Sign up for a Certificate in Novel Writing: Save Money on Classes!

Interview with Travel Writer Ray Bartlett by Hayden Royster

Posted by on Jul 10, 2017 in Author Interviews, Blog, Fresh Ink | Comments Off on Interview with Travel Writer Ray Bartlett by Hayden Royster

Ray Bartlett has been writing guidebooks for Lonely Planet, Insight Guides, and Moon for over a decade, and his work appears in numerous newspapers, magazines, radio, and online publications.  The author of Sunsets of Tulum, a dark love story set in exotic Yucatan, and the forthcoming novel The Potter’s Daughter, set in southern Japan, he is the go-to guy for “destination fiction”: novels set so perfectly in a place that you’ll finish them and need to go there.  When not on the road, Ray divides his time between Cape Cod and Baja, Mexico, drinking way too much coffee and burning way too much midnight oil.  His hobbies include surfing, ceramics, mixology, and dancing Argentine Tango.

 Do you remember the first time you wrote something that you were really, really proud of?

In 10th grade I wrote a short story and when I finished reading it in class there was this dead silence, absolute dead silence, before people
said how awesome it was.  It was the first time I’d ever actually stunned readers.

 How did your love of travel and love of writing collide?

Great question.  Sunsets of Tulum is one of those books I’m calling (possibly coining) “Destination Fiction.”  Fiction that really takes you to a specific place, gets you feeling like you’ve been there.  It’s a book anyone with a Cancun vacation in mind will want to read, and I think the “collide” part is that while my characters and plots are fiction, the places I write about are places I know like the back of my hand.  So my readers often tell me how my book made them decide to go to Yucatan for their next vacation.  In a lot of ways, travel and writing are like chocolate and peanut butter.  My work is the peanut butter cup.

What would you say to someone who wants to write about their travel experiences, but feels like words will always be insufficient?

Two things:
One:  Words ARE insufficient.  They will capture some of what your personal journey was, but they won’t substitute for going there or being there.  Just write anyway.

Two: If you’re doing it right, your travel experience stories will be stories.  A lot of people think writing about their vacation is just cutting-and-pasting your “Day 1, Day 2, Day 3” journal entries and it’s going to be amazing.  Write with a theme in mind, not necessarily chronologically.  You have to craft your experiences with as much care as you would a short story or newspaper article.

What would be your best advice for aspiring writers?

Just write.  Stop reading, put down the phone, stop being social, and write.  Write as much as you can even if it’s never going to go anywhere so your daily routine includes writing.  Because if you ever DO get that lucky break, you’ll need to be used to making writing your default. Then all the other stuff that life throws at you won’t get in the way.

It’s people who say, “Oh, I’ll write tomorrow when I won’t be distracted” or “I’ll finish XYZ and then do the novel” that rarely
complete anything. And that’s the other thing:  complete stuff.  Don’t write 10 pages and think just because it’s great that you’ve got that 300 page novel in the bag.  Write the novel, rewrite it 6 or 8 or 80 times, make sure it’s complete.

Elaborate a bit on your workshop.

The workshop’s going to be great, with something for (nearly) everyone. We’ll be looking at some of the incredible aspects of travel writing for a living, some of the less fun sides of it, and we’ll be discussing how to create your own personal “writer’s road map” so you know how to actually get from here to your eventual goals.  A lot of people think it just happens.  It usually requires a lot of planning and big decisions along the way.  And this workshop will apply to all writers, not just those in the travel industry, so don’t think “Oh, well, I’m only interested in fiction so this won’t apply to me.” I’ll also be reading a bit from Sunsets of Tulum and discuss how to keep motivation and energy going on long term projects.  So it will be a really useful workshop, something practical, fun, with a couple of takeaways that I think will stick with students for years.


Hayden Royster is an intern with SDWI.