Thursday, 24 November 2016

Once a travel writer, always a travel writer? Jo Carroll

Most of you know me as a travel writer. I set off on my middle-aged gap year over ten years ago now, and have been trotting off every winter and writing about it every summer since then.

I was asked to join this happy band of electric authors on the basis of my travel writing. It would, I was told, broaden their spectrum. And it was a slot I was very happy to fill.

But now, and without warning anyone, I've put the travel writing aside for a while and written a novel.

It had, for me, been a logical progression from my traveling. I came across a vignette of the life of Barbara Weldon when I was in New Zealand: she was born in Ireland in the nineteenth century and ended up it a bleak, grey town in the middle of the gold rush in New Zealand. I'd chosen to fly  across the world. And I could keep in contact with my family by phone and email. What had driven her this far, on her own?

In the absence of much detail, I made it up. And what fun I had. Should she have lovers, children, adventures? Did she run away from home or was she made to leave and spent decades wanting to return? And so I buried myself in research and that grew into stories and scene by scene the narrative grew.

And now I have a novel, almost ready to go (I'm at the 'final edits and sorting a cover out' stage).

Which means I have to begin to think about marketing.

Which isn't as straightforward as I'd thought it might be. Some people who know me as a travel writer can't quite get the hang of me escaping the confines of that genre. Just because I can write a decent travel book doesn't mean I can write a novel (true). They no longer know what to expect from me (true). I have no longer written about what I know but made a whole load of stuff up (true).

Does it matter? Not to me - I've loved writing this book, and have invested in editorial help to make sure it is the best book it can possibly be. Time will tell if enough people forgive me for shrugging off the travel writing for once and trampling on a different genre. And while they are making up their minds, I am planning a trip to Africa - and wondering what to write about next!

If you want to know more about my travel writing, or get details of this novel as it comes out, please check my website jocarroll.co.uk

2 comments:

griseldaheppel said...

Sounds intriguing - it is extraordinary how brave people were. I hope Barbara Weldon settled down happily and made a good life in NZ - but I guess I'll need to wait for your book to find that out!

Lynne Garner said...

Great to hear you've tried something new. I started writing craft how-to features. Then had a few picture books published. This was followed by three short story collections. For the last few years I've been writing for people who work with kids (eyfs). My latest venture has brought me back to picture books. So my advice is always follow what you want to write, I've found someone will want to read it.