Thursday, September 6, 2012

Travel: A Trigger for the Imagination by Denise M. Hartman

My guest today is Denise M. Hartman, mystery author. Denise's background in journalism and television production has influenced her writing style and habits, while living overseas for several years, currently in Madrid, Spain, gives Denise's imagination new sites and sounds for her mysteries on a day in and out basis. 

She is a member of Sisters In Crime, including having been the president of her hometown Kansas City Partners in Crime chapter. Denise has a passion for reading, books, travel, dogs, tea, and teapots not necessarily in that order. 

Her short stories and novel, Killed in Kruger, are available now in ebook (click on book title for Kindle) and in e-book and print at Smashwords. Go here for Nook Books.


Travel: A Trigger for the Imagination by Denise M. Hartman

Creativity is often fed through new sights and new sounds for me. My novel, Killed in Kruger was born out of a trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe. At the time I was working for a nature photographer who was going to spend 16 weeks traveling back and forth across the entire southern tip of Africa. For a couple weeks I joined in and we traveled Kruger National Park in South Africa and Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe on a photo safari.

The new surroundings of travel seem to put my creativity on tenterhooks and I see the world through new glasses. I knew I wouldn’t be in Africa very often and I kept a journal so that I could revisit the events and days. I’d be so tired some days that I just put a list of single sentences meant to trigger my memory. Some of them do and some of them I don’t remember what I meant.

What is it about travel that gets those juices flowing? Right now, I live in Madrid because of my day job and most days I just get up and go to my office 3 miles away, so there’s not much to stimulate my senses. The days I actually have to go into the center of the city and I see the tourists, the locals, the beggars, I see characters. I wish my eyes were a video camera, so I could remember all the unusual things I see and describe them later. I always carry paper with me to jot things down, even if it’s just a single 3x5 card in a back pocket, and highly recommend this.

I have an old wooden floppie disk drive box (remember those?) that is full of cards and tiny notebooks that live in my purse. Once in a while I want to find something specific and dig through the notes looking for something. Sometimes I find it and sometimes I have to pick at the bits in my imagination. Travel makes everything seem so rich it’s hard to capture just a few lines to remember so many faces, but it’s fun to try.

I think it is stepping out of your norm that makes you look around and take notice. You don’t have to go around the world or even leave town to stimulate something new in your imagination. It’s something you can do in “normal” life, but it takes a bit of practice to stop the frenzy and pay attention. I find if I go to a new part of a city I already know, this really helps, and if I have a chance to sit by myself for a few minutes even better. It’s a good way to get unstuck if you’ve got a block on some part of a story. I also use the notes and notebooks to revisit ideas or moments to help me get unstuck in my writing.

I was in an airport and I saw a man who looked just like a character I’d envisioned in the Killed in Kruger book. Not a main character, just a skeevy secondary fellow named Chuck from the later half of the book. On the one hand, I wanted to walk closer and see if the man in the airport also talked like Chuck, but knowing the way he was in the book, I didn’t want to get involved. Then I got tickled with myself thinking this.

I think reading is a lot like travel. It does the same thing for my imagination, feeding it with new sights and sounds, and takes me to worlds that are a lot of trouble to get to on international flights, trains, buses etc. What feeds your imagination and stimulates your creativity? Nurture that.


Denise, thanks a bunch for sharing your ideas about travel and how they can get our creative juices flowing. I haven't taken any trips lately except to visit family, so maybe it's time...for a photo safari? Why not?

You can learn more about  Denise and her writing life at her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Denise.

Denise - I couldn't agree more about the value of travel for getting one's creative juices flowing. It's so true! And as you say it can be just as simple as visiting a part of your town or city that you don't know well. Just a little change of scenery can really "wake a person up." Good idea about keeping notes, too!

Emily R. King said...

How neat that she saw someone who looked like one of her characters! That's an experience she'll never forget.

Thanks for introducing me to Denis, Pat. This books sounds like it was well-founded. Imagine going to South Africa and Zimbabwe. Amazing! I'd want to write about it, too.

Lynn Proctor said...

how cool--a great trip and a book out of it too!

Rosalind Adam said...

I'm not good at travelling. I get too anxious to do anything like people watching but you don't have to go far to see characters. I had coffee in town the other day and collected pages full of them. Your travels to Africa sound amazing. Maybe one day I'll pluck up the courage.

Denise Hartman said...

I'm so glad you all enjoyed the story of how Killed in Kruger was born. I'm sometimes amazed I've been that far afield myself. Travel is sometimes only as far as the next book you pick up -- or the next quality time in a coffee shop watching people. Just shaking up your normal brings all kinds of ideas to the surface. I'm off on a trip this week for a conference in Switzerland. We'll see what characters I can drum up.