She wouldn’t quit. Despite everything, my main character – gutsy, brave, fearless Samantha Kemi – would see this journey through to the end. So even if it went against every fibre of my being, I gritted my teeth and kept on walking, putting one foot in front of the other. At the top, I was rewarded with the most amazing sight on earth: red hot lava bubbling and boiling up from the centre of the mountain. It took my breath away to feel the sheer power of the earth beneath my feet, to see Mother Nature at her most tumultuous and terrifying.
And it also meant I had an even bigger reward: a scene that could be written *straight* into The Potion Diaries: book three.
Samantha had been there. And because of her, so had I.
Travelling has always been key to inspiring (and improving) my writing, adding authenticity to my stories. I’m not a strict believer in “writing what you know” because I know that imagination can be a powerful tool. But some experiences cannot be lived only by dreaming them.
The first novel I tried to get published was about an epic fantasy story of a young boy who is exiled into the desert. Unfortunately, like a lot of writers, I received lots of rejections from publishers and agents. The experience hurt so much, I stopped writing for a while – and instead planned a post-university gap year, visiting several countries in Africa, then on to Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia. That trip opened my eyes to the world, and I came back a changed person. Most importantly for my writing, during the trip I actually visited a desert, spending a night under the stars in Sossusvlei, Namibia, and so I came back inspired and re-wrote that first novel… which went on to become my first published book, The Oathbreaker’s Shadow.
The Potion Diaries was also inspired by that crazy year of adventure. I wanted to write a big wide world that Samantha, my main character, could fully explore – a modern fantasy world, with aeroplanes so she could get to places quickly! I wanted to take her out of her comfort zone and get her to experience different cultures and climates, places and people – just like I’ve been able to do.
Take the ingredients of the love potion Samantha must create in The Potion Diaries. Each ingredient was inspired by a different cultural myth to do with love. When I was in Suzhou, China, I visited a pearl factory. It was there that I learned that pearls were a common wedding gift as symbols of happiness and love. Eventually, that knowledge became the foundation for the mermaid and pearl scene in the Wilde Hunt.
With the publication of The Potion Diaries in 2015, I was finally able to fulfil my dream of becoming a full-time author. But I knew I wanted to make an even bigger change. I wanted to live a life filled with inspiration and adventure. No longer working in an office meant no longer needing to live in or near a big city.
We could be anywhere.
So at the end of last year, my husband and I packed up our lives, sold our belongings and left the UK for the start of a new adventure in South America. For over six months, we’ve journeyed from Rio, Brazil to Antarctica, to Colombia, all the while occasionally stopping so I can turn tales of our adventures into pages of the next book in The Potion Diaries series.
Travelling and writing isn’t always easy. It’s hard to take a moment to stop and concentrate on getting the words down on the page. It’s hard not to take new sights, cities and wonders for granted and get overstimulated on beauty. And, it’s also really hard to find good wifi. The internet is important to a writer!
But whenever I get too down about feeling out of touch with the ‘real world’, I remember how lucky I am to be writing my novels next to a mountain in Chile or on a beach in Cartagena or on a boat in the Galapagos. I owe this lifestyle to my books, but I owe it to my books to take advantage of every moment. And more adventures for me mean even more adventures for Sam.
She doesn’t turn down a challenge. And neither will I.