Travelling with authors across the UK – Travelling Reader
Introducing Fernweh Fiction…
A book subscription service which matches up books and locally sourced products from the book’s location and then packinging them into a neat box ready for a bookishly good time!
We speak to Chief Secret Book Elf – ( secret as book elves have to be)
Sometime in March 2016, I read a book which was set locally. I thought it would be a great idea to visit the small town that was mentioned in the book and see for myself what the author saw. I was able to find the church and the streets that were written about. I picked up a few things on the way from local suppliers, too. It gave me a greater understanding of the novel and enhanced my reading experience. So I started the blog The Travelling Reader on this principle: to read a book and then visit the place the book was set. Following each visit, I would review both the book and the place. From there, we decided that we could pass this idea on to others and that’s when we built the concept of a book and gift box to be sent out on a monthly basis. Receiving a new book and selected regional gifts each month seemed to us to be such a wonderful idea.
Regional products to match the books
Once we’ve chosen the book for the month, we then concentrate on the area the book is set in and anything significant within the story. Using these two starting points, we then search for place-related or story-related products. We’ve found such great products so far. We make sure that every month we include some tea or other hot drink, some chocolates (everyone loves this addition!) and a (necessary!) bookmark related to the book or place. Then we add some other items too which could be anything from toiletries to jewellery to stationery. All inclusions must either be related to the story or to the county or city in which the book is set.
The magic book boxes
Curating the boxes are a joy! Each new book and place brings a chance to search for the best products that our customers will – hopefully – love. We try to imagine each box being opened as if it was a Christmas present. In fact, one of our customers commented that opening our boxes was like having Christmas each month! And we get so excited just imagining our customer’s reactions!
My personal favourite is normally the one we’re working on at the time. There’s brand new businesses to search for and new products to try. I get excited about what’s going in the box and love to tie it all together. We have a rule that we have to make the next box always better than the last and that’s what we aim to do each new month.
Where do you travel to and how often do you visit a literary location?
We do take many, many trips around the country. I’ve always liked to explore new places and this gives me a legitimate chance to do so. I’d say we visit a few different places each month searching for the right book and place combination. Of course, not all of the books we read are able to be used as a recommended book, so they don’t get chosen to be part of Fernweh Fiction. Our books are chosen only if they receive a 5 star rating from us as a team in combination with general public reviews.
Favourite city for literary finds?
That’s not an easily answered questioned because we’ve found that each particular county around England has its own unique strengths and its own talented craftsmen. London, of course, has a wealth of products, but bypassing other areas in favour of the capital would mean that many great businesses with fantastic products are overlooked. All around the country we’ve found many business that are brilliantly working on their own unique products and working with them is what makes this job so exciting and satisfying. We love working with people who know what they are doing and have a great product to sell especially if it is inspired by the local area. For example, Dreaming Spires tea lights by NC Oxford was inspired by the city of Oxford and its architecture. We were so happy to include this in the Oxford box.
More places to explore
As England is divided into counties, our plan is to visit each individual county at least once. So far we have visited: Cumbria, London, Northumberland, West Yorkshire, Suffolk, Kent, Somerset, Cambridgeshire, and Oxfordshire. If you look on the map of England, the counties we’ve visited so far are all over! We’re trying to be varied in our approach so we’ve been North and South and East and West, too. Granted, we returned to Northumberland in August but we felt we had to because not only did the first book have a sequel, or companion book, which we felt we couldn’t leave out, but also the area had such great finds in terms of products!
We’ve started to include the rest of the UK and Ireland, and not just England in our book boxes so the places I’d personally like to visit soon include the other countries in the British Isles. We’ve actually got a great book place lined up for the next year, and I can’t wait to visit. But it’s a secret so I can’t tell you any more!
It’s not possible to name just one Booktrail! I just love the concept of either following a trail of the place within a book, or reading about the setting before you get there. Any way that readers can get more out of a book is fantastic in my opinion. Especially if it’s a book they love. And although we often spend quality time alone with a book, us book readers do love to chat about our latest read or find out more about a particular book we’d like to read, and The Booktrail allows us to do so. It’s a perfect accompaniment.
As we are both companies which absolutely love books, I think the idea behind both concepts is the same: we want to enhance a reader’s experience. Whether that is giving a full itinerary of a destination to make the journey special, or by sending out locally sourced items, we have the same objective. Books are our ‘world’!