25 episodes

Escape and inspiration about unusual and fascinating places, as well as the deeper side of books and travel.

I'm Jo Frances Penn, author of thrillers and non-fiction, and I'll be doing solo shows about my own travel experience and interviewing authors about how travel inspires their writing. Interviews cover places to visit and tips for travel as well as thoughts on modes of travel like walking, cycling, and travel by train and other modes. Plus book recommendations for every interview so you have things to read on the move.

Books And Travel Jo Frances Penn

    • Places & Travel

Escape and inspiration about unusual and fascinating places, as well as the deeper side of books and travel.

I'm Jo Frances Penn, author of thrillers and non-fiction, and I'll be doing solo shows about my own travel experience and interviewing authors about how travel inspires their writing. Interviews cover places to visit and tips for travel as well as thoughts on modes of travel like walking, cycling, and travel by train and other modes. Plus book recommendations for every interview so you have things to read on the move.

    Sacred Australia And The Northern Territory With Amanda Markham

    Sacred Australia And The Northern Territory With Amanda Markham

    In today’s episode, we’re heading for the Northern Territory of Australia as Dr. Amanda Markham talks about some of the Aboriginal Dreaming stories of the area and how the vast landscape impacts living and working there, as well as the best places to visit if you’re traveling. Amanda is of Wiradjuri Aboriginal descent and speaks an Aboriginal language, so it’s fantastic to get her perspective.

    We recorded this episode before the bush fires swept the country and I talked back in episode 20 about my own experience traveling around Australia and then living there — I mentioned that it’s the weather you have to watch out for, not the snakes or spiders — and Amanda emphasizes again how important it is to prepare for the reality of the outback. We both love Australia and particularly, the Northern Territories — it’s one of the places I would love to go back to —  so I hope you enjoy the adventure in this episode.



    Dr. Amanda Markham is an archaeologist and anthropologist in the Australian outback, as well as a travel writer and award-winning author of speculative fiction.

    * The three different climates of the Northern Territory

    * Exploring the Top End with Aboriginal guides and some of the Dreaming stories in the landscape

    * Language differences above and below the monsoon line

    * The myths and reality about danger in Australia

    * The Alice Springs Beanie Festival and what makes the outback culture unique

    * Stargazing in the Northern Territory

    * Recommended books set in outback Australia

    You can find Dr. Amanda Markham at traveloutbackaustralia.com and at AmandaMarkham.com



    Transcript of the interview

    Jo Frances Penn: Dr. Amanda Markham is an archaeologist and anthropologist in the Australian outback, as well as a travel writer and award-winning author of speculative fiction. Welcome, Amanda.

    Dr. Markham: Hi. Thanks, Joanna. Thanks very much for having me.

    Jo Frances Penn: It’s great to have you on the show. Your job sounds very cool. I always wanted to be an archaeologist. People think, ‘Oh, archaeology? You must work in ancient Greece or Egypt.’ But you work in the Australian outback.

    Tell us, what does your job involve?

    Dr. Markham: I’ll say that I’ve had two careers working in the outback. First, as an anthropologist, I started working in anthropology in 1997. I went to the Northern Territory to work for an agency, a government agency called The Sacred Sites Authority, and I worked specifically in the protection of Aboriginal sacred sites, working with aboriginal elders, particularly over Central Australia, so the southern half of the Northern Territory.

    I’ll slow down a little bit for listeners who don’t know where the Northern Territory is in Australia. It’s that middle third of Australia, but the northern part, and it’s got three very distinctive climate zones, one of which is the arid zone.

    I don’t want to call it a desert because we don’t really have true deserts in Australia. We do have arid zones, which are often vast savannas and rangelands. Then, you have a sub-tropical area north of that. And then we have the tropics where they actually get a full monsoon, and we call it here in the Northern Territory, we call it the Top End, and that’s where Darwin is.

    So, I went to the Northern Territory to be an anthropologist, work with Aboriginal elders, recording and protecting their sacred sites, so their Dreaming sites. Always,

    • 40 min
    Traveling On The Trans-Siberian Express Across Mongolia And Russia With SJI Holliday

    Traveling On The Trans-Siberian Express Across Mongolia And Russia With SJI Holliday

    What would you do if you only had a short time to live?

