seconds to agree to go? No. And readers (myself included) love “traveling” through words in a book. So, the manse they lived in is the manse Callie goes to when she flies to France. And then I let her ride a bike in nearby La Verdiere.
When I learned I may truly have gypsy blood in my veins, my focus flew to Spain. And that is where I walked the streets in the small villages of my ancestors. Touching Spanish soil is something I dreamed about for many years. Once the genealogy bug gripped me, Spain is where I landed. How could I write about my grandmother’s flight from Spain when she was nine years old without my walking in her shoes, over her land or seeing Spain through her eyes? It helped seeing, breathing the spaces and feeling the old villages for my book, The Girl Immigrant.
I “found” her there in 2012 when I visited Fuentesaúco, Spain with my brother, Steven. (He speaks Spanish and I couldn’t have done it without him.) We met Spanish cousins and visited the town where our great grandfather tutored children in math. We ate Paella, a Spanish rice dish, made by an old Spaniard who spun tales on his sun-bleached patio among the Bougainvillea. We drank Spanish wine, walked along the ramparts of castles and saw the huge Spanish bulls erected along the highways. We got lost on streets that snaked through small villages and laughed as we found our way out again. So, of course, I had to take Callie there in the last book I plan to write about her crazy life. She will go to Seville (this tower is in Seville), Madrid, Algodonales, Marbella and Nerja to play in the sandy beach.
She will, of course, eat Paella in the sun.
The history in Spain called to me the minute I got off the plane and I hope to return one day. Callie had a short visit in book two of my series, Wine, Vines and Picasso… but she must learn to speak Spanish for the plans I have for her in book four. So, I must learn the language because how can I plop her down in Spain if I can’t understand it myself?
These arches are old Roman ruins in Merida, Spain. The beautiful tile railing is part of the huge Plaza de España, a plaza located in the Parque de María Luisa, in Seville, Spain built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929.
Yes, writing about places I have visited helps me smell the flowers, the food, feel the breeze and hear the sway of voices around me. I pull out all the photos from each of my trips, close my eyes and go back in time. Videos are even better. Putting myself there first puts my reader right in the middle of the story.
Links to Patricia Steele’s books:
Her website: http://www.patriciabbsteele.com/