- Guest Travel Writer -
Welcome to an interview conducted with my first travel writer. Len Rutledge is a very experienced writer and journalist, and this post could be ideal for any of you planning a trip.
Welcome, Len ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I started by writing the occasional newspaper piece when I was still at university. This became a full-time job some years later when I became editor and CEO of a newspaper that I started. Eventually I became travel editor of two other newspapers and started a tourist magazine. Since then I have written for newspapers and magazines on four continents, written over 30 travel books, and contributed to numerous web sites. I have worked with Viking Penguin, Berlitz, Pelican Publishing, the Rough Guide, the Nile Guide and others but now work independently as a freelance writer.
2. WERE YOU A GOOD READER AS A KID?
No not particularly. I was more interested in sport than reading
3. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A TRAVEL WRITER? WHAT INSPIRED YOU?
When I started a newspaper I was reluctant to pay the journalists to write timeless copy that could be inserted to fill the inevitable holes that sometimes remained close to press time. As I had been travelling overseas for two years prior to this I had plenty of experiences to call on and I started writing travel pieces. These were popular when they were published and it just grew from there.
4. WHAT PLACES HAVE YOU WRITTEN ABOUT?
I’ve been very fortunate to have visited more than 100 countries and I guess I have written about just about all of them at some time.
5. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A JOURNALIST?
I don’t regard myself as being a journalist these days although I still like to include current issues and actions in the stories where possible. As a writer I enjoy the opportunity to put my slant on a place and see readers respond to that.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I studied engineering at university then later economics and regional planning. In later life I completed a PhD in tourism so that I could add further depth to my writing.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Being published at all is an achievement. Negotiating the rapid change in the industry from hot type to cold type, from longhand and shorthand to typewriters and computers, from literary agents to self publishing and so on without giving up is something that is often overlooked.
Certainly one of the memorable moments was to receive a letter (yes, it was that long ago) from an international publishing house that I had no previous contact with, asking if I would write a book for them. After recovering from the shock, I completed the manuscript and this lead to a further five books for the same publisher.
8. DO YOU ENJOY WRITING / REPORTING FOR A MEDIA CORPORATION?
In the past I have enjoyed working in large organisations but these days I prefer to be a freelance and write for these bodies only when commissioned. The rest of the time I spend writing on where I choose and publishing in my own time.
9. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE TOPICS / PLACES TO COVER?
I love writing about places and the people who live there. I have never been to a place which has no charm but of course I have some favourites. Norway is probably my favourite place to visit but Ireland, Italy, USA and Thailand all tug the heart strings. Australia is home and nothing beats the clear blue skies and vast horizons of this amazing place.
10. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Seeing or hearing something, writing about it, seeing the story published then receiving positive feedback from readers. That whole process is very enjoyable.
11. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I’m not a great reader of fiction so my reading is mainly restricted to travel books and autobiographies. I have great admiration for both Paul Theroux and Colin Thubron and always enjoy their captivating phrases and great descriptive skills.
12. DO YOU WORK AS PART OF A TEAM, FREELANCE OR BOTH?
These days I work entirely freelance which I admit can sometimes be rather lonely but at least I am completely my own boss.
13. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
I was doing a speaking and book signing tour of the USA and at the second event after completing my talk I asked for audience questions. A lady near the front row was the first to respond with the statement “I have read eight books on ..... in the past few months.” My heart sank as I certainly hadn’t read that much on the destination in question. Fortunately she went on to say, “and yours in the only one that recommends ... and ... which as far as I am concerned makes it the best guide on the market.”
14. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
A reader emailed me regaling me because I hadn’t covered this and that which she regarded as the most important places in this country. “If you can’t cover these important places the rest of your book must be rubbish”, she said. It gave me some satisfaction to write back and point out that neither place she had mentioned was in the destination I was writing about but were in an adjacent country.
15. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU BY THE STORIES YOU COVER?
I probably would not be a travel writer if I had not been given a scholarship to go to the United Kingdom a few years after completing my university studies. This started my international travel and opened my eyes to the wider world. Since then I have never stopped watching, listening and learning from the places I visit and people I meet. I am sure this has made me a much more aware, curious and compassionate person and I hope this shows in my books and articles.
16. HAVE YOU WON ANY PRIZES OR AWARDS?
It is not too difficult to win some awards during a writing career that spans over 40 years.
17. WHAT DID THEY MEAN TO YOU?
Honours such as the PATA Award and the Hall of Fame Award were important because I had no idea they were coming. The awards were made by independent bodies and were judged on a body of published work. I am much less keen on awards where you are required to enter your choice of story (sometimes with a fee) as I see these mainly as an ego trip for those who will loudly proclaim their victory.
18. ANY OVERSEAS WORK? WHERE?
Travel writing has taken me around the world and for that I will be forever grateful. As well as short stays in many places I have been able to actually live in the United Kingdom, USA, Thailand, Philippines, Laos, Serbia, Mongolia, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Palau.
19. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
One of my greatest pleasures is staying home with my wife, Pensri, enjoying a quiet life in our beachside house with its lovely view of palms, sand, sea and islands. We help a Coastcare group, do some charity work, garden, and enjoy wine and cheese while watching the sunset from a favourite rock.
Two adult sons and two delightful grand daughters are truly loved as is music, theatre, eating out with friends, and the occasional game of Australian Rules football.
20. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS / ASPIRATIONS FOR THE FUTURE?
I currently have eight travel eBooks in the Experience Guide series. I would like to expand this to ten and improve them all so that they are increasingly recognised as a ‘first-choice’ series. I am just in the process of publishing one of them in hard copy and hopefully others will follow.
Separately I would like to become involved with the books proposed by my wife. Some of these will be in a foreign language so that will add a further layer of complication and she is also investigating adding video to the mix.
21. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
As I age I find people have become more important than places. It might be locals, fellow travellers or someone I will only know for a few minutes. Everyone has a story and many are inspirational. Whether I am meeting a poor villager or a head of state, the result can be the same: a story that can touch me and hopefully my future readers. I continue to be amazed by human endurance, perseverance, and adaptability and this inspires me to further develop my skills in these areas.
22. DO YOU TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS TOO?
I used to take all my own photographs and they have appeared in newspapers, magazines and books. I no longer do this as my wife, Pensri, has become a very competent photographer. This has proved to be a big boon to me as I can concentrate on talking to people and digging for information without having to capture images as well.
Her photographs now appear worldwide and she is planning her own books based around images. It is all very exciting for both of us.
23. WHAT WOULD BE THE LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
I would hope it would be something happy because that is the feeling I would like to leave behind. Travel is one of life’s joys and travel writing should reflect that.
24. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
I’d like to thank you for the interview. It has been fun. I would also like to thanks those who read my articles and buy my books. Hopefully some of them will read this interview and know that they are truly appreciated. I am always delighted to hear from readers and make a point of responding to their contact.
Web site: www.LenRutledge.com
Google+ site: www.google.com/+LenRutledge
These can be downloaded to your Kindle, tablet, smart phone or computer.
Clancy's comment: Thank you, Len. I could chat with you for hours about your trips to far away places. Well done.