Archive for July 8th, 2013


I had no idea some scenes from Game of Thrones are filmed in Northern Ireland.  So when I saw a photo much like this one in the New York Times, I thought it was a special effects fake picture.

But this place is real. Isn’t it gorgeous?

According to the Times, the Dark Hedges is an isolated country lane flanked by beech trees planted in the 1700’s.  It’s rumored to be haunted by a ghost called the Grey Lady (doesn’t it look like it would be?), and until recently it was an isolated, lonely place no one ever went to.  Now Game fans are flocking to it.

It’s easy for me to see how a setting like this can inspire a writer to weave a dramatic scene in a story.  It also reminds me of the reason I sent Layla in The Compass Master, in flashback scenes of her high school years, to Kylemore Abbey in northwestern Ireland.  Sure, my sister went there for a year, so I had some great inside info on the nun-run place.  But there was also the fact that the Abbey is a centuries-old castle far out in the country and reigns like a queen over a lake.  Take a look…

Can’t you just imagine the nuns in a place like this plotting to battle a conspiracy of foes?

One of the most dramatic-looking places I’ve ever been in was Angkor Wat in Cambodia.  I went years ago (when I still had money to travel) and just after the country was opening up to a few travelers after the terror of the Khmer Rouge.  Seeing those still largely deserted ancient temple ruins, which had been overgrown in places by the jungle, was an extraordinary experience, and I wouldn’t mind setting a story there but I can’t ’cause Lara Croft Tomb Raider has already used it.  For me, what added to the drama was how the grounds were still being cleared of landmines, so not only did I have to stick to the designated paths, small warning signs with a skull and crossbones marked out the dangerous spots.  But just like in the movie, little local urchins were running in and around the temple as if it were their playground.  They weren’t afraid of the landmines or of the small poisonous snakes that infested the jungle floor.

One place I’ve been to quite a few times (I’ve got family there) is the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.  I’ve never thought of setting a novel in the area, but Stephenie Meyer did so with great success in her Twilight Series.  It seems she chose Forks as a setting because it gets the highest rate of rainfall in the country, and I can testify that if you ever want to feel so soggy you’ve got moss growing between your toes, that’s the place to go to.   So yes, a fictional version of Forks can seem like just the right place for vampires and werewolves.  But the reality isn’t quite so inspiring.  As the writer Timothy Egan wrote about that plain, dumpy town, “Forks is to the Olympic Peninsula what a butt rash is to Venus.”

I’d love to hear if parts of your novels or short stories have been inspired by places you’ve been to.  Beautiful or ugly, inviting or frightening–they really can make a difference in a story, can’t they?