Today I am really excited to welcome Tina Hartas of the wonderful website, TripFiction, to answer questions for Getting To Know...
Your website, TripFiction, is designed so that you can find books set in pretty much whichever location in the world you can think of. What inspired you to set this up?
A good question! I have always tended to choose books that are set in the country to which I am travelling. It was never really a conscious thing until I went to Bangkok, where I happened by chance to choose a novel set in the city. Contrasting the book and the city made for an amazing experience.
Then on to Vienna and the only book I could actually find, which was set there, was The Fig Eater by Jody Shields. That was an excellent choice, very atmospheric of the city at the turn of the 20th Century, it gave a feel of past history and I found it still resonated today, lending insight and understanding into the multitude of historical buildings around the city, as well as the city layout. On my return, I did a little research and found that actually there are many books set there but it was hit and miss whether they were easy to find. And bingo, one day a few weeks later, over a glass of wine naturally (and it was Austrian wine we had brought back!) TripFiction started to become a reality.
We were aiming for a site where books could be collated, reviewed, and all were strong on location, we wanted to build a resource for both actual and armchair travellers. It was spurred on by a vision of a community where like-minded people could come together to share books, indeed add books and reviews, and suggest some of the ace titles that perhaps aren’t so widely known that will transport you to a given place – via a good storyline, of course.
Have you always been a big reader or is it something that has come about as you became an adult?
I have always read. We were a household of books. My best friend’s mother was a writer – Kamala Markandaya - who firmly set her novels in her own culture and country of India, and perhaps it was through reading her novels that my subconscious interest in learning about cultures, people, customs and places first started.
When you're not reading, what would we find you doing?
The admin side of TripFiction is growing apace, so that takes up a lot of time. We often burn the midnight oil. Mastering Social Media is proving to be a real challenge, though a rewarding one – for the most part! Researching new books to add takes time but people are now adding books to the site (anyone is welcome to suggest titles and add reviews)… and so it goes on. But otherwise I work as a couple counselor and psychosexual therapist. And travel is a great joy in my life, which probably doesn’t come as a surprise!
Do you have a favourite place that you have visited?
That is a very hard question. I guess I am drawn to Asia, I like the culture and cuisine. Southern India is next on the list, because we had such a great trip last year to Rajasthan. I really enjoy travelling to Europe, which is so much more accessible thanks to carriers like EasyJet. My next European trip will be to Berlin and Warsaw and I would also like to see Dresden.
This year TripFiction has started it's own YouTube channel, have you enjoyed using a different medium to discuss location in books?
It is a service we like to offer to authors. If an author has a video where s/he talks about the setting of their book, then we love for people to add their videos. I have stuck my toe in the water, but it is going to take a lot more practice and courage!
Bookmark, random piece of paper or dog ear?
I am a neat reader, without a doubt. I am definitely a bookmark kind of person, always. I can’t bear to see tattered books, all crinkly with water damage. I trained as a paper conservator way back, so I feel drawn to paper and its preservation. I can find myself recoiling when I see cracked spines, dog-eared pages and water-damaged covers….
How many books do you read in a year? Do you set yourself an annual goal?
I never set a goal. That would turn something that is a pleasure into a chore. At the moment we can combine work and pleasure, how often do you hear people say that?. When I see all the reading challenges on sites like Good Reads I really do wonder why people do it, there is more than enough pressure in everyday life without adding to it!
I have come to realize that I am still quite a slow reader. I enjoy seeing how an author puts a book together, so I don’t like to skim read too often. But there is a time and place for a bit of super fast reading and I can do it when I have to… but it’s not my natural style.
Do you have any advice about location for anyone writing a novel?
I can only speak from the perspective of a reader and someone who enjoys experiencing a location through literature. I recently read a book set in Dubai, which I thought evoked the city quite well. I passed it to a friend who lives there, who spotted the inaccuracies and found that quite frustrating.
I guess you would need to visit your chosen locale to get an accurate geographical sense, but there is so much more to it than that – the sense of place and people is something you can only experience when you are there, talking to locals, observing street life, seein how people talk to each other, it’s not something you can make up from the comfort of your desk. And converting that ethereal “feel” for any given place is surely key (it’s surely also an excuse to travel!)
Do you have a favourite author?
I always find this a difficult question. I tend to have a rolling list of authors and will often add new ones to the list and re-connect with past favourites. I have recently picked up with the work of Rose Tremain, through her most recent novel “The Gustav Sonata” (shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards, one of my favourite reads of 2016). I got back into reading Lesley Downer, who, writes books set in Japan, and I took one of her earlier works on a trip to Japan several years ago (way before TripFiction) – her current book The Shogun’s Queen reignited my pleasure. Gill Paul is always an interesting writer and has used Rome, Turkey and most recently Russia as settings for her novels. I am very much looking forward to reading Dinah Jefferies new book Before the Rains, set in Rajasthan and it will no doubt transport me back to the trip we made there last year. On the TBR pile I am particularly looking forward to trying Guinevere Glasfurd’s The Words in my Hand set in 17th Century Amsterdam and shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award. And many more novels sitting on my desk just to my left as I write… there are so many good novels that simply never get the accolades they deserve, so we are committed to doing our very small bit to help get them out there.
What can we look forward to in the future from TripFiction?
That’s a big question! TripFiction/Movies is something that keeps popping up, but for that we would need to find major funding; just think, though, of the range of films that wonderfully transport you to a given location!
I guess our main aim for the foreseeable future is to have the community drive the site – we researched the first 5000 books, added individually all the books we could find that were strong on locale, and we need our followers now to flag and add new books as they come along that they think are strong on locale and worth shouting about.
More author chats, location features and a bit more travel-oriented features. Watch this space!
Thank you so much to Tina for answering my questions and joining me today, I look forward to more from TripFiction!
To Connect With Tina Hartas
Website - http://www.tripfiction.com/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/TripFiction.literarywanderlust/?fref=ts
Twitter - @TripFiction