Updated: Jul 8, 2019
This summer I got to do something amazing – go on a trip to India. It was something I’d joked about before, with no real expectation of going. But one of my oldest friends and writing partner-in-crime was getting married in India in August, and suddenly I was going.
I dragged along my brother and one of my friends (another writing partner-in-crime!) and we made the trip a little more elaborate with a four day adventure in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, before heading down to the state of Kerala for the wedding. The day-to-day details of the trip can be read about on my travel blog, Passport and Compass.
Travelling is such an incredible source of inspiration. I could probably write an entire book based on the places I visited and the things I learned in India. I’ve always prided myself on using the things I learned in my history classes to create the world of The Greatest Thief. The main culture of Teltans and Native Zians are based on the medieval and Greco-Roman worlds, because that’s what I studied. Some ideas also came from travel, but until this point my travelling was all in Europe. Which means India was quite a change! Not just because of the languages or the people, but the architecture and the environment and stories we were told. I want to draw from the experience, I just need to figure out where to put all of these fantastic new ideas.
Chand Baori (left), a step well near
Jaipur, is an enormous square.
Whereas in Delhi, Agrasen ki Baoli
was built in a different style, with
only one staircase leading down
to where the water would have been.
In the Greatest Thief series (keeping in mind that I’ve written far more than I’ve published so far), I have my characters travel to multiple difference places. While the neighbouring kingdoms of Deorun and Navire are supposed to be fairly similar to what old Zianna would have been like, these other countries need to be different. The differences I came up with tended to be slight variations in which parts of European history I drew from. But I want my created world to be as interesting and different as the real world.
Architecture is something that should be easy to add - in the world I've already talked about castles, forts and different styles of cities. I've even mentioned pyramids. Huge tombs such as the Taj Mahal and Humayun's Tomb would be amazing places for my characters to see, and having seen them myself, hopefully I'll be able to convey the wonder I felt. The Amer Fort (left) sits
on a hill above a town, and walls snake across the hills all around it. It's a layout entirely different from the cities I've created for Zianna. Instead of glass or wooden slates, intricately carved marble decorated the windows in monuments we saw across Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.
This type of carved stone latticework was popular in a lot of the buildings we saw in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. It was used for windows and railings.This particular example is from inside Humayun's Tomb in Delhi.
The first four days of my trip (and the last one, since we flew out of Delhi), really gave me plenty of ideas for buildings, which I hope to include - possible Morcea, a country to the North of Zianna, could benefit from some Indian inspiration. Or maybe one of the Southern countries that I haven't described yet.
The rest of the trip was spent in the Southern state of Kerala, where we were met with what almost felt like a different country altogether. Northern India was humid and sunny, most of the people we met spoke Hindi, cows roamed the streets with absolutely no fear, and the food was familiar - what I've always seen in Indian restaurants in Canada (such as my absolute favourite, aloo gobi!). Southern India was greener, and rainier than usual for August. The people speak Malayalam, which not only sounds different than Hindi but looks completely different when written. In Kerala, we met a couple of elephants, got to dip our feet into the India Ocean, and spent a night on a house boat. With my friend's family, we ate a special meal served on a banana leaf for the Onam Festival.
The two weeks we spent in Kerala were amazing, and gave me even more ideas to think about. Maybe one of my characters could ride an elephant, or sit down for a fancy meal served on a giant leaf. It also reminded me how, in a large country, there can be vast differences in culture and climate. Something I really need to keep in mind if I want my world to feel real.
I'm so glad I got a chance to travel to India. I have great memories and great ideas. I can't wait to go on my next adventure.
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.