Confessions of a Literary Traveller – Anna Sherman
CONFESSIONS OF A LITERARY TRAVELER
Anna Sherma, author of The Bells of Tokyo has a few confessions to get off her chest. So where better than to join us here on Confessions of a Literary traveller!?
Where is she happiest writing, where does she try to avoid, what has impressed her and how does she juggle her crazy life?
Describe how it feels being on the road as a writer.
I love living out of a suitcase. As Basho says, journeys wash the dust from our eyes.
What do you do and where do you go?
In Japan, I loved visiting Naoshima – an otherworldly place. It’s a remote island filled with art. The southern island of Kyushu is fascinating, too, with a culture quite distinct from Tokyo’s: Daizaifu and Beppu and blue mountains that look like an ink-wash scroll. And I still want to visit many places: I’ve always wanted to take the train that circles Kyushu – you can jump on and off. And visit Yakushima, the wild island that inspired the Studio Ghibli Princess Mononoke. Maybe next year.
My next book is set in northern Louisiana, so I’ll be doing a lot of field trips there.
What has been the best place you have visited?
Hard question! It’s easier to ask about places that I’ve hated, because that list is so short. A list of places I’ve loved:
1. Lombok. It’s only 100 nautical miles east of Bali, but a world away: it’s on the other side of the so-called Wallace Line, so it has different culture, different animals, different plants.
2. Lake Skadar, on the boundary between Albania and Montenegro. There’s a tiny island (St. George’s) that has a beautifully restored convent and chapel. A Russian ikon master has covered the colonnades and ceilings with numinous paintings of saints. The restaurants on the shore have wonderful fish and vegetables.
3. In Vietnam, the temples of Mỹ Sơn, around 70 kilometres south of Da Nang. Such beauty; such loss.
What is the hardest thing about being away from home?
Leaving my family.
Where do you find it hardest to write?
In my house.
Do you have a favourite writing spot?
The Handlebar on St. Michael’s Street, Oxford. Laptops are banned, which is fine with me, since I write longhand.
Funniest thing in a hotel?
When my English boyfriend first visited Arkansas, I blew two months’ salary on the week we were together. We stayed at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis; in a National Park lodge; in a converted jail; and – finally – in the Crescent Hotel. It’s been renovated now, but at the time its mahogany floors were covered with cheap psychedelic carpets from the 1960s. As we were checking in, this kid in a straw cowboy hat kissed the girl with him, and shouted to the entire room, “We just got married!” Polite congratulations all round. Then: “We haven’t known each other but twenty-four hours!”
How hard is it to write, travel, do events and still find time for family and for reading?
It’s difficult, very difficult. Writing demands that you look inward; parenthood requires delicate attention to another individual. And with children, presence matters. But I’m lucky because my son and daughter really support my work: I spent ten years writing The Bells. That’s almost my daughter’s whole life! She was glad to see the book appear in the world.
BookTrail Boarding Pass: The Bells of Old Tokyo