Jamie Maslin has hitchhiked from England to Iran, traveled throughout Asia, and couch-surfed all over Latin America. Author of Iranian Rappers and Persian Porn: A Hitchhiker’s Adventures in the New Iran, he has been banned from re—entering The Islamic Republic of Iran. His newest books is Socialist Dreams and Beauty Queens: A Couchsurfer’s Memoir of Venezuela. He lives in London, England.
How did you get started traveling?
I first started traveling in 1998 after quitting my job to go to the US to take courses in wilderness survival skills from a man raised by a Native American whose books I had read. After the US I flew to Australia where I traveled around for 6 months before going back to the US to complete some more courses. This was my first proper experience abroad and gave me the travel bug good and proper.
How did you get started writing?
I began travel writing by accident. After completing a trip hitchhiking around the north African country of Tunisia, I wrote a long email to my ex-girlfriend, telling her about the adventure. She wrote back praising the writing and encouraged me to try a book. Having written a screenplay previously I knew how much work this could be, but decided to give it a go, and so after hitchhiking from England to Iran I wrote up my experiences. This would become my first book, Iranian Rappers & Persian Porn.
What do you consider your first “break” as a writer?
My first break was finding a publisher to take my book on. Although a travel book, it is quite a political one which doesn’t conform to the mainstream media’s caricature of Iran. I wondered if this would make it difficult to find a US publisher for the book, but after hearing a radio interview with the former Governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, in which he talked about his difficulties finding a mainstream publisher because of his books controversial political message, I decided to try the one he had found brave enough to take it on. This is what I did and Skyhorse publishing, God bless them, offered me a deal too good to refuse.
As a traveler and fact gatherer, what is your biggest challenge on the road?
Writing up my diary at the end of a long hard day when all I really want to do is sleep.
What is your biggest challenge in the research and writing process?
My biggest challenge is always distraction. I share an apartment with friends — out of financial necessity — so there are often plenty of distractions when I am trying to write. The Internet is a distraction from writing, the phone is a distraction, the door bell etc etc. If I could seclude myself in some country cottage and write undisturbed for 6 months the process would be so much easier.
What is your biggest challenge from a business standpoint?
After spending a year writing a book you reach the point where you actually don’t want to look at it again or even talk about it. Then comes the promotion and you have to.
Have you ever done other work to make ends meet?
Yes, I’ve had over 40 jobs since I left school.
What advice and/or warnings would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?
If you intend to write a book then you have to be determined as it is one hell of a lot of hard work. For me it takes over my life for the best part of a year so it is not an easy thing to do, so be prepared for some genuine graft. It’s a bit like hitching on a very long journey. I recently hitched from Australia to England, something which took over one thousand rides to complete. The process was in some respects like writing a book, in that you can’t focus too much on the end goal but rather the task in hand. Try to nail three pages a day and in about three months you should have your first very rough draft.
What is the biggest reward of life as a travel writer?
Not conforming to a dull life of mediocrity stuck in some mind-numbing job working for a corporate master.