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Friday, 18 February 2011

In the Footsteps of Mark Twain: an Interview with Lord Strathcarron - Page 2

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What is it like to follow the trail of famous navigators and authors?

It takes a long time doing this footsteps stuff. It takes five times as long in one place to find out where someone has been, because the names have changed, and the places don’t exist. It really gives the traveling a focus and a purpose: you wouldn’t go to a place otherwise. I wouldn’t have been to Palestine if Mark Twain didn’t go there. I mean, it’s not tourism. Because Mark Twain saw the consulate in Beirut, I go to see the consulate in Beirut.

The disadvantage is, you miss places that aren’t on the route. I’m pretty focused on following the same route.

The advantages are, you meet a lot of people you wouldn’t meet ordinarily as a tourist. I seek out professors and check in with the embassy and have lunch with the ambassador. Sometimes meeting businessmen, politicians, the sort of posts you wouldn’t ordinarily meet. I’ve found Americans to be particularly helpful when talking about Mark Twain.

What advice do you have for budding authors who want to record their own “Tour Re-Toured”?

It’s hard to make a living on books - even get an advance these days - it used to be real easy. It used to be quite a good way to make a living. Writers in general tell you, it takes a third of a year to do the research, a third of a year to write a first draft, and then a third of a year to rewrite, edit, and polish it. I’ve been lucky because I’ve spent so much time as an editor - you have to be ruthless. Everything has got to move the story forward - not too many asides, unless the asides are very interesting.

That said, the advice is, just do it. That’s it. What I do know about Hinduism, is that it’s a question of doing it. There’s no point in studying it - just do it. Saraswati is the goddess of writing, so I’ve started to worship the goddess of writing. And I think it’s the same in writing - just do it. Just get on the plane, borrow the money from mum - it doesn’t have to be much - travel second class, you can do it cheaply. Go to Argentina, follow Bill Clinton’s footsteps there, or in Oxford, then come back with something in reasonable form, then go see a publisher.

What’s it like living on a boat?

Vasco At AlanyaWell that’s wonderful for lots of reasons. You’re completely at one with nature and you’re out-of-doors all the time. I’m often fast asleep at 9 o’clock most evenings - you live according to the sunlight and your sleeping pattern is with the light and dark. There’s a tremendous amount of satisfaction of moving a boat properly - a poetic sense of moving along. There’s a poetic movement of bouncing in the wind, and making passage. It’s a wonderful way to travel. It’s tempting to say it’s free - but you have to buy the boat, paint the boat, fix the boat. You can actually live on less money on a boat than you can live any other way. Once a year you have to fix stuff. But you can really live a very simple life, also a life full of knowledge. It’s wonderful for writing, because there’s no distractions at all. My wife, a photographer, writes cookbooks, she below and I up above. It’s a lovely way to sleep because the boat’s never still, you’re rocked to sleep.

©Nate Marcus

For more information on Lord Strathcarron and pictures of his boat, visit his website,


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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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