"Where would you most like to see before you die?" It's a macabre question in many ways, but nevertheless one that can also excite and inspire you to book some flights, clock up some mileage and add a few more stamps to the passport.
As a writer I love to read, as does my family. Perhaps almost as much as we all love to travel. Taking this shared pastime to heart, and considering the opening quandary, I've put together five essential destinations, each linked to one of our favourite books, and all of which should definitely be considered next time you're planning a trip…
Tolkien wasn't dreaming of New Zealand when he wrote The Lord of The Rings trilogy, but it was impossible for the filmmakers to find anywhere more suited to realising the dramatic landscapes of those books. Head to Matamata and Wellington on the North Island. The former was used for The Shire, so think gentile hills, the latter is a city, but in the surrounds you'll find locations used for Rivendell, and the Putangirua Pinnacles.
When (not if!) we're on the South Island, it's all about Nelson – home to the nation's finest wines, and the area used to depict Chetwood Forest and Dimrill Dale-Canterbury (Mount Sunday became Edoras), Mackenzie Country (AKA Pelennor Fields in the movies), and the Southern Lakes, which were the Ford of Bruinen. My personal ambition, though, is to visit Fiordland, in the south – an unspoilt expanse of lakes, forests and mountains.
If Greece epitomises the laidback, worry-free holiday – at least in the islands – then Kefalonia is said to be among the most beautiful. Providing a backdrop for Captain Corelli's Mandolin, one of my favourite books, this jaw-droppingly stunning rock in the sea has many big selling points, not least the famous Myrtos Beach, the most photographed stretch of sand in the Ionian archipelago.
Unfortunately, thanks to an earthquake in 1953, many of the ancient buildings that add such colour to Louis De Berniere's novel are no longer standing, but nevertheless, fishing ports such as Fiskardo provide a great point of reference on the map, from which you're bound to find your version of the dream Kefalonian holiday base camp.
My children adored Lauren Child's series of books featuring Charlie and Lola, both of whom reside in the Danish capital. An enchanting town full of charming building facades, fascinating galleries and a canal area that cries out for a cold beer and ice cream on a sunny day, this is, of course, also the home of Hans Christian Andersen, but a visit to the world famous Little Mermaid statue isn't recommended – it's actually meant to be quite disappointing. Instead, we'd like to head north from the city to the Karen Blixen Museum, in the small town of Rungsted, where the Out of Africa author did most of her writing.
You can't go to Arizona and not be inspired by the emptiness of The Big Country. In the cinematic world, this state is all about cowboys and stagecoaches. In the real world, it's all about ranch living, which is one of the most relaxing ways imaginable to enjoy a holiday in the U.S. So, you're probably thinking how this ended up on a literary bucket list, but the answer is simple. Sunset Over Chocolate Mountains is the critically lauded first novel by Susan Elderkin, a modern story focused on a number of characters, each of which could be considered pioneers of their own lives, all of whom wind up in AZ, like we hope to soon.
These Foolish Things, and the film it inspired, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, are firm favourites with my wife and given their setting it's not hard to see why. This part of India is known for cities such as Jaipur, with its stunning City Palace, the 10th Century Amber Fort, known for its "ten stories of pale golden stone steps", and some off-the-beaten track villages in the surrounding countryside. Like everywhere on the subcontinent, the sights, smells and flavours of the place are said to be enough to have you coming back for more.