I don't quite know how many countries I've visited but certainly during my twenties I visited a lot. I lived out in the Far East, in Hong Kong (whcih was rather awesome just before handover) and did a lot of backpacking.
All of them fed into me wanting to be a writer. The idea for Ash came about in 1995, writing a series of adventures set in the East using mythology from India and beyond, rather than the now familiar western settings.
It also taught me that pretty much everyone's the same. The more you tarvel the more you realise that. And what's more, most people want to help. They're proud of their country and want to show you the best of it. They want to find out about you and where you come from. I've chatted with a post-master in Mongolia about the British Museum (he'd heard about it from the radio), taken part in a wedding in Yemen (where AK-47's were the fashion item of choice), attended a funeral in Varanasi.
It's a pretty amazing world out there. It put my life in perspective. There was a slave fort in Ghana, by the sea and it was a peaceful, thoughtful place but then you visited the cells underground and got a sense of the darkness, not just physical but soul-ful, in us all. Above the cells the slavers built a church, one of the first Anglican churches in West Africa. People, not that different from you and I, must have come down to that curch to worship on Sundays, during Easter and Christmas, and all the while they had below their very feet their fellow man (just like them, you and me, but for their skin colour), chained and bound for a short, brutal life of misery in the sugar plantations of the West Indies and farms of the Americas.
It#s why I write what I write. Sure, Savage is a bad guy in book 1, but you learn more about him in Book 2 and start to think, 'Well, I'd have done the same if I'd been him'. And you will meet a new Ash, made powerful by Kali, now an agent of death and you'll start to think, 'Hey, Ash isn't the hero I thought he was'.
Heroes and villains. It's easy to slip from being one to the other.