x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

The American novelist can't help but travel - and not as lightly as he likes - thanks to his many book tours and three annual holidays.

The American writer Douglas Kennedy is quite the globe-trotter. AFP Photo / Joel Saget
The American writer Douglas Kennedy is quite the globe-trotter. AFP Photo / Joel Saget
The bestselling author Douglas Kennedy, who has written three travel books and almost a dozen works of fiction, and been published in 22 countries, is currently touring with his new novel, Five Days. We caught up with him in Marrakech where he was judging Le Prix de la Mamounia, a literary award for Moroccans writing in French.

How often do you go on holiday?I insist on taking myself out of the world three times a year. I turn off the computer and the only people who I will answer my mobile phone to is my children, Max, who's in college in the States, and my daughter Emilia, who's about to start at drama college.

Where do you call home?

Home is many places. Legally, it is between New York and Maine. But, for the last 33 years, I have been an expatriate, living first in Dublin then London, Berlin and Paris. I still have places in Paris, Berlin and London. I recently remarried and my wife is based in Montreal and I am there a lot. So the answer to the question is that I live in transit.Where was your last holiday?

I went to Costa Rica on a book tour, which was exciting. The last holiday, though, was in Greece. I stayed at a pension, Kas de la Rosa. It's a small place, very Mediterranean, very designer. It's great for cycling and you only have to walk out of the door and you virtually fall into the water.

What do you think of Morocco?I have been there 11 times now and I love it. Hotel La Mamounia is mythical. When I am here, I feel as though I'm in a Somerset Maugham novel. I can picture Churchill sitting in the garden doing his painting as he did in the 1930s. There is still an ambience of the wagon-lit. I love it because I am a traveller. I sell a huge number of books in France and I was asked to be a judge for Le Prix de La Mamounia literary award. The shortlisted books this year are interesting in that they all deal with the authors' relationships with their mother country and they are all struggling with the same question: shall I stay or shall I go?

Where do you plan to go next?

I have been to 55 countries and am still counting. I have book tours later this year in Beirut and Korea. And in 2014, I have trips organised for Belize, Cambodia, Vietnam and Alaska.Have you ever been to the UAE?I was in Dubai more than 20 years ago. I think I would find it very different now, though. In 1990, it was no more than a creek. I am more familiar with other places in the Middle East. I lived in Egypt for a while and my first book, published in 1988, was a travel book, Beyond the Pyramids.

What do you love about travel?

It gets you out of the quotidian - and all that that implies. I am someone who asks a lot of questions, it's in my blood. I am interested in the lives of others you intersect with. And you discover, when you travel, that no matter what the huge social, economic and religious differences are, the dilemmas of the human character remain the same. What do you hate about travel?

Airport security. I've never been good at queuing even though I recognise that it's necessary.

Do you prefer simplicity or luxury?I can do both. If I am on my own, I tend to travel simply but if I end up somewhere luxurious, I enjoy that too. But if it is a luxury hotel, it needs to be indicative of the local culture and have a sense of place. I don't like international five-star hotels that could be anywhere and you feel locked away from what is going on outside.

What has been your favourite trip?

That's easy - it was the trip that changed my life. In 1991, I drove 5,000 kilometres from Darwin to Perth. It takes you across the biggest nowhere in the world. I came to a village that had an asbestos plant and the government closed it down. In doing so, the whole village was written off. But 50 people stayed and that's when I had my idea for a novel. That trip was the start of my career.

Do you like to travel light?

I try to. If I am on my own, it is easy to do, but so much of my travelling involves book tours, or like this, judging an award, and you can't travel light because you need a suit. This time, I had to bring seven novels with me - and they are not light. What is your favourite city for a weekend?I love dense cultural weekends and in London, I can fit in four plays, three classical concerts and several art galleries in one weekend.

What do you never travel without?

A notebook and a fountain pen.Which hotel has the greatest views?Ink48 in New York City. If you get a room on the ninth floor facing east, you wake up to the skyline of my hometown, Manhattan, and what a privilege that is.What is your idea of a perfect weekend?It would be with my wife Christine and be somewhere out of touch with daily life where I can walk along a beach, hike or slip on a pair of skis and disappear down a long piste.

Where is your most romantic place?

Every February, I go to The Post Hotel in the Canadian Rockies to write. It is 1,800 metres up, is beside a lake and it is so peaceful, I love it. I can put on my skis and disappear for the day.