"Volcanoes are one way Earth gives birth to itself."
– Robert Gross
Together with my son, I recently completed a research trip to Iceland, the planned setting for my sequel to Cloud Riders.
From the moment the plane began its descent, I was immediately struck by the island’s rock glowing in the amber storm light. Then I began to notice the lack of trees and realised it was going to be like nowhere I’d ever visited before.
Iceland is a new born geologically speaking. This was highlighted as we left the airport and drove past endless frozen lava fields, so rough that you’d have a hard time walking them without twisting an ankle.
However, far from being a desolate landscape there’s a primordial beauty to the island that quickly works its way under your skin. This is a land of myth and legend, of long winter nights illuminated by the shimmering aurora, midsummers of a never setting sun, and two tectonic plates pulling the island apart. With all this and more, it wasn’t long before its rugged beauty had me hooked.
Iceland is very unique and as you might expect this is reflected in the people who live there. Apparently over fifty percent of the islanders believe in the existence of elves; planned roads have even been altered to avoid the fairy folk’s homes. Now that’s something I can’t quite see happening in other countries. But when in Iceland these ideas don’t feel strange or alien, but a human way of expressing somewhere very unique about the island.
Iceland is strewn with inactive volcanoes, but geysers regularly venting are testament to the fact the island is still geologically very active. This was underlined last year when the unpronounceable volcano – at least if you’re not Icelandic – Eyjafjallajökull blew its top in a storm of fire and ash. The eruption subsequently grounded air traffic right across Europe, reminding us all that despite all our modern technology that mother earth is still the boss and we’d better not forget it.
With half an eye on those imposing volcanic stacks, my son and I took part in an organised super-truck expedition – the Icelandic take their off-roading very seriously – and were soon far from the beaten track experiencing memories to last a lifetime: towering glacier fields; the hissing cry of geysers; swimming through aquamarine geothermally heated lagoons; standing at the foot of Eyjafjallajökull and throwing snowballs at each other...
But as an author I had gone to Iceland for a reason – preparing the groundwork for a new book – and I wasn’t disappointed. From the moment I’d stepped off the aircraft, I felt my imagination going into a feeding frenzy and knew it was one of the best things I could have done in preparing the groundwork for my new project.
Since returning, ideas have been spinning through my head in a constant swarm and complete scenes have painted themselves across the snowy backdrop of Iceland. This is why I believe travel is so important to a writer… yes of course you can imagine anywhere and anything, but it’s the unexpected inspiration that comes from an actual visit that can be so rewarding. There are simply ideas that would never have occurred to me unless I’d actually been there.
Now safely ensconced back at my desk, I’m preparing to embark on a different sort of journey – one into my imagination – and I can’t wait to see where ideas seeded by a land of fire and ice, will take me.