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My Favorite Thing To Do When Not Writing
Brenda “Jade” Hiatt
Other than reading (don’t we all share that one?) some of my favorite things to do when I’m not writing include swimming, Taekwondo, hiking and traveling. Having a daughter in Germany has given me an excuse for quite a lot of those last two, especially since she’s one of my favorite travel/hiking buddies. Because I find walking and hiking very meditative,I’ve been known to plot scenes, chapters, and once an entire book while rambling along a deserted path in the woods or mountains. Over the years I’ve hiked the Smokies, the Grand Canyon and seaside cliffs in Italy, but my most enduring memories are of walking portions of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. In 2010 I hiked the last 100+ kilometers of the Camino Francais (the “classic” Camino) with a group of about a dozen women, most of us (except my daughter) “of a certain age” and several of us writers.
That trip and the self-discoveries I made along the way were so inspiring and beneficial for me that I returned to Spain for another Camino in 2015. This time it was the entire Camino Ingles, the route that English and Irish Pilgrims historically took to Santiago de Compostela and its historic cathedral. My daughter Bethany suggested that particular route, partly because our ancestry is primarily English and Irish. I had to agree it seemed fitting that we follow the same path our ancestors might have, centuries ago. She did most of the planning, and as she had most of that summer free, she started her Camino first, hiking much of the Camino Norte along the northern Spanish coast with her husband. The day he had to go back to work, I met up with her in Ferrol, in northeastern Spain, to begin our hike of The English Way.
Before leaving for Spain, I had already begun to write Gallant Scoundrel, the fifth book in my Regency-set Saint of Seven Dials series. While simultaneously researching both that book and my upcoming Camino, I discovered a remarkable bit of serendipity: much of my hero’s backstory during the Napoleonic Wars would have occurred right in that same region! In fact, I landed at the airport in La Coruna, the very site of an infamous battle between the British and Napoleon’s forces. Needless to say, I spent much of that hike imagining the countryside as it would have looked while my hero was there fighting in the war (1809-1812 or thereabouts), making this an unusually inspirational journey.
From Santiago my daughter and I continued on to Finisterre (the “end of the Earth”), the traditional end of the Camino, where ancient Pilgrims would pluck a scallop shell from the beach to bring back as a sort of talisman and proof that they had completed their pilgrimage. We then hiked up to Mexia, a breathtaking rocky peninsula, where we meditated on all the lessons the Road had taught us. Now she’s talking about us hiking Hadrian’s Wall next summer, or maybe the summer after that.
Whether there or elsewhere, I very much hope my future holds many more rambling vacations on distant shores, since I always come back enriched and, I believe, a better writer for each experience.
If you would like to read the book that came out of Brenda’s most recent pilgrimage, try GALLANT SCOUNDREL.