Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Guest Today, Laurel Peterson Around the World

I welcome Laurel Peterson here today. She's a fellow Barking Rain Press author with an unusual book (see below).

by Laurel Peterson

Thanks so much for having here, Kaye. I’m delighted to be part of your blog for the day.

A writer—too vague, I know, but I can’t remember who said it—said that one can spend a lot of money justifying one’s travel as a tax write-off. He was talking about researching his books, and I know what he means! My husband and I once spent a weekend in Atlantic City so I could research a book that was never published. On the other hand, I have written a collection of poems about art I’ve seen in Sydney, Paris, and Madrid museums that’s coming out from Futurecycle Press next year (

The protagonist of my mystery novel Shadow Notes, Clara Montague, has spent fifteen years traveling around the world, looking at gardens because she is a landscape architect like her father, and because she and her mother had an (epic) argument after her father’s death. While sending her off into the world solved some narrative problems for me, it also offered an opportunity to use the places I’ve been (and the places I want to go) in my books. And no matter where I travel, I am drawn to the landscapes and the different ways in which people use their patches of earth. Starting locally, above are the rather perfect herb gardens at the Cloisters in New York City, which overlook a wide sweep of the Hudson River.

Last year, we were fortunate enough to be in France, where people garden like this:  

The window box is in Paris. The other is the cutting garden at the Chateau D’Useé or Sleeping Beauty’s castle (where supposedly the story was written) in the Loire Valley. I love the color combination in the window box, and the idea of having an entire row of calla lilies just to cut for flowers for the house? Heaven!

But travel is expensive, so I indulge my obsession by reading books about travel: I’ve just finished Robert MacFarlane’s The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot¸ although I can’t imagine Clara, a luxury hotel kind of girl if there ever was one, trudging through the wilderness and sleeping in sheep shelters. (Where’s the blow-dryer??) But MacFarlane opens up the world on an essential level, a level that makes me think about soil composition (chalk, granite, clay), snow, ice, and the paths formed by generations of walkers across the land. He suggests that “the places we inhabit shape the people we are”—rather than the other way around. Certainly, the places I’ve travelled have shaped me, hopefully making me more tolerant, curious and observant, and reminding me (and Clara) that those people are really my people.

Related to that, I think the greatest charm of travel is that it makes me other; I don’t belong so there’s a sense of disorientation, of discovery, that just around the corner I am going to see something I have never seen before—and how cool is that? If I can communicate that internal emotional journey for my readers, I think I have succeeded. And perhaps, saved myself a bundle of money, tax-write off or no.

Why do you travel? How do your travels relate to your writing—or do they? I’d love to hear from you, and thanks for reading.
Follow me on Twitter: @laurelwriter49 and on Facebook.
Shadow Notes is available on Amazon:
or from Barking Rain Press:

Meet Laurel and find out a bit about her new book.

by Laurel S. Peterson
Clara Montague’s mother Constance never liked—or listened—to her but now they have to get along or they will both end up dead. Clara suspects she and her mother share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara was twenty, she dreamed her father would have a heart attack. Constance claimed she was hysterical. Then he died.
Furious, Clara leaves for fifteen years, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she returns home. Then, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested.
Starting to explore her mother’s past, Clara discovers books on trauma, and then there’s a second murder. Can Clara find the connection between the murders and her mother’s past that will save her mother and finally heal their relationship?   

Laurel S. Peterson is a Professor of English at Norwalk Community College. Her mystery novel,Shadow Notes, was released by Barking Rain Press in May 2016. In addition to writing mysteries, she has published two poetry chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds, from Finishing Line Press (2009) andTalking to the Mirror from The Last Automat Press (2010), and a full length collection, “Do You Expect Your Art to Answer You?” will be released by Futurecycle Press in 2017. In 2016 – 2017, she is serving as the town of Norwalk’s Poet Laureate. She also co-edited a collection of essays on women’s justice titled(Re)Interpretations: The Shapes of Justice in Women’s Experience (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).


  1. Hi Laurel, Great post, thanks! I love books that involve travel in some way (and I write them, too!). Sometimes when I choose which book to read, I think, where do I want to go today. Other days I look for books that will take me all over the world. I'll definitely look into yours. Jane

  2. Thanks, Jane! I love traveling in books too--I feel like I learn about all sorts of places I might never be able to go. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    Cheers, Laurel

  3. I've traveled a lot, mostly for work. Some of my travel adventures have wound up in my books, and I suspect that will continue to happen. Best wishes for gret sales of "Shadow Notes."

  4. Thanks so much, M! It's fun to see the overlap between our real lives and our characters' fictional ones, I think. Thanks for stopping by.


  5. I enjoyed your post, Laurel! I travel to see the beautiful places I've always wanted to be if just for a day or a week. And I'm Irish, so I'd travel to Ireland every year for the rest of my life if I could! :-) --kate/ c.t. collier

  6. I'm glad you stopped by, Jane, M., and Kate, to read Laurel's fun post.

    I do love to see the inventive ways my guest bloggers use my theme of travel here. Thanks for your slant, Laurel!

  7. Kate, my husband is a Francophile and would be in France every year! We love it--and so many other places. Too many. How lucky we are. :). Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I will never view traveling the way most people do, and that said, I find most books where I know that the author has researched a destination too frequently means simply a 'sightseeing' run that ads street names. So not interesting.
    To say one is going off to Paris to do research for a book, and it is a first time venture with a stay of a week or so, isn't going to garner the researcher much info unless they have good contacts or has a plan to return several times.
    I recently read a book about a tour, which was easy enough to research by taking one, and the mystery was good too. However, his protags, an escort and travel agent, had no credentials and deserved to be sued into oblivion. Probably thought that part didn't need thorough research.
    So what am I saying? Well, I think it is easy to notice research that has been done by someone who visited, but never lived there.
    Fly in the ointment, right Kaye? :)

  9. Hi Pat/Fly. Thanks for commenting! I'll argue that a long visit gives you enough flavor to write about a place, especially if your characters are visiting there and don't live there themselves.

    That's what's fun about making up a place that's almost another place. You can put in local color and your own details.

    I think your beef is with the profession of travel agent and escort. It IS good to have someone in the biz your writing about review your project. I agree with that!

  10. Hi Pat: I agree that visiting is no substitute for living in a place, and I try to be very careful about the information I include. I will never be a native, but then my character isn't either. Perhaps what we are agreeing on is that it's important to be authentic in what we do in our writing? Thanks so much for stopping by! I love the conversation.