The Internet is the fiction writer’s best friend. Well, not counting those precious members of your writers’ group who will tell you the truth. And your writing partner who reads every word and loves you anyway. Or your editor who encourages you to “just get me another book.”
OK, the Internet is the fiction writer’s 6th or 7th best friend. You can find out just about anything you need to know in not very much time. Amy and Walter are traveling on the Interstate through Knoxville. What do they see? Hmm. I’ll bet I can find that fact in . . . 7 clicks. Look. It’s the Sunsphere.
Part of the story in Return from Avalon (and Points West) takes place in the “book town” of Hay-on-Wye, Wales. When I was writing the 1st draft, I did as exhaustive an Internet tour of the town as possible. Pulled up articles, photos, everything I could come up with to give me the look and feel of the town as well as the facts. Thought I did pretty damned well.
And then, when I was working on the 1st rewrite, I was in Wales on business (how cool a job is that?) and actually had an opportunity to travel to Hay-on-Wye. Even better, write it off as a legitimate business expense. It was in December, and we finished up on Thursday around noon. The plant was near Swansea, and my flight left Cardiff early Saturday morning. So I pointed my car north and headed out on an adventure.
Having lived in Texas for as long as I have, it never occurred to me that it gets dark around 3:30pm in Wales in December. So driving little roads on the wrong side in the dark with a map but no GPS — well, let’s just say that by the time I got there, it was late and I was fried. But I found a room in an inn over a pub (and even rarer, a parking spot), dumped my stuff off, and went out exploring.
Despite my exhaustive Internet research, Hay-on-Wye was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like I had pictured it. Because I was seeing the pictures and reading the descriptions through my American filters. Except for the pubs, the little town was closed up tight as a drum. Restaurants (I had blithely assumed there were several to choose from)? Nope — everybody eats at a pub. Not to mention, the place is TINY. And about twice as much charm as I had imagined.
And the next morning . . . the book stores, which is what the town is famous for, were amazing. That much I had gotten right, at least.
So, fellow writers. Stay on the good side of your 6th or 7th best friend, the Internet. But if you get a chance, put your feet on the real estate.