Cruising for mermaids

Liz Kessler - Hurtigruten

For anyone who ever wondered about the gruelling research authors go through, just for us, to write the perfect book, here is Liz Kessler to tell you about the tough life on board the Hurtigruten ship, travelling to the place where day never ends. And I’m only looking green because I’m feeling seasick. 

Liz Kessler - Hurtigruten

“I have always wanted to see the Northern Lights. It’s just one of those things that everyone wants to do. More recently, I started to develop another ambition. I wanted to set one of my Emily Windsnap books in the arctic circle. So when I was thinking about Emily’s fifth adventure, I decided very early on that it was going to feature something to do with arctic mermaids, and I was fairly convinced that the northern lights would feature.

Liz Kessler - Hurtigruten

The only problem was that my schedule for writing the book ran from early spring to early winter. And the northern lights are only really visible in the middle of winter.  For each book I write, I really like to visit the setting – or something as close to the setting as I can get.

At around this time, a friend started telling me about summer in Norway. How the sun never sets, and how magical it is. An idea started forming in my mind. Perhaps the midnight sun was a better backdrop for my story than the northern lights. As is often the way with writing a story that knows its own mind, once this new thought was in my head, the plot began to unfold more smoothly. Within weeks, I had booked what would turn out to be the best research trip of my life. (Even better than the one when I went to Bermuda to research book two – but that’s another story.) An eleven day trip on the Hurtigruten ship that travels around the northern coast of Norway.

Liz Kessler - Hurtigruten

Now, I know I’m a writer and words are my business, but it’s hard to put into words how amazing that trip was. I have never seen such beauty, such stillness and magic as I saw at 1, 2, 3 am on a ship sailing silently through snaking fjords against the light of the midnight sun. The ship was amazing, the route was stunning and the scenery was utterly inspiring. My notebook was rarely out of my hands. One day we passed a collection of rocks shaped like a cathedral. That went in the book. Another day, we went on an eagle-spotting trip. That went in the book. Another day, the captain went out of his way to show us a mountain with a hole right through the centre. Oh boy, did that go in the book! And the midnight concert at the arctic cathedral? Er, yeah, that went in the book for sure!

Liz Kessler - Hurtigruten

One of my favourite things about being a writer is getting inspiration from real places and then building on this with my imagination to create something completely fictional. This setting, and this book, gave me the opportunity to do that to a greater extent than I had ever done before. At one point in Emily Windsnap and the Land of the Midnight Sun, Emily says, ‘If we actually had been here for a holiday, I imagine it would have been the trip of a lifetime.’ Yes, Emily, it would have. It was.

Liz Kessler

PS If you like these pics and would like to see more – and hear some music from the midnight concert, you can do that here… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gck__wQieh0&feature=plcp

Liz Kessler - Hurtigruten

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2 responses to “Cruising for mermaids

  1. Beautiful pictures!

  2. theperpetualtraveller

    I’m green with envy. This is definitely going on the bucket list!

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