Sunday, July 28, 2013

Old Travel - New Story

GUEST POST by Susan Nystoriak - Her blog, S. M. NYSTORIAK'S WRITER'S BLOCK is excellent!
I would like to introduce you to a new Novel Travelist I've recently had the pleasure to meet. Susan Nystoriak is working on her second book, but was recently inspired by old travel. Take it away Susan!

How my 20th Century Trip inspired a
21st Century Novel, about a
19th Century Secret...

My name is Susan Nystoriak, and I am a Novel Travelist, in retrograde.

Allow me to explain. This fantastic website is all about connecting travel and locations to novels. Most times, an idea for a novel comes, and the author completes the research to give the book authenticity. An author may have to travel to different locations during the research phase. In my case, however, the travel came first. My latest novel, WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL got its start way back in 1994, but I didn’t realize it at the time.

In the summer of ‘94, I was a recent college graduate, and was frantically looking for a job in my career field, Music Education. I had taken a few interviews, and was anxiously awaiting the outcomes. Months prior, a friend and I had planned a trip to Europe for that summer, and I was glad, because waiting patiently for a job offer was a real challenge! The trip was a much needed escape.

Two of the many places we visited were Bonn, Germany, and Vienna, Austria. The entire trip was glorious, but it was these two destinations that became the seeds for my latest novel.   Here are a couple highlights from the trip: 

Beethoven Haus in Bonn, Germany

In Bonn, Germany, a visit to Beethoven Haus was a major thrill for me. I saw the pink fa├žade of that building and fantasized about what it must have been like in the time of Beethoven. As a musician, I knew a lot about Beethoven’s contribution to history, so it was very exciting to see one of his homes.  Also, the overall feel of the place made an impression on me. The twentieth century Germany that I was visiting seemed like a throwback to an earlier, simpler time. The cobblestone streets, the gingerbread style buildings, and the general old world charm created a feeling of being swept back in time (See below, Rothensburg. This is a borrowed picture-Bing images. Mine came out a bit too grainy).

Rothensburg, Germany - Old World Charm

Vienna was equally delightful, as we visited Schoenbrunn Palace, and stayed at the former Schoenbrunn guest house. (Below, more borrowed pictures: Britannica. I am not a great photographer, it seems!) 

Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria
Again, if I hadn’t known better, I would have thought I was back in the 1800’s. The stylized buildings and streets were the same as they had been all those years ago, and I felt a deep connection to it. I speak about inspiration and my connection to old Europe in another blog post, here: Inspiration - It's a Magical Thing

In both of these two places, I experienced people steeped in tradition. From the buildings and streets, to the recipes they cooked, I felt I was a part of a centuries-old culture that was still holding strong. And that was nice, in stark contrast to the ways of home.

I kept a journal of my month long trip and filed everything away for safe keeping. Pictures, newspapers, recipes, coins, transportation passes…I wanted to be able to revisit the experience later on in my life.  

Returning from that trip, I had a new outlook on things. For one thing, the world seemed much smaller than it did before. For another, I had been offered a job while in Germany, which was a relief to me!  But twenty years later, I remained moved by what I experienced on that trip, and I just had to write about it.

My old maps and notes - Now two decades old, but just as inspirational

Flash Forward:  Twenty Years Later:  I dug out all of my treasures that were tucked away for safe keeping (Picture above - my actual stuff!), and remembered. I remembered the feeling of being fresh out of college, traveling abroad. I recalled the busy airports and bus terminals, cab drivers that had to be spoken to, learning how to pack for such a trip, everything came back to me. And when I revisited the old journal, I smiled. I had made notes, drawn sketches, talked about foods we tried for the first time, and recipes. I had written about others who I had met on that trip from all over this small world.

As a result, this past October, I began plotting and planning out a novel. 

Those seeds that were planted during my time in Europe had lay relatively dormant until recently, but were beginning to germinate. And a few months later, WORDS IN THE WINDOWSILL became the product. Here is a little blurb about it: 

Grad student and self-proclaimed “Ladies Man” Hans Meyer has the world at his piano-playing fingertips. All he has left to do is write his thesis. But when his research takes him two centuries back in time, Hans stumbles upon a secret that will change history, and turn this 21st century cad into a gentleman.

During the story, 25 year old Hans discovers an unknown symphony, and goes back in time to Vienna, where he takes part in living history. In some ways, when I spent my time in Bonn and Vienna, I felt the same way. 
I know that is why I was driven to base my character's travels as I did. For those memories to have stayed with me all this time really speaks volumes to me; I couldn't have predicted the impact that trip had on me back then, but here we are.

So, you see, I am a Novel Travelist, but in retrograde. My travel came first, long before I ever realized I would write about it. And I am so glad I found this website. It is a wealth of information for any novelist needing to find information or contacts to help them along the way. Thank you, Sara, for allowing me to do this guest post.

What past trips still speak to you? Is there a novel in that old trip?

Guest Blogger:
Susan Nystoriak was born and raised in the Adirondack's of Northern New York State.  A classically trained musician, she has been fortunate to always have the arts as a prominent part of her life.  She has been a music educator for the past twenty years, and has begun to fortify her other creative outlet; writing.  Still a country girl, Susan still resides in the Adirondack's with her husband, two children and a dog.  Whenever possible, she enjoys planning trips for her family. You can read more from Susan at her WRITER'S BLOCK blog: 


  1. Thank you so much for inviting me to guest post! It was a blast! I hope to inspire others to connect travel to their writing.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your upcoming book sounds great. What's your first book about?

    2. I wrote a suspense thriller, about a fictional government agency stealing identities to solve crimes. It takes place in and around Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, as you might expect. While it hasn't been published yet, a screenwriter friend and I are collaborating to make it into a screenplay. It's pretty intense... We'll see what happens with it!

  2. no more! Your book sounds wonderful! I can't wait to read it!

    1. Thanks for the wonderful comment!!!

  3. Great post, Susan! Your trip sounds incredible. I've always wanted to visit Austria. Good luck on your stories. They sound like wonderful reads. I love books set in foreign locations!

    1. Larissa, Thanks so much for visiting this post! And I appreciate the kind words!


  4. What a wonderful trip, and your book sounds fantastic! I am so thrilled for you!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Erin, it means a ton! As you know, you were a big influence on me to begin this writing journey a few years back. I hope that someday soon, I will be able to share my work!

  5. Thanks for stopping by... It means so much to me! Someday soon, I hope to share my work!