Last week, I read about half of The Name of the Wind. Then I stopped. Not because I lost interest, far far far from it, but rather other exciting things in my life started happening.
I had a phone interview and in less than a week I was invited for a campus interview, which will take place in the upcoming weeks. When I wasn't jumping around squealing, or fidgeting, or over stressing myself for really no good reason (a skill I am particularly good at), I came to realize just how far this place was away from the valley I know and love.
It's 20 hours away, in a completely different part of the United States. The 20 hours is not only a distance in travel time but a distance in ecology and mindset as well. It seems like an adventure and I'm ready for it. Now, because I'm nosy, I spent lots of time on Google Earth scoping out locations, places to hike and camp, etc, and found out its 7 hours to some famous landmarks and parks. 7 hours within the same state.
I'm not sure about you guys, but it takes about 4 hours to go across the state of Virginia. I could leave from my house (about 11 miles from the border with West Virginia) and drive to Virginia Beach, and come back all in about the same amount of time it takes for me to go across this new state once. That's just a little bit mindboggling. And what's worse is that there are states that are even bigger!
Now, I know, what does any of this have to do with literature and writing.
Well the places we live, grow up in, etc, have a huge impact on our sense of distance and travel. When I told my British friend's my drive to grad school was only about 7 hours, they goggled, since that was the distance it took to drive from London all the way to Edinburgh, almost the length of the UK. When I was living in Europe, it would be no problem to walk to the next village because the next village was less than half a mile away linked by a footpath, a trip that would take me maybe fifteen minutes. Here, I have to get in the car and drive to the next town because it would take me several hours on foot.
So, in other words, what we think of as close or far is very different from what others may think, and that sometimes can cause a disconnect when we are writing.
The best example I can think of occurred for me when I was reading The Hobbit. When Bilbo wakes up after the Dwarves--being their useless selves--made a mess of his house and after trying to have a nice morning anyway, Gandalf the jerkface chastises him for not cleaning behind the mantle. There, behind the mantle, is a note which tells Bilbo he has to meet the dwarfs at the neighboring village of Bywater in something like, 10 minutes.
Now I could never, ever figure out how he made it to Bywater in ten minutes, no matter how fast he ran. It was a bit of a mystery to me because, before I traveled around Europe, my concept of 'where the next village was' was molded by how long it took to get places in the U.S. It was a complete disconnect. Even now, when I do understand this whole village distance concept, when I write, I still don't imagine villages as close together as someone from Europe would.
As a result, it would either take my characters longer to get somewhere, resulting in more adventures, or a large gap in time, which could possibly result in a bit of a disconnect for someone across the pond.
Now I don't really think this is a bad thing, more of an interesting thing. Something to keep in mind as we read and write, especially in our globalized society where we do not read things that solely are written in our countries.