Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Travels of Edith Maxwell

This woman has traveled! She's been to places all over the map. Here's Edith--read on:

Thanks so much to Kaye for hosting me here again.

I've been thinking about how traveling is like writing, how living in another country is like writing a novel. In my adult life, I have lived overseas for various periods of time: from half a year to two years in almost a half-dozen countries. Brazil for a year as young seventeen-year-old exchange student.
Just home in 1971 from a year in Brazil
 Japan for almost two years, teaching English and living with an American beau who was in the US Navy.
With friend Tomoko in Japan, 1977
 France for half a year with my husband and infant first-born. Mali for a year with same husband, same first-born, and the second-born, when they were five and two. Burkina Faso for a year when the boys were twelve and nine.
With a diviner and her grandson in Burkina Faso, 1999

Before I packed my bags and headed for a new home, I'd mostly never been to that country before, with brief exceptions for France and Mali. I'd certainly never lived in any of those places and didn't really know what to expect. The language, people, and culture revealed themselves to me as time went on. When I came home, I was done with that life. I haven't returned to live in any of those places, and only to Brazil did I go back for a brief visit. I’ve made plenty of repeat visits to places in the US and Canada, but I haven’t returned to live on other continents.

Writing a book is like that, too. When I start, I might have an idea of where I'm going, but I don't really know the story. I've never written it before. I create a cast of new characters to go along with the core series characters, and these new people gradually reveal themselves to me: the way they talk, their problems, their joys. And after I turn in the book, I'll never write it again. I’ll refer back to it when I write the sequel, talk about it at a library event or on a panel, or write a blog post about it, but basically I'm done with that story and moving on to the next. 
Where Edith writes

Since the books I write are all set in northeastern Massachusetts (so far), my research keeps me at home. I haven't lived overseas since I started writing novels in earnest in 2009, although I have visited Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, and am planning a trip to Italy in a couple of years. I guess I'm doing my traveling in my head and on the pages these days. And I love it.

Readers: do you repeat visits to far-off places? What would be the one place you’d like to go back to again and again? And do you reread books?

Here's Edith's biography and contact information: Edith Maxwell writes the Local Foods Mystery series (Kensington Publishing), the Speaking of Mystery series under the pseudonym Tace Baker, featuring Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau (Barking Rain Press), and the historical Carriagetown Mysteries, as well as award-winning short crime fiction.

A mother, world traveler, and former technical writer, Edith lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats. She blogs every weekday with the Wicked Cozy Authors. You can find her here:


  1. Interesting analogy between travel and writing. Most of us simply think of the two as intertwined because some authors travel to write or write when they travel. But leaving a place/story behind and moving on is how many do it.

    Well said, Edith.

  2. Thanks, Claire. I hadn't realized it until I sat down to write this post.

  3. I've often wondered at the dichotomy of approaches to understanding between (1) the knowledge one gains by traveling and (2) the deep understanding of a particular place gained through thorough detailed exploration.

    ~ Jim

  4. I, too, loved this thoughtful post on leaving the story behind. It's very true! Thanks for being here today, Edith.

  5. Thanks so much for having me, Kaye. And true, Jim, traveling through is very different than stopping and living there.

  6. I love seeing these old pictures of you, Edith!

    The place I keep returning to is Scotland. It was my first trip abroad, when I was 10, and it captured my imagination for both my books and my life :)

  7. Thanks, Gigi. I haven't found a way to work much of my traveling past into my books except for Japan, but life is long (one hopes)!