Cory Mortensen stops by Travel Writing World to answer a few questions about his career as a writer. He is the author of The Buddha and the Bee: Biking through America’s Forgotten Roadways on a Journey of Discovery (White Condor 2020). You can find out more about his work on his website.
How did you first become interested in writing travel books?
I had always been a journaler. In my twenties I would take off on my motorcycle every summer with the sole intention to put on 15,000 miles on it and explore parts of the United States I hadn’t been to. I loved sitting after a day of riding and just reflecting on the day and interactions. My first book sat in the cloud for a decade, then one day I said, I’m going to finish this book. Then I finished a second…now working on the third.
How did you manage to get your first travel book published?
Self-published. I was going to reach out and look for a traditional publisher but the process was slow and frankly the profit margin is far greater as a self-publisher and you have a lot more control over everything.
What is your writing process like, both on the road and at home? And how long does it take you to write a book inclusive of the research, travel, writing, and editing phases?
On the road, I always have two Moleskin notebooks and write religiously each day. Sometimes twice a day. The hardest part is trying to read my handwriting a week or two later. At home, when I’m hammering out a chapter or in most cases a paragraph, I start by overthinking everything, get stuck and then revisit whatever I was working on and write like a child. It’s easier for me to spruce up something, the spruce up nothing. The first book took about a year, once I dug deep and went into it. Book two, 8 months. Book three, we shall see.
What books or authors influence or inform your own work?
- Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac
- Into the Wild by John Krakauer
- Generation of Swine by Hunter S. Thompson
What advice would you give to someone interested in writing a travel book?
It’s yours, do what thou wilt. If you want to have a commercial break in your book, do it. I did. If you want the words to spin in a circle like Mark Danielewski. Do it. Find a good editor, someone who might challenge you. But be true to yourself, if you listen to the critics you may not be happy with your final product.
What is so appealing about the travel book as a literary form?
It’s a unique anthropological perspective that can only be shared by the writer. It allows people to join the writer on a journey and that journey can be funny, exciting, hopefully educational. Above all, it will be unique.
Why write about travel?
I love to travel. I love to experience new things and now that my books are out there, I love hearing from readers who had either gone to those places or the books conjured up old memories. Then there are the readers who never had the chance to travel and live through these books, I love that in a way I’m getting them to leave their comfort zone and head to where there may be dragons.
Purchase The Buddha and the Bee by Mark Weston
Purchase Cory Mortensen’s The Buddha and the Bee: Biking through America’s Forgotten Roadways on a Journey of Discovery (White Condor 2020). You can find out more about his work on his website.
If you enjoyed this interview with Cory Mortensen, you might enjoy our other author profiles for more behind-the-scenes interviews with authors of travel books.