Go Away With … Chelsea Cain


By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
November 4, 2014

New York Times bestselling author Chelsea Cain’s latest thriller, “One Kick” (Simon and Schuster, $25.99), kicks off a new series of novels centered on a former abductee, who becomes immersed in a missing child case. Based out of Portland, Oregon, Cain says nothing completes a road trip like a gas station Payday bar. As for her dream trip? “Murder on the Orient Express!” says Cain, 42. Keep up to date on her work at chelseacain.com, or via her Twitter feed.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii. I know that probably seems cliche. I wish I could say Bali or the Galapagos Islands, because how cool would that make me seem? I have traveled a fair amount and I have visited some great cities. I love architecture and museums and castles and ruins and central markets and even double-decker bus tours. But, I am a sucker for a tropical beach. It’s ironic because I am fair-haired and pale skinned and I burn and blister in any sort of direct sunlight. I think it’s because I grew up spending the school year with my mom in the Pacific Northwest and the summers with my dad in Florida. No matter what fabulous place I visit, I don’t feel like I’m on vacation unless I’m dehydrated and covered with sunscreen.

Q. Why Hawaii?

A. I resisted Hawaii for a long time. Despite my devotion to “Magnum PI,” it seemed hopelessly uncreative and square as a destination. It made me think of printed mumus and buffet lines. I mean, if you’re going to fly across the ocean, why not leave the country, right? Then my husband and I went to Kauai with our daughter and I fell in love with the place instantly. We went four times in three years. We met a guy on the beach on our first visit who said he’d been there seven times. “Why go anywhere else?” he shrugged. I questioned his reasoning at the time. But, I have to say I’ve come to see his point of view.

Q. To someone who was going there for the first time, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?

A. Rent a condo. I recommend Poipu Makai, unit B3, on Pe’e Road. Poipu Beach is the sunny side of the island. It’s really beautiful. Sit on the deck of your condo and watch the ocean, the sea turtles, the humpback whales, the catamarans of tourists, drink something alcoholic, and go to sleep right after it gets dark.

Q. What untapped destination should people know about?

A. Dzibilchaltun, a Mayan ruin outside of Merida in the Yucatan, Mexico. It’s an amazing place and includes The Temple of the Seven Dolls. I especially recommend visiting the natural spring at the center of the ruin. They call it Cenote Xlakah. It is absolutely ancient. This is one of those ruins visited by travelers instead of tourists. Hire a guide. And bring your swimsuit.

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. I took the train from Iowa to San Antonio, Texas, to visit my grandparents. It was me, my mom and my cousin, Jessica. Jessica and I each got a bag of candy and a comic book. It was very exciting. I spent a lot of time with my head pressed against the window. The ground changed color. I remember that so specifically — how red it got in Texas. Even the rivers were red. It was my first sense of landscaping shifting.

Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?

A. I used to write travel essays and I was struck by how the fact of writing about a place would change my relationship with it. I would make completely different choices, do things I wouldn’t have normally, because I had to fill this narrative shape. And it was wonderful. It made travel so much more alive. So, I try to travel like that, open to any experience, as if I have a word count to fill. I am a control freak, but not when I travel. For some reason when I travel I am able to surrender more than in my real life. I am able to let go. I think it’s why I like it so much.

Q. Have you traveled to a place that stood out so much that you felt compelled to incorporate it into your work?

A. All the time. But I’m a thriller writer, so incorporating a place into my work can be complicated. It usually involves bloodshed. A few years ago my husband and daughter and I were having lunch at Timberline Lodge, a ski lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon. I was overcome by what a great location it was, and I said, quite loudly, “I’m going to murder someone here!” And everyone else around us in the dining room got really quiet.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A. Morocco. I’ve had a hotel picked out since I was 14 years old. I also know exactly what caftan I’m wearing. I’m going to look fabulous.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A. I always figure if I have my passport, my boarding pass and a credit card, I’ll be OK. But ideally I have a trip journal, earplugs, a good book and my 9-year-old daughter, who is, incidentally, my favorite traveling companion.

