The Excursionist by J.D. Sumner is a brilliantly satirical read. The novel documents a solo travellers quest to visit 100 countries within a lifetime. The use of dark humour expresses the conflict of wanting to see as much of the world as possible and trying to have meaningful experiences whilst doing so. Whilst fictional, The Excursionist by J. D. Sumner is a highly relatable book for travel lovers and holiday makers alike.
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Read time: 10 minutes
Firstly I would like to thank J.D for taking the time to answer my questions. The Excursionist by J.D. Sumner is a brilliant and intriguing read, I look forward to the next novel.
The inclusion of facts about the destinations in the book is a great feature. Given their fictional nature, what was the reason behind deciding to include these?
Given The Coronation Islands are fictional, composite places, I wanted them to feel as real as possible. This also enabled me to parody travel guides. For example, for many years, I went to countries that were always described as roughly the size of Wales. Once you’ve read a few travel guides, various themes seem to repeat themselves.
As a reader, I felt that I was thrown into the middle of a much wider life story but managed to get up to speed quickly. Did you not feel this could have lost some readers?
I prefer books where the reader is thrown in at the deep end and can’t bear ones where some crusty academic witters on for what seems like days before the start of the actual book. It may have lost some readers but then if you worried about losing readers you’d never write anything at all. Thank you for staying with it.
Your satirical humour throughout the book is brilliant, it made the read for me and made me feel I could relate to the experiences depicted. What made you write in this way?
Thank you for this, I love satire myself whether it is books or film, anything that takes the rise out of something appeals to me. I have always been that way inclined but spending the last few years studying for a PhD in Satirical Travel Writing and studying the great satirical travel writers in a demanding academic environment has helped me enormously.
The continuous feature of the main character losing the chance to share the experience with someone is an interesting one. What made you choose this as a feature to include?
Travelling with others is preferable but travelling alone is better than not doing it at all. This is a fictional novel and I wanted to explore what it was like to travel alone. In reality, I have visited about 130 countries or territories and am very keen to see a lot of the places I haven’t been to because I am something of a dromomaniac i.e someone who is addicted to travel.
As a keen traveller, it is interesting that countries are counted even when only passing through. Do you feel that some authenticity is lost by not experiencing the destinations in full?
It is a moot point and I hear what you are saying. How do you differentiate between a country and a territory and on what basis do you judge? It is The Travelers’ Century Club and its members who decide. Certainly my preference would be to visit destinations in full rather than when re-fueling or in transit.
Finally, the book certainly makes the reader want to explore the world. Do you have any regrets from your travel experiences?
I am glad you say it makes the reader want to explore the world as I spend my time trying to work out where to go next. As to regrets, it is an interesting question, I suppose I regret not going to Russia with my school when I was studying Russian – I went later and got robbed the first night. I regret going on so many fly and flop holidays and haven’t been to Central Asia, The Caucasus etcetera. I regret not going to Libya, Syria and Yemen when things were relatively quiet.