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Tenby, Wales inspired Roald Dahl's books
Tenby, Wales inspired Roald Dahl's books | © Tim Hill/Pixabay
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11 Authors and Their Favourite Holiday Destinations

Picture of Lizzie Thomson
London Writer
Updated: 23 April 2018
Both classic and contemporary writers use locations all around the world as inspiration for their creative works. Here’s a round-up of 11 famous authors, old and new, and their favourite holiday destinations that influenced and fuelled their stories.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: Nice, the French Riviera

The French Riviera became the inspiration for one of the most famous writers in modern American history. F. Scott Fizgerald and his wife Zelda would spend lots of time in the famous Negresco building in Nice, in their luxurious apartment for two. The Negresco is one of the oldest classical hotels in the South of France and is most famous for its wild parties, which became a recurring motif in many of his famous works. It was on the French Riviera where Fitzgerald finished his most famous novel The Great Gatsby and is the location where he met Gerald and Sam Murphy, the glamorous couple that inspired him to write Tender Is The Night.

The spot that influenced F. Scott Fitzgerald
The spot that influenced F. Scott Fitzgerald | © Wikimedia Commons

J.K. Rowling: Edinburgh

It would appear the cobbled streets of Edinburgh and the medieval architecture provided inspiration for the most famous wizarding franchise of the 21st century. J.K. Rowling moved to Scotland in the 90s and The Elephant House cafe in Edinburgh became the famous spot where she wrote her spellbinding series and has since become known as the birthplace of Harry Potter. Interestingly, Rowling’s fictional Diagon Alley is based on Edinburgh’s real-life Victoria Street, which is packed full of colourful independent shops. It is also believed Rowling also created Hogwarts after being inspired by a Scottish independent primary and secondary school called George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh’s Old Town, taking inspiration from the turrets and towers of the school’s building, and even the house system used to sort students.

Rowling’s writing spot
Rowling’s writing spot | © pruneau934/Flickr

Ernest Hemingway: Havana, Cuba

The famous American writer penned seven of his works while living in Cuba, including A Moveable Feast and Islands in the Stream. Hemingway lived in the colourful country from 1939 to 1960, and his home was located 10 miles outside the famous capital city, a building that is now a Cuban government-run museum called Finca Vigía (“Lookout Farm,” named by Hemingway). Interestingly, a small fishing village east of Havana called Cogimar (and its people) inspired Hemingway to write The Old Man and the Sea, a novel that was key to him winning the Nobel Prize in 1954.

Charles Dickens: London

London was home for the majority of Dickens’ protagonists as well as the author himself. His former home in the capital is now a museum packed full of over 100,000 interesting artefacts including manuscripts, rare editions and personal items, and it was the site where he penned some of his most popular books, such Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. Dickens’ love of the city is apparent throughout his works with famous London landmarks featuring heavily, like Westminster Palace, which features in 14 of his novels. Similarly The Old Curiosity shop on Portsmouth Street – the oldest shop in Central London – is believed to be the inspiration behind his legendary work and even still functions today as a fashion boutique.

The oldest shop in the Central London
The oldest shop in the Central London | © Wikimedia Commons

John Steinbeck: Pacific Grove, US

The majority of Steinbeck’s brilliant works are set in the US state of California. He also owned a Pacific Grove apartment in the 1940s and used this spot as a writing studio to work on his novels such as The Log from the Sea of Cortez. The different landscapes of California feature heavily in Steinbeck’s novels, particularly in The Grapes of Wrath, to show the dangerous effects of rapid industrialisation in the 1930s. California’s Salinas Valley is where Steinbeck grew up and lived at times during his adult life as he took an interest in migrant workers and the difficulties they faced. This location became the inspiration behind his most famous book, Of Mice and Men.

Dan Brown: Paris

Dan Brown may have been born in New Hampshire, US, but all the action that takes place in his best-selling book The Da Vinci Code is centred around famous buildings and landmarks in Paris. The success of the book has even inspired walking tours around the city to visit the locations mentioned in the story. The famous Louvre is featured in the book as well as the majestic Saint-Sulpice Church, the headquarters of the Priory of Sion and the setting for many scenes in the popular and controversial novel.

The famous Louvre in Paris
The famous Louvre in Paris | © kuhnmi/Flickr

Roald Dahl: Tenby, Wales

The famous children’s writer was born in Llandaff, Cardiff to Norwegian parents. During his childhood, Dahl and his family would visit Tenby every Easter, where his mother would rent a house on the harbour called The Cabin, which overlooked the harbour on one side and Carmarthen Bay on the other. This quality time with his mother played an important part in Dahl’s life, primarily because she would tell fantastic Nordic stories of witches and trolls that heavily influenced his writing in later life and can be seen in some of his much-loved works such as The Witches and The Twits.

Victoria Hislop: Greece

Author Victoria Hislop used her strong connection with Greece and its islands to influence her best-selling titles The Island, The Thread, The Return and The Sunrise. Her 2005 novel The Island was inspired by a visit to an abandoned Greek leprosy colony on the island of Spinalonga during a holiday in 2001. Victoria, the wife of famous journalist Ian Hislop, frequently rents an apartment in Athens and has her own house in Crete where she is inspired to write. Hislop’s modern novels beautifully illustrate the variations between the Greek islands, particularly the landscapes and traditions.

The island of Spinalonga, officially known as Kalydon, is located in the Gulf of Elounda in north-eastern Crete.
The island of Spinalonga, officially known as Kalydon, is located in the Gulf of Elounda in north-eastern Crete. | © herbert2512/Pixaby

Mary Shelley: Wales

The English writer and her famous poet husband had many ties to Wales and it’s the location that inspired many of Shelley’s works including her novel Lodore published in 1835, which was partly set in Wales, as well as her most famous work Frankenstein. An elegant stately home in Gwynedd is rumoured to be where the famous Romantic poet Percy Shelley dodged an assassination attempt by a frenzied local who disputed his revolutionary views. He was shot at from outside the drawing room, but after the scary encounter the famous literary couple never returned to Wales.

Stieg Larsson: Sweden

The late Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson used Sweden as the location for his Millennium crime trilogy: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. Larsson lived much of his life in Stockholm, so it’s no surprise that many of the places featured throughout the stories are genuine locations, such as the Kaffebar cafe – a favourite spot of Larsson’s fictional journalist Mikael Blomqvist – and the Kvarnen bar.

The setting for the Millennium trilogy
The setting for the Millennium trilogy | © Wikimedia Commons

Stephen King: Bangor, Maine

Bangor, a city in the US state of Maine, is the inspiration behind Stephen King’s fictional town of Derry, the setting of several of King’s novels and short stories. The talented writer was born in Portland, Maine and attended the University of Maine in 1966, so has extremely strong connections with the area and its surroundings. Any King fan will also know that he created a trinity of fictional Maine towns – Derry, Castle Rock and Jerusalem’s Lot (also known as ’Salem’s Lot) – as central locations in more than one work.