Saturday, May 17, 2008

You Want Me To Drive Where? with Tera Lynn Childs

Hi, Guys!

I'd like to introduce to you a good buddy of mine, Tera Lynn Childs. I read her in a contest years ago and thought this girl is good! I love it when I'm right. She sold shortly later.

Welcome to Killer Fiction, Tera!

Crime Scene Christie

* * * *

All my life I’ve been a pretty daring girl. In kindergarten, I walked home through downtown Montreal. At seventeen, I moved to New York for college. I have plans to visit, well, everywhere. But even I have limits. Things I don’t want to try, like skydiving and eating chocolate-covered insects (definitely not simultaneously). Like my mental list of places I will never, ever drive. Delhi. Bangkok. Paris. England. Sometimes limits change, though. Here’s how I wound up on the road in one of my no-drive zones...

On my first trip to England I had an astonishingly short can’t-leave-without-seeing-it-list: Bodiam Castle. This storybook stronghold had been an obsession since I first saw a picture of it’s crenellated towers, lilypad-filled moat, and bucolic setting. (Yeah, I never thought I’d use the word “bucolic” properly in a sentence, either.)

There was just one problem. Bodiam is kind of in the middle of nowhere. To get there using public transport would require three busses, a train, and a caravan of pack mules. I didn’t have time for that kind of expedition, which left me with one terrifying but unavoidable option: I had to rent a car.

Okay, I thought as I headed for the car rental company. I can do this. It’s for Bodiam.

The clerk handed over the keys and I faced my fear--a bright blue Ford that could fit in my bathtub. Deep breaths. This wouldn’t be so bad. I was already on the south side of London. All I had to do was head further south and slightly east. I had maps and everything.

Then I climbed behind the wheel. Instead of a nice little stick on the steering column, there was a scary big stick between the seats. (No, not that kind of stick, gutter-dwellers.) A standard transmission. I had to drive a stick shift...with my left hand!

Calm down, I chanted. It’s for Bodiam. I knew how to drive a stick. So what if I had to manipulate it from the passenger POV? I could do this. Left hand on the stick, eyes wide with terror, I pulled out of the parking lot with the intention of heading southeast.

You know, until that moment I never realized just how disconcerting it would be to drive on the other side of the road. Since I was already in the flow of traffic, I had two choices: A) drive headlong into an oncoming vehicle, or B) follow another car nose-to-bumper.

My chosen bumper headed northwest. Away from my destination. But heading the wrong way was preferable to a head-on collision, so I followed. By the time I reached the M25, a big loop around metro London, I had the shifting and the driving on the left thing down. Success! Finally, I was on my way to Bodiam at moderate speed.

As everyone else zipped by at mach ten, I tried to convince my brain that the slow lane (where I definitely belonged) was on the left. My brain disagreed. I kept checking my rearview mirror, expecting some jaunty Englishman in an cherry red MG to barrel into my backside, only to find myself staring out the driver’s side window at the sky above since--aaargh!--the rearview was on the left, too! But no matter how many times I told myself to check left--left, left, left!--my brain stubbornly refused to believe.

Finally, after navigating through tiny villages on rural roads so narrow even my bathtub-sized car felt like a squeeze, I found the road to Bodiam. My heart raced like I was meeting the man of my dreams, my own medieval knight in shining limestone. The castle came into view! I pulled over (on the right, sigh) to snap a few pictures from a distance, then sped on to the entrance.

I screeched the bathtub to a halt. A long rusty chain sagged across the drive, a big brown sign hanging low over the dirt:

“All rural National Trust properties are closed due to hoof and mouth disease.”

Nooo, I screamed (in my head--this was the bucolic English countryside, after all). After everything I’d done for Bodiam, this was my reward? All that arguing with my brain and shifting with my left and finding sky where the rearview should be, just so I could shoot a fuzzy snapshot across a sheep-filled field from half a mile away?

Seven years later I’m still a little bitter. (Can ya tell?) I got to see other wonderful things--like the picturesque ruins of Pevensey and the pastel-colored resort town of St Leonards-on-Sea--but my dream castle was still (literally) a distant dream.

At least I have a reason to go back. Bodiam--and England’s drivers--had better be ready, because next time I’m taking the fast lane!

~Tera Lynn Childs


Christie Craig said...


Okay, I have to tell you, I bow down to you. You have won my total respect.

I hate, yes, hate, driving places I'm not familiar with. I won't even drive across Houston. You've got guts. I can't imagine driving on the wrong side of the road.

Thanks for the fun post, girl!

And I can't wait to read your book. A fellow friend/writer, Colleen Thompson, gave me the heads up, and said she really enjoyed it.