Q. What is your best vacation memory?

A. I took my daughter to London for the royal wedding. I was eight when Diana and Charles got married and I remember getting up early and watching the wedding on TV and then spending the summer drawing Diana’s dress over and over again. I was obsessed. So when William and Kate’s engagement was announced I turned to my daughter — who was in kindergarten at the time — and said, “We’re going!” I’d been to London many times, but never with her. My husband, having recognized the craziness of traveling to London at exactly the same time as 10 million other people, decided to stay home. It was Eliza’s first international trip. We were there five days. She was a champ. Wedding aside, we visited a lot of places that it would not have occurred to me to visit without a kid to entertain — the Tower of London, the London Eye. I kept Eliza fueled with a constant supply of ice cream. It’s amazing what she still remembers. Sugar is a powerful stimulant.

Q. What are your favorite hotels?

A. Jakes, Treasure Beach, Jamaica; Gramercy Park, NY; The Soho, London, The Clown Motel, Tonopah, Nevada, The Iron Horse, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Q. Where is the most romantic destination?

A. The Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. Portland. London. Seattle. San Francisco. Iowa City.

Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?

A. Copenhagen.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A. My aunt and uncle have a vacation house at Black Butte Ranch in Central Oregon, which I’ve visited since I was a teenager. Occasionally we’ll go to the coast, which is an hour west, but here’s the thing about the Oregon coast – it’s really nice to look at, but you can’t swim in it, you can’t even turn your back on it. And most of the time it involves horizontal rain.

Q. What are your favorite restaurants?

A. The best meal I’ve ever had was in Oaxaca City. I was 25 years old and my mom had died the year before and I was traveling by myself, retracing a trip that she had taken right before she’d died. I’d been in the city for a few weeks surviving on (literally) one roll, one mango and one cup of coffee a day, as I visited the x’s my mother had marked on a map of the area.  Walking down an ancient cobblestone street I heard someone call my name and looked up to see a girl I’d known in high school. I was lost enough at that point on that day that I can say that if I hadn’t run into her in that mountain town I’m not sure I would have made it back. We went to the ruins of Monte Alban together the next day and we took pictures of each other laid across the ruins like sacrificial virgins. Then we got the bus back into town and we went out to dinner. I don’t remember how we found the restaurant. It was the first meal I’d had in weeks. The avocado! The Oaxacan cheese! I don’t know the name of the place. I’m not sure I ever knew it. We were both so overcome we asked that the chef come out so that we could thank him personally. A few days later I flew back to the States. I have been lucky to eat at some of the so-called best restaurants in the world since then. But they all pale in comparison to that night in Oaxaca.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?

A. I spend a lot of time Googling “the best things to do with kids in …” or the “best museums in …” in the middle of the night when I have insomnia. I never remember what I’ve learned the next day, but I think it eventually sinks subconsciously.

© 2014 JAE-HA KIM

Comments (10)

  1. Jana Wells Mann says:

    ice cream is a damned fine fuel almost as good as payday bars.

  2. Deanna Kempster says:

    Just discovered your books on a cruise ship. Now reading the third in Archie series. Great read!

  3. Dee Vought Blake says:

    Excellent article

  4. Jacqueline Jo says:

    Funny stuff! So on the way to Baker City, I had to pee. Of course, I have to stop at “THAT REST AREA!” It didn’t dawn on me until a weird looking dude was behind me, going back to the car. Wonderful effing timing to remember Gretchen!

  5. Stephen Webb says:

    Half way through one of Chelsea’s novels and have one more waiting for me. That will make 5,6 or so I have read. Then I have “Gone Girl” waiting on me. Just have to see what that is all about! Then back to see if there is maybe one by Chelsea I haven’t…

  6. Stephen Webb says:

    I’ll bet Deanna reads the entire cruise!

  7. Christine Olsen says:

    Poipu Beach is hard to top.

  8. Laura Heyman says:

    Love your responses. Reading that makes me wish we cld grab lunch at the hamburg today. Xo. Love morocco. Ill meet u there

  9. Sue Gilbert says:

    I loved One Kick and was hoping a character named Lannigan may want to go to Ireland to visit her roots and get in trouble there sometime. Especially when she could have access to a hot mysterious guy with a private plane who works for a guy with an Irish name. Just saying. Great Book, enjoyed it thoroughly. I have been a Gretchen and Archie pusher for years. Just love you writing…..

  10. Gretchen Nation says:

    what a great article!

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