Guest Bloggers

Ellen Sussman likes her world shaken.

Ellen SussmanGuest Blogger Ellen Sussman writes about the novelty of new places and how this opens interesting problems and possibilities for fictional characters.

When I travel abroad I expect to be surprised. Life shouldn’t be the same in a foreign country. I want to shake up my world, to expose myself to new tastes and sounds and smells and voices. I want to see things that are so novel, so startling, that my eyes open wider. That experience – of expanding my horizons while traipsing across a new horizon – should not only transform me while I’m gone, but it should deliver me home again in some new, improved way.

High demands for a little vacation.

My sister travels to the same resort in Florida every year. She doesn’t want what I’m looking for. She wants food she’s familiar with, experiences that don’t challenge her, sheets with the same thread count as the sheets in her own house. I don’t think she’s alone. There are so many resorts around the world that look the same as each other – one could forget that one is in Mexico or Thailand or Italy. It will be easy to get a hamburger at that hotel and everyone will speak English and the gates are locked at night.

But for those of us who want a foreign world that is, well, foreign, we head off in different directions.

Three of my own novels, French Lessons, The Paradise Guest House and A Wedding in Provence, are set abroad — in Paris, Bali and Cassis. My American heroes discover that once they’ve traveled to a foreign country their world tilts on its access, that nothing is as they thought it was. It’s great material for fiction because a new world presents conflict as it rubs up against the status quo. And I have a grand time making my Americans fumble their way through unfamiliar places and cultures.

A year ago I moved from Palo Alto to Sebastopol. I have never lived in the country before. Like a traveler in a foreign land, my eyes are wide open. I love this new landscape, the slower pace of life, these gentler neighbors. And I’ve found that my creative juices are flowing. My senses are sharper, my imagination is fired up. Now I understand that changing the landscape can happen right here at home. And it’s a wonderful thing for a writer to experience.

Sussman.A Wedding in Provence

Ellen Sussman is the New York Times bestselling author of four novels, A Wedding in Provence, The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons, and On a Night Like This. She is the editor of two critically acclaimed anthologies, Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave and Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex. She teaches through Stanford Continuing

Studies and in private classes.

Ellen Sussman will be the presenter at Writers Forum of Petaluma on Thursday, June 16, where her books will be available for purchase.

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