“Find something you like doing and get someone to pay you to do it.”
This was probably the best career’s advice I ever had. Although I have had travel-related jobs for much of my life, I was extremely fortunate to work as a tour manager for a UK singles’ tour operator for thirteen years. During this time I went all over the world, and the only places left on my ‘to visit’ list are Japan and Cape Town. I consider myself blessed because I have seen first hand the sheer, breath-taking beauty of Planet Earth. I was always convinced that in a previous life I’d been an island dweller as I’ve fallen in love with several at first sight – Ibiza, Corfu, Bali and Antigua. But my affinity with the sea started on family holidays to Tenby in South Wales when I stood on the shore and felt as if the sea was calling me in! So, I’d always considered myself a beach person, until I went to the Canadian Rockies and then I became a mountain person. But that was only until I went to the Sahara. And so the list of favourites went on; Tutenkhamen’s Tomb and sailing down the Nile; Finnish Lapland and the Northern Lights; the Great Wall of China; Ularu; the Maldives – like being on holiday in an aquarium; the vastness of the Argentinian Pampas and the frozen beauty of Patagonia; New York, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Cork and Bangkok – my favourite cities; and, of course, my beloved Antigua.
Accompanying singles’ groups was rewarding, but often very challenging and the situations I found myself in offered a ripe picking ground for my books. But, people aside, I had experienced first hand how a place has a personality of its own that is almost tangible; within its history are deep, sometimes dark secrets and it’s this past which provides fascinating anecdotes and stories; its culture, customs and cuisine demonstrate its quirks and individuality and, just like people, it has a nice side, a naughty side, a serious side, a fun side and a dark side. So my intention has always been to let the location of the novels – Antigua in Singles’ Holiday and Sweet Lady; India’s Golden Triangle in Singles and Spice and the beautiful Essex village of Tolleshunt D’Arcey in Single All The Way – become an additional character within the development of the story. I particularly love a plot twist or development due to a physical feature, a building or the climate of a location.
It’s particularly rewarding when readers tell me they recognised the place I was writing about as they’d been there, or that my book has made them want to rush out and book a holiday there; or, that they feel they know the place through the book, even though they’ve never visited.
I’ve been able to go to town, too, with my two selections of short stories – Holiday Reads and Holiday Reads 2. Each story is set in a different location that I am familiar with.
My next book, The Banjo, – just out on Kindle – also features a place – one that is very special to me and close to my heart – the Heath Park Estate in Dagenham, which is where I grew up. Banjo is a word peculiar to Dagenham and it refers to a cul-de-sac and it tells the story of one particular (fictitious) banjo and the families living there.
And I have just started writing another book in the Singles’ series. This one – Singles At Sea – follows a singles’ group on a cruise through the Norwegian Fjords – one of the most hauntingly beautiful places I’ve ever visited.. That will be followed by possibly the last in the series, which will be set in Corfu.
You can find out more about Elaine at her website