It’s a pleasure to welcome back talented writer and dear friend, Trish Nicholson, who has just released her latest travel book, Journey in Bhutan: Himalayan Trek in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon. I’ve been a huge fan of Trish’s work and her blog, Words in the Treehouse, since I joined Twitter. Let’s hear more about the book and her motivations as a writer:
Hey Trish! Thanks for joining me on the blog today. Without giving too much away, tell us about your new book?
While writing, I imagined the reader walking beside me as I relived my journey in Bhutan, learning about the culture and history, but also trekking through high passes towards the Tibetan border – a physically and emotionally challenging experience. Through the narrative I share the present moments of each day, but there are also long extracts from the journal I kept at the time, which are more contemplative and reveal my feelings about the journey.
Where does your inspiration come from?
From a desire to share my memories I think. I usually travel alone. In Bhutan you have to travel with a guide or, as I did, with a small group. But I was able to walk alone on the trek most of the time, and I see and sense more that way, but at the same time I have a strong urge to share – that’s where the photography and writing comes in, an attempt to capture the moment. I like to combine storytelling with non-fiction writing – I keep to the facts but weave them into a story as far as possible.
Where is the most fascinating place you visited during your research, and why?
That has to be Taktsang Monastery. It’s built on the narrow ledge of a cliff, 3,000 feet above a sheer drop. You can see it, pictured on the book cover. The only access is a steep, narrow path, scratched into the side of the mountain. Building began in the 7th century with a small hermitage, a monastery and temples have been added bit by bit. To have built in that hazardous place shows the incredible power of faith, but inside – the incense, smoky butter lamps, and monks chanting against a background of ancient statues and paintings of Buddhist deities – it’s an unworldly experience.
Which is your favourite chapter/event, and why?
The fourth day of the trek, we are heading towards the Tibetan border, and we have to cross a pass – Nyile La – at an altitude of almost 15,000 feet. To help you imagine that, it’s nearly three miles high. We scrambled even higher, up a ridge beside the pass, where the massive peaks surrounding us seemed much closer than they were. The view was unlike anything I have experienced before, or since. I felt almost weightless, as if I could have stepped onto one of those peaks – an emotionally charged moment I shall never forget.
How do you plan to promote your book?
It’s a bit trickier with an ebook than a print book. I can’t do signings wearing Bhutanese dress for example, which would be fun, so we will use social media as well as other marketing approaches. I will tweet-out weekly blog posts and photographs about Bhutan, about travel, and about sharing that experience through writing.
What can readers expect from you next, and when can they expect it?
The next travel book for Collca will be about the five extraordinary years I spent living and working in Papua New Guinea’s poorest province, near the Indonesian border. It’s a country that has 900 indigenous languages just for starters, but the book will focus on surviving in a cross-cultural environment. I haven’t yet worked out a schedule, so can’t tell you exactly when to expect it – watch my website!
Describe your current work in progress in less than 15 words?
So, no pressure, eh? OK.
Living with laughter, fear, friendship and treachery as an alien in a different culture.
What is your writing routine and how do you balance your writing with your other commitments?
I usually have several projects on the go, and a short story or two as well. When I get up in the morning I make a quick check on deadlines and if nothing is looming dangerously, I pretty much work on whatever I feel like writing that day. I’m lucky in that writing can usually take priority.
Do you ever suffer from writers block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I can’t say I’ve ever had writer’s block – I may get stuck on a particular piece, or a story, but that means more fermentation in the mind is necessary, so I move on to something else until I get a fresh idea. It’s important not to get tense about being temporarily stuck – it will come right later.
Name one of your favourite books and how it has influenced your life.
Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children had a huge impact on me. I’d just come back from India when I read it. His storytelling style shares so much with the reader, it’s like an intimacy. I remember one phrase in particular: they are making chutney, and the narrator says that people leak into each other like flavours when you cook, and this is so true about all the influences on our lives. I think Rushdie’s way of ‘whispering in the reader’s ear’ is probably the greatest influence on my own writing goals.
What’s been the most memorable event in your life to date, and why?
Hmm, there can be only one answer to that. The time I was so ill in a remote bush clinic in Papua New Guinea that the doctor didn’t think I’d live another day – and neither did I. The hospital they flew me out to, in a small freight plane, was expecting a body rather than a patient, but I pulled through, and I’m here to tell the tale – literally.
It’s no secret you love to travel. Where would you choose as an ideal holiday destination, and why?
That’s a hard question to answer because I rarely go ‘on holiday’. Most of my travel has involved work in one way or another, and I can’t stop taking pictures and scribbling in notebooks, so it would be somewhere I haven’t been before, where I can walk and explore. Not usually an urban environment – I did enjoy Barcelona last year on my way to the UK, but that was more of a Gaudi pilgrimage. I seem always to need a project!
What is your favourite way to relax?
To be outside pottering in the garden, watching the trees grow, and especially to sit and dream in my tree house.
Thank you so much, Jane for inviting me over to chat to all your lovely readers, I really appreciate your support.
You are most welcome, Trish. Thank you for sharing your world with us. What an enchanting life you’ve led!
OK guys, here’s the author bio:
Writer and photographer as well as an anthropologist, Trish has had careers in regional government, management training, university tutoring, research, and finally, travelling the world to work on aid and development projects. A compulsive scribbler, during those years her writings included a monthly column, and feature articles for national newspapers in UK and Australia as well as books on anthropology, management and tourism. She settled on a hillside in New Zealand twelve years ago, where she now writes full time and is a member of the New Zealand Society of authors.
Trish also writes short stories, and believes that storytelling skills are equally important for writing non-fiction. She applies this creed to her weekly blog posts which include stories, reviews, travel tales and photo essays as well as posts on writing. My current post is here: http://bit.ly/IT7U1P
Last year, Trish signed up with Collca to write for their new ebook series, illustrated BiteSize Travel, which allows her to indulge her passion for photography. Masks of the Moryons: Easter Week in Mogpog, was released in December 2011; Journey in Bhutan: Himalayan Trek in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon, was released on 20 April 2012. You can see more information on Collca’s website here http://collca.com/jib