When I was young, my favourite authors were those I felt I knew.
I lived and breathed the Famous Five and Tracey Beaker, wanted desperately to become a dancer in Ballet Shoes, and dreamed of sailing away across the seas in a giant peach. Their creators – people like Judy Blume, Jacqueline Wilson, Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and Noel Streatfeild – all had direct access to my heart, because I was certain they were speaking directly to me.
When I was eleven years old, something monumental happened: Harry Potter slipped quietly onto my bookshelf, and his arrival heralded an annual tradition. Each summer for the next seven years, J.K. Rowling whispered magic into my ear while I lay on my stomach, feverishly reading her books as the July heat sweated outside.
Although I don’t think about it so much now, viewing writers as your friends is an extremely valuable part of loving to read. The authors who remained at a distance from me were the ones I couldn’t connect with, either through their words or what they said.
In comparison, I’ll always remember how tangible the world of Harry Potter was; how it changed with me as I grew older, and how comfortable, familiar and ‘right’ it always felt.
That’s what I strive for in my own writing, and that’s what I look for in the work of other writers. A sense of connection between the characters, their creators, and you.
Bridging the gap between blogs and books
The beauty of today’s online, social-media-filled world is that we can actually get to know our favourite writers, in ways we never could before. There’s a sense of absolute joy when you finish reading a fantastic book and Google the author, only to discover they’ve been blogging about their entire writing process, sharing the images which inspire them, or they’re being extremely outspoken on Twitter (anyone who follows J.K. Rowling’s tweets will know what I mean).
And it works the other way, too: plenty of people who’ve spent years writing online have ended up publishing books as a result.
These eight faces above are a collection of my favourite travel bloggers who’ve also become successfully published authors. Some I know personally, others I’ve only ever read from afar – but all of these writers (who all happen to be women – a happy accident!) have an online presence which means their books are an extension of the online selves I already feel I know.
They also all have a beautiful way with words, and individually have each inspired me to become a better writer. Happy #NationalWritingDay, ladies!
‘Mother Tongue’ by Christine Gilbert
Christine Gilbert wrote ‘Mother Tongue’ after spending three years travelling with her husband, young son and eventually their baby daughter through China, Lebanon and Mexico in an attempt to learn the local language of each place.
The book itself is part memoir, part travelogue and part investigation into the ways the brain develops and changes through learning more than one language, both theoretically and in practice. Thanks to my mild obsession with learning Spanish I found this whole concept seriously interesting – especially because Christine seemed stoically determined to challenge herself. Who else dares to undergo a C-section with a team of Mexican nurses when she doesn’t understand what they’re saying?!
Christine’s blog: Almost Fearless
‘Love with a Chance of Drowning’ by Torre de Roche
Torre de Roche’s book reads a little like a Hollywood movie – so it makes sense that the film rights are being optioned. When Torre met a handsome stranger who asked her to sail across the Pacific with him, her major hesitation was a deep-seated fear of the sea. And boats. And seasickness, and multiple other things besides.
So of course she decided to board a boat for a year, right? What could possibly go wrong?
‘Love With a Chance of Drowning’ is the kind of travel adventure we all dream of having, but what’s even better is Torre’s romantic yet daring attitude, which sees her weathering the roughest of storms. I really hope this book ends up as a film – and I also hope I eventually manage to visit all the locations mentioned!
Torre’s blog: The Fearful Adventurer
‘How Not to Travel the World’ by Lauren Juliff
If you’ve ever read Lauren’s blog, you’ll know her self-prescribed tagline is being a ‘disaster-prone backpacker’, and her memoir certainly doesn’t disappoint.
‘How Not to Travel the World’ follows Lauren’s backpacking journey through Europe and Asia as she deals with her various phobias (hygiene, food and a general lack of life experience are some of her self-confessed significant issues); navigates her way through various difficulties (a potential tsunami, drunk backpackers and sexual harassment in hostels); and eventually meets a male backpacker named Dave.
I read this book voraciously when on a nineteen hour bus ride from London to Spain before starting the Camino. It’s a perfect holiday read – and great for anyone who’s ever embarrassed themselves abroad.
Lauren’s blog: Never Ending Footsteps
‘The Yellow Envelope’ by Kim Dinan
The concept behind Kim’s book is one I absolutely love: before she and her husband Brian set off on their world travels, a friend gave them both a yellow envelope. Inside was a substantial amount of money, along with instructions to give the money away in whichever method they saw fit. The only three rules for the envelope?
‘(1) Don’t overthink it; (2) share your experiences; (3) don’t feel pressured to give it all away.’
What follows is not just a retelling of Kim and Brian’s adventures, but an exploration of Kim’s self-reflection and self-doubt as they journey further away from home and become steadily more distant from each other. I recognised a lot of myself in Kim, and felt myself hurrying her onward through each struggle and championing her successes when they came. Anyone who believes in the power of generosity will love this book.
Kim’s blog: So Many Places
‘Miss-adventures in South America’ by Amy Baker
As someone obsessed with South America, Amy’s book had me hooked. During her three months spent backpacking solo around the continent, she often arrived in cities I knew or booked into hostels I stayed in, and every time I felt the familiar pangs of Latino life – except Amy’s sharp, hilarious and quintessentially British humour made me see my favourite continent in a whole new light.
‘Miss-Adventures in South America’ is ingeniously structured around the best and worst pieces of advice Amy’s ever received (many of which will be familiar to other solo female travellers) and it’s an inspirational read for anyone planning to travel by themselves.
Amy’s blog: Amy Baker Writes
NB: Amy also runs a rather marvellous event called ‘The Riff Raff’, a monthly meet-up in London for debut and aspiring authors to discuss and support each other’s work. I went to the first event and can already see it being a fantastic place to network and learn about new writers!
‘All Over the Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft’ by Geraldine DeRuiter
Although I haven’t managed to read ‘All Over the Place’ yet, I have no doubt that Geraldine’s book is everything her fantastic blog is: hilarious, witty, and extremely clever.
The book chronicles a five-year period of Geraldine’s world travels, delivering her insights on a range of topics from unemployment and brain tumours to lost luggage, lost opportunities, and generally getting lost in countless terminals and cabs and hotel lobbies across the globe. As someone who often finds themselves getting lost, I’m sure many of Geraldine’s escapades will ring true for me.
Geraldine’s blog: The Everywhereist
‘The Guilty Wife’ by Elle Croft
In amongst all these travelogues and memoirs is an exciting slice of crime fiction! Elle’s book is still awaiting publication (it’ll be out on 30th November 2017) but as a long-standing reader of her site, I’m extremely excited to see what her debut novel is all about.
Amazon tells me its “a debut psychological thriller that reads as Apple Tree Yard meets Behind Closed Doors, by way of Double Jeopardy”. Sounds good, right?
Elle’s blog: A Bird in the Hand
Nine Women: Short Stories by Frankie Thompson
I’ve been a long-time reader of Frankie’s wonderful way with words, so when she began publishing short stories I was first in line to read them.
This particular collection speaks volumes to me: it’s about female experience in all its forms, and Frankie’s ability to convey her characters with subtlety and empathy is really what makes these stories come alive. Particular highlights for me are ‘The Pink Flowers’ and ‘Together, Apart’. If you’re looking for some beautifully told fiction, ‘Nine Women’ won’t disappoint.
Frankie’s blog: As the Bird Flies
Have you read any fantastic books by travel bloggers which I haven’t mentioned here? Let me know in the comments!
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