    Most people have some kind of travel on their bucket list, and when Susi Holliday had a near-miss in the London terror attacks, she decided to head off on a round-the-world trip. Her experience on the Trans-Siberian Express resulted in a crime novel years later, and in this interview, we talk about what she learned along the way.

    We also talk about why reflection on mortality makes us want to travel, the importance of getting out of your comfort zone, why spiritual places draw us in other countries, and why we might have more in common with travelers from other countries than we think.



    SJI Holliday is a scientist, writing coach, and the bestselling author of five crime novels, including the Bankstoun trilogy set in a fictional town in Scotland. Susi was born and raised in Scotland, but today we’re talking about her novel Violet, which is set on the Trans-Siberian Express Railway.

    * Making travel and life choices after frightening world events

    * Using different modes of travel, including railways

    * Why getting out of your comfort zone when traveling is important

    * Visiting holy places in different parts of the world

    * Food challenges in Mongolia and Russia

    * Following the river in a city to find hidden gems

    * Thoughts on being safe while traveling

    * Tips for what to take to be comfortable on a long train journey

    You can find SJI Holliday at SJIHolliday.com.



    Transcript of the interview

    Joanna Penn: SJI Holliday is a scientist, writing coach, and the bestselling author of five crime novels, including the Bankstoun trilogy set in a fictional town in Scotland. Susi was born and raised in Scotland, but today we’re talking about her novel Violet, which is set on the Trans-Siberian Express Railway.

    Welcome Susi.

    Susi Holliday: Hello. Thanks for having me.

    Joanna Penn: It’s great to have you on the show. I think the Trans-Siberian Express has this romance about it. Now, you went on the railway in 2006 so take us back to that time.

    Why did you decide to take that trip?

    Susi Holliday: Well, it was actually part of a much bigger trip and it came from actually something that happened in 2005, which was the London bombings.

    What happened was that weekend, my husband and I were supposed to go to a gig, and it was canceled because of this. And it just made us both think about what we were doing. We were both working full time and we were just living a normal life.

    And we felt, you know what? We should go off and do some traveling because you never know what’s going to happen to you. So we basically spent about five months planning a trip and we then left in January 2006 and went on a six month round the world trip. There were lots of different places. We traveled on lots of different modes of transport. And one of those was the Trans-Siberian.

    Joanna Penn: Wow. That is a big thing. So you weren’t actually in the London bombings?

    Susi Holliday: We were just there and then my sisters were coming down to visit me that weekend and they got turned away. Their train got turned away on the way down. It was stopped and they were taken back. My brother was running around on his scooter and going to Kings Cross and things like that all day.

    And it just made me think that anything could have happened. I was lucky that nothing did happen to me or anyone close to me, but it just gave me a bit of a jolt about life and made me think I want to do something. And so travel was the thing.

    • 42 min
    The Happiest Country In The World. Finland With Helena Halme

    The Happiest Country In The World. Finland With Helena Halme

    In today’s episode, we’re heading north for cross-country skiing under the aurora borealis, sailing amongst the Baltic islands, and silence amongst the Finnish forests.

    I worked in Helsinki one summer in my twenties. The nights were bright and we drank vodka in the sauna and then jumped in the Baltic to cool off. I remember how musical the Finnish language sounded in the dusk of the midnight sun and I always intended to go back. But that was the late 90s, and I haven’t returned to Finland, so it was wonderful to talk to Helena Halme about her native country.

    We talk about the introvert nature of Finns, why the landscape might be the key to happiness, the unusual Aland Islands, and how Finland’s history of occupation still shapes the country today. Plus, Helena’s view of the English as an ex-pat.



    Helena Halme is the award-winning author of contemporary Nordic romance with a hint of noir. Originally from Finland, she now lives in the UK.

