Expert advice from Rory Maclean

Rory MacLean is one of Britain’s most expressive and adventurous travel writers. His books – which have been translated into a dozen languages – include the UK top ten’s Stalin’s Nose and Under the Dragon, as well as Berlin: Imagine a City, a Washington Post book of the year. He is a tutor on our Travel Books Masterclass.

What is the most satisfying place you have written about, and why?

I’m never completely satis ed with my writing; I simply write to the point where I know I’ve done my best. As for the most satisfying place, it must be Berlin. That city has fascinated me for over 40 years, and writing about it – after immersing myself in its history, walking its streets and meeting hundreds of Berliners – hasenabled me to understand why.

How do you stay fresh to new places that you write about?

At the heart of the nest travel books is a writer’s passion. In practical terms that means one’s starting point must be a feeling,a memory, a quest or an obsession. Such a personal beginning willnot only excite the writer, engaging him or her with the chosen place, it will also excite the reader.

Can you give two practical tips for capturing the spirit of a place in writing?

Be curious and be bold.

How does writing travel differ from other sorts of writing that you have done?

In fiction one is bound to tell the truth. Journalism is beholden tofacts. So if life forces us to create our own meaning, then the travelwriter – unlike the travel journalist – needs to make things up, or at least to impose a pattern on a journey in order to establish its meaning. Agreed?

Extract from The Travel Writer’s Way, copyright Jonathan Lorie 2019.