Sunday, 4 May 2008

Interview with Robin Barton - author of 101 Weekends in Europe

Early this year I published a post (click here) singing the praises of New Holland's city break anthology 101 Weekends in Europe. Now the book's author, Robin Barton, shares his thoughts with us on travel writing, short breaks and Brussels.

Robin's biography:
Born in Hampshire, raised in New Zealand, living in London.
Age 32 (just)
Over the years (and to varying degrees) I've written for the Observer, the Independent on Sunday, the Guardian, the Independent, the Evening Standard, the Financial Times, Monocle, Intersection, Wanderlust. Plus various travel books. I've been writing pretty much since I left university in 1996.

Robin, how long have you been writing about travel? And do you write on any other subjects?

Almost ten years. I began with work experience at Conde Nast Traveller magazine then got my first job editing the children’s version of the Escape travel section for the Observer. But I’ve tried to avoid specialising in travel: I write on sport, food, green issues and current affairs. The key for me is that there has to be an interesting story somewhere along the line.

It will never make you a millionaire, but travel writing’s a dream job, right?

I’m not sure…. Imagine never having a holiday again: that’s the price of being a travel writer. Also, it can be lonely, tiring and uncertain. But, yes, it can be difficult convincing people that it’s hard work.

How does a typical week shape up for a travel writer?

That would depend on the writer. Personally, I have slow-burning projects, such as books, then magazine and newspaper articles I would like to sell, then simply maintaining contacts. Only a fraction of a week or year is spent writing. You spend as much time selling yourself and your skills as writing.

What‘s next for you on the writing front? Any commissions and trips planned?

I have a few book projects I would like to get off the ground – not all travel-related. I have a guidebook scheduled for May. There are still magazines and newspapers I would love to write for.

What do you think of blogs? Waste of time or ‘freedom-to-publish-is-mine’?

Scary and exciting. If I wasn’t a travel writer I’d love them – the possibility of (supposedly) unbiased, unfettered information is a good thing. As a travel writer it concerns me that there is so much content out there available free of charge… But as a photographer friend of mine said last week, there will always be a market for good quality content, whether that is words or pictures.

Roughly, how long does a book such as 101 Weekends take to research and write?

Depends on the writer. But I do know that being able to write a 1200-word newspaper feature in a couple of hours doesn’t mean that you can do 8,000 words a day. The key is knowing what you want to communicate and where you want to go with the piece otherwise you’ll sit staring at the screen for hours.

If you could spend next weekend in any one of the 101 Weekend destinations, which would it be?

Brussels, because my sister lives there and I haven’t seen her for months. And I love chocolate, beer and mussels – not together, obviously.

Is there any one place in the world that sticks out as your all time favourite?

Impossible to say, but, personally, Vancouver is a tough city to beat for quality of life. The one thing I have learned in ten years of travel is that it’s not where you are but who you are with that matters.

What are your top tips or predictions for the next big thing in short-break travel?

In the current economic climate, anywhere that isn’t in the eurozone.

When is 101 Weekends in Europe published? Why should Sandwagon readers buy the book?

It’s published in September 2008. I hope that readers find it inspiring, useful and entertaining. I tried to keep the writing informative but lively. Whether you’re into food, culture, history, adventure sports or shopping, there’ll be something of interest in the book.

The book:
101 Weekends in Europe published by New Holland (Sep 08)
Paperback: 160 pages ISBN: 978-1847730817