    * On the happiness and good work-life balance in Finland

    * Why saunas are important to Finnish culture

    * Why cross-country skiing is so popular in Finland

    * The Aland Islands, summer sailing and inspiration for a romance novel

    * Finland’s rocky history with Russia

    * Finnish food and book recommendations

    You can find Helena Halme at HelenaHalme.com



    Transcript of the interview

    Joanna Penn: Helena Halme is the award-winning author of contemporary Nordic romance with a hint of noir. Originally from Finland, she now lives in the UK. Welcome to the show, Helena.

    Helena Halme: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

    Joanna Penn: It’s great to have you on the show. Now I want to start with this hilarious thing. According to the World Happiness Report for the last two years, Finland is the happiest country in the world.

    I want you to tell us, why is Finland the happiest country?

    Helena Halme: You tell me. It always makes me laugh as well, because Finns can be really miserable.

    If you go to Finland and you don’t know anybody, they are really hard to get to know. But once you do know them, somebody told me that Finns are like puppies. Once they get to know you, they’ll never leave your side. But the Finnish are really private people.

    They are very outdoorsy. They love the forest. 65% of the country is covered by forest, and they like being on their own.

    There is a really successful set of modern books called Finnish Nightmares. And it’s all about this character, Matti, it’s drawings about situations that most people really in the Western world, find to be fine. For Finns, it’s a little bit painful. Like if you live in this in a block of flats and somebody who lives opposite you opens the door at the same time, you don’t really want to see them. Or if somebody sits next to you on the bus.



    And it’s full of these awkward moments that Finns really find difficult because they’re so used to not really having many people around, so I don’t know why they’re so happy.

    Joanna Penn: It’s interesting, as you mentioned, 65% of the country is forest. Maybe that’s got something to do with it.

    Time spent in nature is one of the things we are all encouraged to do to be happy.

    Helena Halme: Yes. And joking aside, It is a wonderful lifestyle. They have very short working hours.

    Traveling Through The Eyes of Faith With Richard Zimler

    Traveling Through The Eyes of Faith With Richard Zimler

    There are books that remain with you over time, that spark the imagination and echo down the years of your life. I read The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler in the late 1990s around the time I read The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco while I was studying Theology at Oxford, which I talked about in episode 12. The themes and characters of those two books still resonate in my own writing, and the idea of faith soaking into the very stones of a place is something that stays with me as I travel for my own book research.

    When I visited Lisbon in autumn 2019, I wrote an article about my weekend there and mentioned Richard’s book, so I’m thrilled to be able to share this interview with you today. His books span the history of a Jewish family across the diaspora, as well as historical fiction set in the time of Jesus, and more modern tales of people of faith. Our discussion, like his writing, is both political and religious and hopefully will spark thoughts around your own position, for only by truly listening to others can we formulate what we really think.



    Richard Zimler is the multi-award-winning author of 10 novels, as well as writing poetry, short film, children’s books, and song lyrics. Richard is American but lives in Portugal and in 2017, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by the city of Porto.

    * Why Richard loves Portugal, from the varied geographic regions to progressive politics

    * How difficult times call us to be more honest and authentic

    * The influence of Portugal on language and culture worldwide

    * The historical research required for a novel set in the time of Jesus

    * How places become imbued with emotion and faith

    * Transcending historical baggage to write and travel with an open mind

    * Writing from the different perspectives of varied characters

    You can find Richard Zimler at Zimler.com.



    Transcript of the interview

    Joanna Penn: Richard Zimler is the multi-award-winning author of 10 novels, as well as writing poetry, short film, children’s books and song lyrics. Richard is American but lives in Portugal. And in 2017 he was awarded the medal of honor by the city of Porto.

    Welcome to the show.

    Richard Zimler: Thank you for having me. Hello everybody.

    Joanna Penn: I was having a little fangirl moment before we started recording. I’m just so thrilled to have you on the show! Clearly you love Portugal.

    As an American, tell us why Portugal still inspires you after so many years.

    Richard Zimler: It’s my home, first of all. I’ve lived here for 29 years, so most of my friends are here. My life partner is here. We’ve lived together for 40 years. So it really is the center of my world, and I’m glad about that.

    I love Portugal. It’s become a better and better place to live, for people visiting and for people who live here. It’s got a lot of pluses.

