So many great stories are about literal or spiritual journeys, in which the protagonist is changed by the process, whether she has experienced incredible dramatic adventures or pursued more reflective contemplation. Journeys seem to be a recurrent theme in my writing. More than 20 years ago, the first novel I had published, Wild Horse Island, was about a horse taken from his familiar environment, his subsequent quest to make his way home, against the odds, and the people whose lives he changes in the process. Always in my Heart, which comes out next year, revisits this idea, but in a different setting and on a deeper level. I was dealing with a major bereavement at the time and, inevitably, this affected how I told the story.
After a life-changing few years, the theme of journeys is very much on my mind at present, and my recent book, Coming Home, explores familiar territory for me, although this time it’s about two Norwegian Forest cats who are accidentally separated from, and seek to be reunited with, their grieving owner, encountering a host of creatures on the way.
As a human being, we each undertake our own personal journeys, whether or not we decide to analyse the process. Where do I want to end up on mine? I don’t know the answer yet, although we all arrive at the same place ultimately. What matters more, the journey or the destination? For now, I find the act of motion, whether that is walking, running, or being transported in a machine, triggers off my imagination in a way that rarely happens if I am staring at my computer screen.
Travelling by train or car provides great creative space, if I am a driver or passenger, and ideas fire off unprompted as I eat up the miles. I recently re-read Rumblestrip by Woodrow Phoenix, a monochrome graphic book all about what happens when we get behind a steering wheel. The layout cleverly simulates a car journey and as you read, you feel like you are on a virtual car journey. I sometimes dream that I’m driving a car, and, strangely, when I drive at night, I sometimes wonder if I am dreaming. Woodrow Phoenix describes it perfectly:
“There is a dreamlike quality built into the experience of driving. A car windshield is a big window. And also a screen….locations unwind on the other side of this rectangular glass almost as they do on a movie screen….you sit cocooned in your cabin….everything outside your windows is contained, the rest of the world an arm’s length away…..you glide through location after location as if they were erected just for you to drive past. Every journey is a narrative with you at the centre.”
As writers, each time we imagine, create and produce a story, we are embarking on a journey of discovery, which our readers continue and reinterpret, each word illuminating the path and teaching us, deliberately or unconsciously, about the human condition.
To find out more about Jane’s creative journey, check out www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk
Her recent e-book, Coming Home, about cats, people and journeys, is available from Amazon, with all author royalties going to the charity Cats Protection. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AGZV9WM