Book: Snakes Alive, by Mike Gerrard NEW 2011
I’m trying to figure out if my favorite bit is Loo With a View in York, a potty tour story, or Custard’s Last Stand, its punny title about England desserts–not Western deserts. I share Mike’s enthusiasm for Greece, so of course I liked those articles, but also learned about a country that “doesn’t exist.” The book is a veritable treasure chest.
Mike Gerrard proudly self- published Snakes Alive, a collection of his travel articles in both print and Kindle editions. Because I have admired Mike’s on-line writing and am fascinated by his life split between England and Arizona, I asked him to answer a few questions.
A Traveler’s Library: Which came first–travel or writing?
Mike Gerrard: Oh writing, definitely. I knew from the age of about eight or nine that I wanted to be a writer. I never intended to be a travel writer, even though I’ve also always loved traveling. Even when I sold my first few travel pieces I only regarded it as a very pleasurable aside from the other writing I was doing. But it just grew and grew till I decided I did want to pursue it full-time.
ATL: Rather write about home or a different place?
MG: It’s very hard to write about somewhere you’re too familiar with. I remember going on a trip to Uzbekistan when that country was just starting to open up to visitors. [An artist in the group] was sketching absolutely everything while I was madly taking notes and jotting down impressions. We chatted one day in Samarkand – how great to be able to say something like that! – about our two different trades. He said you had to get those first impressions down, because that’s when everything is fresh and alive, and if you wait too long you no longer see with the same depth of observation. Things become too familiar.
ATL: Your favorite country?
MG: If I had to choose one I would probably now choose the USA. [Note: Mike and his wife blog about the Pacific Coast Highway.]
It used to be Greece, where I went a lot and I do still love it. [But] I’ve always loved the States – I think any kid growing up in the North of England in the 1960s as I did, an avid music fan, would love the States – but since we bought a house near Tucson several years ago, I’ve grown to love traveling in the States even more. A couple of years ago we did a big road trip, from Arizona to San Diego, then up the Pacific Coast, turn right at the Olympic Peninsula, through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming (got snowed in in Sheridan), across to Iowa to see my wife’s folks, then back down through Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico. I loved it. Not long ago we spent about a fortnight in Chicago to update a guidebook, and that was wonderful. It’s a great city. In a few weeks I’ll be making my first visit to New York, which I can’t wait to see. I think if I won the lottery I’d want us to take off and tour the USA for as long as we could manage to get away. It’s a fascinating country, and stunningly beautiful.
ATL: Last thoughts?
I’m really interested in the new technology, self-publishing and being an independent publisher. I’m pleased to say that from the morning when I woke up with the idea for the book, when I realised I had all this material that I owned the copyright to, to the day the book was for sale in the Kindle Store, was three weeks.
Mike Gerrard has been a full-time travel writer for about twenty years, producing articles for newspapers, magazines and websites, and over thirty guidebooks.
Tomorrow, you can see Mike’s answers to my questions about where else he would like to go, and his recommendations for books to add to your Travel Library. When you go to his web site (by clicking on his name, you’ll see the many, many guidebooks he and Donna have written.)