    One would be it’s a small country. We’re not talking about the United States or Brazil, so you can drive from the top to the very bottom in about seven hours.

    It’s a varied place. Think about California. We’ve got mountains, very forbidding peaks in the Northeast of the country and what we call the Trás-os-Montes or beyond the mountains.

    We’ve got beautiful sandy, long beaches in the South and all along the coast, isolated little mountain top towns, almost like Italy, all stone towns, cobblestones everywhere, little cafes. So, visitors and people who do live here,

    The City Of Life And Death. New Orleans With Laura And Dan Martone

    The City Of Life And Death. New Orleans With Laura And Dan Martone

    New Orleans is one of those cities that has a special place in the imagination of a traveler, even if you haven’t been there. It’s famous for loving life — for Mardi Gras parades, a vibrant music scene, drinking and eating and gorgeous architecture in the French Quarter — but it’s also known as the City of the Dead, with cemeteries, Voodoo, ghost stories, vampires, and of course, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

    In today’s episode, native New Orleanian Laura Martone and her husband, Dan, talk about the history of the French Quarter and some of the haunted buildings there, the best cemeteries to visit, vampires, voodoo and Creole cuisine.

    Laura and Daniel Martone write fiction in multiple genres including space opera, post-apocalyptic and urban fantasy. They lived in the French Quarter of New Orleans for many years and produced several audio walking guides. Laura has also written a guidebook to the city and they now live in their RV, Serenity, and travel between New Orleans and Michigan, USA.

    * The various pronunciations of New Orleans

    * Why the French Quarter has mostly Spanish influenced architecture

    * Interesting cemeteries in the city

    * Why vampires are associated with New Orleans

    * How and why Catholicism and voodoo are so entwined

    * The importance of music and its influence on the culture in New Orleans

    * The different parades at Mardi Gras

    * Seafood boils as social occasions

    * The beautiful natural ecosystems that surround the city

    You can find Dan and Laura Martone at TheMartones.com



    Transcript of the interview

    Joanna: Laura and Daniel Martone write fiction in multiple genres including space opera, post-apocalyptic and urban fantasy. They lived in the French Quarter of New Orleans for many years and produced several audio walking guides. Laura has also written a guidebook to the city and they now live in their RV, Serenity, and travel between New Orleans and Michigan.

    Welcome, Laura and Dan.

    Daniel: Hey Jo.

    Laura: Hey, it’s so good to be here.

    Joanna: It’s great to have you on the show. Before we get into the questions, I have to ask about the pronunciation of New Orleans because I think I got it from the song, House of the Rising Sun. But when I was there with you guys people pronounce it differently.

    So let’s start with pronunciation.

    Laura: Okay. The funny thing is Dan always makes fun of me that I don’t have a New Orleans accent, and I don’t, but my whole family does. But I definitely have been there long enough to know New Orleans is how I think most people pronounce it. That’s how I say it.

    But people do say New Orleans. The thing that I think a lot of natives hate is n’awlins because n’awlins is like this sort of a hybrid. It’s definitely more of a manufactured thing. You know, some people say it jokingly, but I think New Orleans is pretty standard.

    Joanna: Fantastic.

    Start by telling us a bit more about your links to the city and how you both came to live and work there.

    Laura: I was born and raised there. So it’s my hometown and it’s my favorite American city. It always has been.

    We’ve both traveled a lot throughout the US and other countries. So, we’ve had a lot to compare it to and there’s no place like New Orleans. I left for college when I was 17 and ended up at Northwestern University in the Chicago area.

    Dan’s a little older than me, but we met in a job and we stayed in Chicago for a little bit and then hit the road the first time in another RV and ended up settling in Los Angeles because we both interested in being in the film industry as screenw...

    Ancient City, Modern Life. Beijing With LH Draken

    Ancient City, Modern Life. Beijing With LH Draken

    China is a rising world power, increasingly challenging the USA in terms of global influence and technological development, especially around artificial intelligence and biotechnology.

    It’s also an ancient culture with fascinating places to visit, and in this interview, thriller author L.H.Draken shares her thoughts on traveling to Beijing.



