Readers of my novel, Thai Twist, have asked what made me decide to travel to Thailand. Ironically, I don’t have a good answer. When I was growing up, family trips had been divided between countries where people spoke either German or Spanish, the two languages my dad taught. I continued in that vein, traveling frequently to Europe or Mexico. Eventually I added Italian and then limited Greek to my repertoire of languages and consequent destinations. It wasn’t until friends in the English as a Second Language program were going to teach in Osaka, Japan that I seriously considered visiting Asia.
The idea was overwhelming. I wouldn’t be able to speak the language. I wouldn’t be able to read the signs. If I had a problem, I wouldn’t know how to get help. As I headed for Japan, I had wild visions of calling Gail from a police station in Tokyo so that she could translate for me.
As it turned out, touring Japan was fascinating and challenging, but it wasn’t actually too hard. My girlfriend and I often got lost and turned around, but we felt perfectly comfortable even when we had to rely on help from passersby. Thus for a subsequent vacation, we decided we needed to take on another country. We decided on Thailand because it was one of many we hadn’t yet visited.
That’s it. That was the extent of our scientific decision-making. We purchased some guidebooks and started studying them. We didn’t worry that it might be hard to get around or that we were traveling on our own or even that we didn’t make hotel reservations ahead of time. When we got to Thailand, we bumbled our way through and had a great time, mostly by accident.
However, even though my travel plans were haphazard, my writing plans were not. Japan had been a fascinating experience for me, but I felt I hadn’t taken advantage of it. I had journaled, but I hadn’t done any fiction writing. With Thailand looming on the horizon, I took a different approach. I scheduled our trip for a month after school got out so that I would have time to study ahead of time. I read up on our key destinations, which were Bangkok because it was the capital, Chiang Mai because it was full of famous temples, and Phuket because it was supposed to have the best beaches. In the back of my mind, I was trying to figure out how I could use my experiences to write a novel.
I didn’t have a specific plan for this. I didn’t even have a genre. I simply knew I wanted to use Thailand as the background for a story. In the meantime, I got a Thai grammar book and started studying. I didn’t get too far with language learning, but I did gather interesting tidbits. The first real shock was that nobody in Bangkok calls it by that name. Thai citizens refer to their capital as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon. How perfectly lovely and confusing at the same time!
And how useful for a novelist. That was the first fact I tucked away. When Gina arrives in Thailand, it’s one of the first things that trips her up. It’s crazy to think that while I had heard many references to the Thai city, I’d never heard the one used by its own inhabitants. Who wouldn’t be confused? And of course, for my writing, how wonderfully advantageous. As I continued studying Thai and planning my trip, I gathered an arsenal of interesting facts. Many of them come out in the novel. If you know anyone headed to Thailand, you might want to recommend they take a look at Thai Twist before they go. It’s always better to arrive in a country knowing the name of its capital city!
D.R. Ransdell hails from Springfield, IL, where she grew up in a houseful of books. When she wasn’t reading, she was learning to play the violin (poor parents!). During the summers, her family hit the road, often spending time in Mexico or Germany. Her fondness for language learning led to a Bachelor’s in Teacher Training for Spanish from the University of Illinois.
To improve her Spanish, D.R. took a position in Durango, Mexico where she taught English as a Second Language. She also started playing for the local orchestra. When she decided to return to the U.S., she chose Arizona. Two months after arriving in Tucson, she started playing with a mariachi band.
D.R. completed a Master’s in ESL and a doctorate in Composition. She currently directs second-language writing courses and coaches new graduate assistants at the University of Arizona. She moonlights as a mariachi player.
Thai Twist, an award winning YA romance that further celebrates her interest in foreign language and culture, is available