At Heathrow Terminal Five, you meet a mysterious stranger. She asks if she can sit at your table, and speaking warmly begins to tell you her story. It is the story of how, as a young girl, she always wanted to be a travel journalist, and embraced the idea of travelling the world, reporting on the most interesting people and events, and even present her own travel show on national TV and radio. As the hours progress, and your time to board your flight grows near, you learn of how the mistakes she has made, have made her more determined than ever. And other reasons for this coincidental meeting become clear…
London based author, Sarah Tucker, has loved lockdown. “I’m lucky. I have a garden and as a writer I need to be isolated anyway. I have a home in France, but don’t know when I will next visit. But London has the grit, edge and anger. It puts ink in the nib. When I’m in the countryside I write ‘white’. I admit I have not missed the planes one bit as live in Richmond, but I believe the travel industry needs to be levelled to the ground before it can rebirth into the sustainable, valuable and ethical emotional imperative it allegedly wanted to be prior to the virus.”
Sarah Tucker’s provocative new novella, inspired by the novel coronavirus, is a zeitgeist glance at why and how the travel industry and travel writing has lost its way, but also takes a deeper look into how people wear masks even when they are not wearing ‘masks’. The book is a psychological thriller which aims to question the reader’s ability to identify who the predator and victim is – in the story – and the value of authenticity.
Although the novella is fiction, Sarah has taken from her own experiences as a travel writer and journalist and identified how much of what travel writers produce is ‘leaving out all the bad bits’ account of their experience. It also identifies the type of person who would go into this industry in the first place.
“Films inspire me, and when I watched Parasite, I liked the idea of not knowing who the real parasite was till the end. Like that storyline, I want the reader to make up their own mind as to who the villain is in Redundant. They may even decide they are. I’m completing the authorised biography of acclaimed physician and psychologist Edward de Bono, who I met over a decade ago, and this made me realise people edit out a lot from their lives when recounting it. They only want people to know what they consider to be ‘the best bits’.
Ironically it is the flaws which make them more relatable, likeable and authentic. The creator of the concept of lateral thinking, Edward inspired me to commence a PhD at Cambridge this October, focusing on the use of lateral thinking in young adult narratives. I’ve been reading books about thinking and been thinking about thinking all through the lockdown – which I have loved btw – and have used lateral thinking throughout all the books I’ve written. Especially this one.”
“The protagonist is not me,” Sarah says, “she goes into travel writing to escape – I went into it because I’m curious and enjoy the journey of understanding different cultures. I wanted to investigate how and if people value travel and if they are really themselves As everyone is wearing masks now because of the virus, I realise everyone was already wearing masks before. And there is an incredible opportunity to pretend to be someone you are not when you wear a mask – and especially if you are travelling all the time. You could be anyone.”
“It also made me question how travel and travel writing has lost its way and values over the years. Rather than nurturing compassion, curiosity and creativity, travel and travel writing has started to foster greed, FOMO, anxiety, prejudice, jealousy and debt. And deluded itself it was sustainable in its current form. And travel journalists may have played their part as weapons of mass destruction opening up places to people who just wanted to have all their comforts of home – away.”
Sarah Tucker is a critically acclaimed and best selling novelist and journalist. When she is unable to write the truth in articles, she puts it in novels and calls it fiction.