When I wrote my novel Search for the Emerald Tablet, the plot included a lot of travel through Egypt, Cyprus, and parts of Europe. It wasn’t long before I found myself in a morass of travel alternatives, airline, train, and bus schedules, car rentals, etc!
When I decided to write a novel, I had no idea of the amount of research I would end up having to do. Of course, I had some control of the plot, but my characters ended up making most of the decisions! (More about that in another blog.) The story took place in the Middle East, and parts of Europe–9 locations, to be exact. That doesn’t include the initial travel around Canada! (Because I don’t want give the story away, I’ll have to write in general terms.)
I wanted the story to be believable, and factual–as much as possible. Giving Robert, the male lead character, a certain type of vehicle was easy. Once Robert and Jenna (the female lead) were on their quest for the Emerald Tablet, things got a little more complicated. Robert was the main decision maker when it came to travel–since he was paying for it. He had me squirming and muttering to find the appropriate transportation method, departure and arrival times, transfers, etc. Too often, I asked myself why Robert would choose a particular mode of transportation in the first place!
Search for the Emerald Tablet is very much a cat-and-mouse game between Robert and Jenna, and their detractors, Carver’s teams of trackers and watchers. That means everything was time sensitive. Heroes and bad guys were often crossing paths, or just missing one another by mere minutes. Whether the mode of transportation was a vehicle, airline flight, train, boat, or whatever, correct timing was crucial. In fact, I had a Timeline document where I kept track of every movement: date, day of the week, location, mode of transportation, distance, estimated travel time, departure time, arrival time, and any time zone changes–including daylight savings time! To keep everything running smoothly, I had to seek out airline, train, and bus schedules for that time of the year, which could fit in the timeline. More than once, I caught myself being several hours, or even a day, out-of-sync. It took many re-reads to catch them all.
There’s one more thing I learned from Search for the Emerald Tablet–to be very careful where to locate the action! When I decided to find the Emerald Tablet in Jordan, I didn’t realize how difficult it is to get around the Middle East. You can’t just take a casual drive from Jordan, through Israel, and down into Egypt. The borders to Libya and Syria are closed, making overland travel insanely dangerous, or just plain impossible! And there’s the political tension between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, limiting air and ferry travel to the island!
Time and travel throughout the story should be reasonably accurate. I’m sure some readers will be able to find discrepancies, particularly with public transportation, as schedules seem to change from week-to-week. These changing schedules forced me to lock in flight and train departures and arrivals according to the schedule I originally used. Otherwise, I would be correcting the timeline forever!