I read a story once about John Buchan. I can't remember where or when. If I could, I'd look it up and reprint it here rather than telling it in my own words.
Maybe someone knows where to find it and can point me in the right direction. If so, I'd be very grateful.
Anyway, the story went something like this.
John Buchan was planning to write a novel about Canada. He had never been there and wouldn't have a chance to go before starting work. Luckily, his son-in-law was Canadian and so Buchan decided to ask him for some help.
When they next met, Buchan asked his son-in-law for ten facts about Canada. The son-in-law came up with one fact, then another and a third - at which point Buchan stopped him.
Thank you very much, he said. Now I know enough about Canada to set a novel there.
I thought about this story when I wrote my most recent book, Grk Down Under, which is published this month.
This is the seventh Grk book. Each of them is set in a different country. I've visited most of the countries, but not Australia, and I knew I wouldn't have time to go there.
I thought about imitating Buchan: collaring an Australian and asking them for ten facts about their country. But I don't have his insouciance.
Instead, I read books about Australia. I watched movies. I talked to people who had been there. I imagined the trip that I would have made. And once all that research was almost forgotten, the images fading into the black depths of my memory, I could start writing.
Now, if people ask whether I've ever been to Australia, I hesitate for a moment before replying. Because I almost have. I've imagined myself there. I've stood on the steps of the Syndey Opera House and watched the audience arrive for that night's performance. I've flown over the endless empty miles of the outback and sheltered under the shade of a eucalyptus tree. And, as far as my memory is concerned, that's pretty much the same as actually having been there.