Go, Tera go!


Anonymous said...

Funny post, Tera! And I'm with Christie on not liking to drive in unfamiliar places. Funny thing, though, I have to do a lot of driving for my day job, which means I get lost a lot. Now, I blame that on the absence of street signs on some of the New York back roads. LOL.


Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh! I'd have been absolutely spastic!!! Not to mention hopping mad. *g*

Unknown said...

Christie -- My technique for driving somewhere unfamiliar is to always know the next step--where my next turn or exit or major landmark will be. The hard part is figuring out the following step once you've gotten there.

Faye -- Hmmm, Texas has a lack of signage, too. So does southern Ohio. Maybe this is a nationwide phenomenon?

Tori -- Oh, I was definitely spastic! I'm still amazed I made it there (and back!) without winding up in a ditch. =)

Gemma Halliday said...

Okay, I even hate driving in San Francisco. But doing it all on the left? Shudder.

By the way - love your book cover! The colors are so eye catching!


Christie Craig said...


Why don't you give us a bit about your book? The inside scoop. Where did you get your idea from?

Oh, and Gemma, Tera is single, too. Maybe you can share some of your wonderful dating tips. :-)

Tera, you have to know, Gemma is on a mission to find Mr. Right, but she seems to keep running into Mr. Wrongs. It's sad, but it's sooo funny.

Crime Scene Christie

Unknown said...

Gemma -- Yeah, I can't imagine driving in SF, so we're even. =)

Okay, about my book...

Phoebe Castro is a cross-country-running California girl with plans on nabbing a track scholarship (by way of a stellar cross-country season and B-average grades) so she can attend USC next year with her two best friends. Then her mom comes home from Greece with a fiance.

Suddenly, she's ripped away from the world she knew, dropped on a tiny island in the Aegean, and attending the super-exclusive Academy where the students are all descendants of the gods... super-powers included. Between a bad boy crush, an evil stepsister, and a chance she might not even make the track team, Phoebe struggles to find her place among the gods.

How was that? =)

Kimberly Frost said...


LOL. You are SO brave, and let's face it, you have skills. Despite shifting with your left hand, you didn't run over a single sheep or London bobby. Way to go, you!

Oh.My.Gods. is great, and I know the Killer Fiction readers will love it.

Kim Lenox said...

Stick shift!! Eeek!! Stick shift while driving on other side of road? Double eek!

Thanks for sharing your "Wally World is Closed" (remember Clark Griswald in Family Vacation?) tragedy with us.

Sara Hantz said...

Tera, I could so relate. Because for me (coming from the UK) I had the same trouble when we went to Hawaaii. OMG!!! In the end I took the car back early, my heart was in my mouth every time I got into it. And trying to turn was the worst... my head couldn't sort it out!!!

Unknown said...

Kimber -- Thanks! Come to think of it, I never even saw any sheep in the road. Maybe in Scotland...?

Kim -- Omigosh, I never even thought of the National Lampoon's parallel. (My favorite was the European Vacation, where Clark drove around in circles forever.)

Sara -- Color me dumb, but I never thought about it from other side--that driving on the right would be just as unnerving for folks used to the left. Hmmm....

Anonymous said...

What a great story! I'll go back with you and play chauffeur. I drove on the left in St. Croix in an English stick shift Landrover for years, so I'm the one who drives when we go to the UK. Steve flat refuses to even get in the driver's seat. And I've never been to Bodiam.

So if you want to navigate, count me in. Of course with the ridiculous exchange rate, we'll need two more people in the "bathtub" sharing expenses just to afford the gas.

stephhale said...

I think I had an anxiety attack just reading that. You are such a brave girl. :)

Keri Ford said...

okay, chiming in here late! Love the story idea of this book, too cute!

I saw a picture of this castle on the internet for the first time on...this past wednesday? It hasn't been long, but I remember thinking, wow, when I sell my first book and it debuts on teh NYT bestseller list, I'm going to build a replicate. Moat and everything. You just drive right across the draw bridge and the bottom floor will be garage. ahh..dreams.

Unknown said...

Lark -- Oh, I am so taking you next time. (Not just because of the driving thing, but because I figure even if the castle is closed again you'll find a way for us to get in!)

Steph -- Brave...or stupid? You decide. =)

Keri -- Ooh, love the idea of the replica Bodiam. (But with all the modern amenities, of course!)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Tera!
Guess what I'm reading??? :) And you should definitely drive in London, okay, at least in England. Winding, single lane road with a brick wall on one side and a hedgerow on the other... did I forget a hill and a lorry (truck) coming at you from the other side? It's exhilerating. I promise!