Writing a Travel Book
Have you ever wanted to buy a round-the-world ticket for your family? Melaine Lewis-Brown decided to do this and record her memories along the way. We chat to her about writing a travel book.
Four Explore tells the story of you and your family going on a round-the-world trip. But first, it started as a blog. What sparked the idea of starting the travel blog?
Whilst in the planning stages of our 5 month trip, I came across a notepad. On it I had scribbled events charting our first trip to New Zealand. It was a revelation remembering all the things we had done. It occurred to me that I needed to find an accurate way to record and share our adventures. And so, the blog was born! This then lead to the travel book.
What were your personal highlights of the trip?
It’s hard to pick a favourite place as the countries were so diverse. I think just being together as a family without the normal day to day life getting in the way was the highlight of the trip. Waking up and thinking, ‘what will happen today?’ was fantastic.
What were the biggest challenges with both the travelling and the writing?
Because we had no idea where we would be in a day or two, the challenge of thinking on our feet and being happy with where we ended up became essential. One homestay we stopped at in Vietnam was a shock on first arrival and we nearly bottled it. However, it turned out to be a memorable highlight. As for the writing, the blog was just a blog so it came naturally. Sharing snippets of our trip became an invaluable tool later when writing the book.
Why did you want to turn the blog into a travel book and what main elements were important to get right with the book?
When we returned home I decided to expand the blog by including the stories and anecdotes that we remembered and didn’t want to forget. After talking to and getting encouragement from family and friends, it became an exciting prospect to write a travel book.
The more I wrote and the more time I gave to the book, the more I wanted it to be the best I could do. The finished product and appeal became very important, so did the addition of photos at the end of each section. I didn’t want the images distracting the reader’s imagination!
Four Explore is almost like a family album, but it’s also for other people. What do you think people will take away from this book?
I searched everywhere for a travel book that would answer all the questions and alleviate my fears of what we were doing and what might happen. Apart from basic travel blogs, I couldn’t find a book on alternative family travel, giving details of the why, where, and how to start? I’m not proposing this book is a guide, but more of an informative insight. It goes some way to showing that anything is possible if you just take a leap of faith!
How did you find the process of self-publishing your own book?
I was nearly at the end of my first draft and stupidly thought ‘I’ve written a book.’ That’s when the hard work started. Six months later and the book hardly resembled the original draft.
Soon after that I attended a self-publishing day. I not only had my naive eyes opened, I also met lots of interesting aspiring authors and a member of TJ INK. I knew I wanted them to help me with the final parts of my book. From patiently answering all my questions to guiding me through the printing process, they helped me through the hardest part and out the other end. I have loved every part of writing the travel book and have also learned so much about the self-publishing process. I sometimes find it hard to believe I’ve finished it!
Do you plan on going on any more adventures and writing any more books?
I would love to write another travel book, if only to go on another adventure! The dream would be India and Sri Lanka. I think, whilst I’d be aware of writing a more detailed blog and charting things more accurately, I feel it’s important to be in the moment and think about what’s to come when it comes!
How does it feel now to hold the book in your hands?
The books finally arrived when I was in the throes of a busy time at work. I felt like I needed to be in a better head space to take it all in. Six hours after staring at the boxes, I realised I’d just been making excuses. I was nervous of opening up “Pandora’s box.” I knew in exact detail (after a month of cover and insert tweaking) what it would look like but I couldn’t get excited about it.
When I finally got the scissors on the top box, I opened it up and the book looked amazing! We took the boys out that night for a meal and I gave them a book each, within minutes everyone in the restaurant knew about it. It made me so happy to see how proud they were. Two days later, I finally started to feel proud too!
What advice would you give to other people thinking of writing a travel book?
I think when writing any book you have to know who you’re writing it for. Without doubt, this book will be a constant reminder of a wonderful time in our lives. It’s also a journey people can relate to. I wanted to add the good, bad, and the sometimes quite ugly truth about traveling around the world as a family. You also need to love what you’re writing about, some of the best books might not be prize winners in literature, but they capture you.
And finally… what would be your desert island book?
My desert island book… well I toyed with putting down one of the many travel books I’ve devoured, or one of the epic novels I’ve read in the greatest 100 books to read before you die. But it would have to be my guilty pleasure – anything by Jeffrey Archer!
If you’ve been inspired by Melaine’s story and would like to find out more about self-publishing, get in contact.