Today, I’m really excited to welcome the absolutely lovely Jess Butterworth to the blog for a guest post, as part of the YA Shot Blog Tour. Onto the post!
As a child I often imagined I was on adventures in the wilderness without my parents in tow. My grandparents were avid David Attenborough fans and I used to watch wildlife documentaries with them before acting the scenes out: pretending I was climbing to the top of a rainforest; rescuing a pelican from a cliff or swimming with pink dolphins in an alpine lake. I wanted to inhabit an outside world: interacting with nature and experiencing my environment.
The literature I surrounded myself with reflected this desire and books such as Michael Morpurgo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom; The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Jamila Gavin’s Wheel of Surya trilogy, swept me away to faraway lands or on adventures in new settings. My other favourites included Louis Sachar’s Holes and The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford. As I got older I turned to narrative nonfiction and travel writing. All of these stories allowed me to experience being in the wilderness from the safety of my home. These are also the things I consider in my own stories: what are the places I want to spend time in when I write and the type of landscapes I want to create for my characters to interact with? I also soon realised that the stories I loved writing were ones that were fictional but grounded in real places and events.
My reading journey planted the seeds for a desire to go on my own adventures and as soon as I was old enough, I worked as much as I could and saved up for train, bus or plane tickets before setting off, armed with a notebook and a pen. And as I travelled, I noticed that my strongest story ideas developed when I was on buses or trains. There’s nothing better than being tucked into a corner of a train, knees up or legs crossed, with nothing to do but think, people watch and ponder for hours as the scenery whizzes past. In my head I’d ask questions about characters’ motivations: why are they doing this and what will they do next? Sometimes, the passing view outside or the events around me were enough to spark whole book ideas.
I’ve wondered if I find writing on public transport inspiring because in a world where we’re surrounded by the buzz of social media distractions, epic to-do lists, and long working days, it offers the freedom to think and be present without the pressure of sitting at a desk and having to come up with an idea; your only goal is to reach the destination.
But there’s also something magical in writing about a setting as you’re in it. I’ve learnt the hard way that it’s all too easy to forget the little details, the tastes, sounds and smells of a place, when you’re far away from it. Now each idea gets its own notebook filled with photos, notes, maps and clippings from its setting that almost acts as a portal back to the place, when I flick through it. This also gives me something tangible to show students during school visits.
About Jess- Having spent her childhood between the UK and India, Jess’ debut novel ‘Running On The Roof Of The World’ was inspired by the stories she heard about the Himalayas from her grandmother. She begun writing it in 2013 when she was living in the Indian Himalayas and trekked into the mountains as part of her research. You can follow her on Twitter @J_T_Butterworth.
What settings do you enjoy creating/reading about? Are you a fan of Jess’s books? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!