     

    LH Draken is the author of The Year of the Rabid Dragon, a medical thriller set in Beijing, China. Lawrence is American but worked as a physicist and engineer in Beijing before moving to Germany.

    * Ancient historical sites in and around Beijing

    * Cultural and technological differences between America and China

    * Recommended hiking guides in China

    * What travel means to LH Draken’s writing and the concept of home

    You can find LH Draken at LHDraken.com and on Twitter @lhdraken.



    Transcript of the interview

    Joanna: LH Draken is the author of The Year of the Rabid Dragon, a medical thriller set in Beijing, China. Lauren is American but worked as a physicist and engineer in Beijing before moving to Germany. Welcome, Lauren.

    LH Draken: Thank you so much. It’s a real pleasure.

    Joanna: I’m so happy to have you here.

    You have such a fascinating background. Tell us a bit more about how you ended up in Beijing in the first place.

    LH Draken: I grew up having a little bit of a peripatetic lifestyle. My dad was going to school and we were in different places for his work so I had this bug set in me rather young. But then when I was in university and studying I got onto a project with a collaboration in China, in Beijing. It was an electron-positron collider and we were doing high energy physics and getting that started and stuff with the collaboration so it was an exciting new thing to be working with a group in China.

    Before that, I didn’t really have much interaction of course. And then during one summer, I went and for a few weeks worked with them and that was how I first got there. But then while I was there on the last weekend before I was due to fly home and continue the project I went hiking on the Great Wall of China on this really fantastic, unrestored natural wild part. And with us there was a group of international expats and I bumped into this handsome young German and we started talking and we talked the whole day and after that day I realized I have to come back to China!

    And I did. We ended up getting married and we had our first son in Beijing. And so that’s how it got started. And then I started working and writing.

    Joanna: You and your husband have such a lovely story. Me and my husband, we met on the Internet. It’s just not as romantic as hiking the Great Wall.

    LH Draken: Yes, it’s very romantic.

    Joanna: It is lovely.

    What year did you first get to Beijing and how did it change in the time that you were there?

    LH Draken: When I was doing the research I was there in 2010 and then I moved there on January 1st, 2011. So it’s a very easy date. So 2011 until mid-end of 2016. So almost five years.

    The thing about Beijing, it changes so quickly. The culture changes, the technology changes, how they do stuff, like how they deliver food, or how you deal with your landlord or what buildings are available or what restaurants you can eat in or what places you can visit and what places. It’s just phenomenal the amount of change that happens.

    When I wrote the book, it was set in 2012, and I feel like it’s this snapshot of Beijing in 2012 but there are some things where you want to talk about what do you recommend in Beijing right now. Well, I mean it just changes so rapidly, I feel like some of the details,

Customer Reviews

Lesliesyk ,

Fascinating interviews and discussions

I've been listening to Joanna Penn on her other podcast since last summer, and I was excited to check out this new podcast.... because I love books and travel, too! And she doesn't disappoint. Joanna is a keen observer and has so many interests that every interview or discussion is super interesting.

TarahBenzy ,

Love Joanna, love Jo Frances.

I have been listening to The Creative Penn podcast since...2012? I listened to her before I was an author, and she gave me hope as a confused college student trying to figure out my life. I listen to her now that I am a full-time author, and she gives me much-needed encouragement weekly. To get to experience this more personal side of her is truly wonderful. It is so neat to hear more about her life and gain insight into her experiences. Thank you, Joanna! You are a treasure.

Benjamin Douglas, authir ,

Stunning poetic potential

The first episode of Books and Travel is a veritable poem of experience and meaning. J Penn has a winner on her hands in her solo episodes, where she seams together a narrative of places and memory to shine light, apparently, on what makes her her (and you you, and me me).

Mileage may vary for interview episodes depending on the guest. There are two faces to this show so far. On one side, the near-spiritual literary tale of place; on the other, tips on where to find the best Sangria. I hope the former wins over the latter more often than it does in the first 4 episodes.

In any event, Penn is a delightful host, always a pleasure to listen to, and longtime fans of The Creative Penn should take pleasure in this more contemplative, meditative presentation.

Moments of sheer beauty. Can’t wait for more!

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