I’m a traveller at heart. An explorer. Even as I write this, I’m at sea following in the footsteps of the Vikings from one side of the Atlantic to the other.

I’ve met people from all over the world on this voyage, most of them with heavily-stamped passports. We all share a love of adventure and the desire to learn more about the world around us, but there the similarities end.

Among my travel mates, the die-hard explorers are easiest to spot. From their layers of fleece and quick-dry clothing, heavy backpacks and walking sticks, I know they’re heading away from civilization. They’re first off the ship setting off in the direction of distant mountains, and they won’t be seen again until we leave port.

There are others who make a bee-line for the shops or the advertised attractions and museums. These travellers are explorers too, in that they seek to find the uniqueness associated with a country. Colourful balls of Shetland Island wool, or intricately-patterned Icelandic sweaters tell the story about the people, especially the women, of a country. Art and historical artifacts reveal the past and present in ways that make the country come alive.

I find myself somewhere in the middle. As a geologist, there are places that attract me like a moth to a flame — volcanoes, fossil beds and rugged mountain peaks to name a few! But I can also be found lingering in town, enjoying coffee or a meal, or browsing the museums or shops. In these moments, I am privileged to meet the locals and experience a little of their culture. It’s this sense of the people that I carry with me when I later hike the hills and take in the scenery. This is their home, not just a tourist destination.

Tanzania was like that for me. It had long been on the top of my bucket list, and when I finally managed a trip there, it did not disappoint. The Great Rift Valley is a Mecca for geologists and I was thrilled to hike to the site of Louis Leakey’s first fossil discoveries. The animals drew me too, and I spent days with the big cats, elephants and giraffes of the Serengeti taking more photos than I could ever imagine! But only when I met the people of Tanzania did I truly feel as though I was seeing the country.

There was never a doubt that I would set an Alex Graham thriller in Tanzania, and Blue Fire is the result. For the past two years, I’ve delved deep into the cultures of Brazil, Tanzania and China, adding to my personal experiences in each country. Out of that research came Jorge Silva, Mosi Ongeti and Shen Li, three of my most fascinating characters. And through all of this, I am a little closer to getting to know these countries and their people.

I’ve travelled the world, but I feel as though I’m only just beginning to really experience it. Geologist Alex Graham allows me to indulge my passion for exploration and pushes me to dig deeper, to bring a true sense of people and place to my stories. I invite you to join me on the journey.

Published: Maryann Writes, July 25, 2018