Where do you get inspiration for locations?

I was wondering what to say this week.  It’s one of those weeks where nothing much is happening.  The books are doing their thing, the blog is doing its thing, and I’m … in France.  And then I remembered – I’m in France just opposite the island where I interviewed the Pirate King, Ludo, on the blog last summer.

They always say “write about what you know” and I’ve seen some blogs about the difference between visiting a setting to use in a novel and actually living there.  Most of the time the settings in the Princelings books are pieced together from places I know very well, or sort of idealised from them.  Most of the places will mean nothing to you if you’re not British, but with Google being what it is, maybe you can take a tour.

CIMG5537Castle in the Marsh – the marsh is based on the Norfolk Broads, and specifically the area around Hickling and Horsey.  There’s a small wood near Hickling Broad, more or less opposite the Norfolk Wildlife Trust hide, which is private land, but has an observation tower in the middle of it.  We visited in on a birdwatching trip, and the view from it is exactly what I have in mind every time I think of Fred gazing out of the window.  I just wish I’d taken some photos (this one is taken from the NWT hide looking towards that little wood).

Chateau Dimerie is based on St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, although the land leading to it, where Castle Fortune is, is more like Hampshire than Devon.  So the pirate’s locations are a bit of a mixture.  However, with a map of Norfolk and Suffolk you can work out where a lot of the places that Fred and George go when they escape from the ships.

The Lost City is a lot of mixture – partly the northern parts of Epping Forest, partly Thetford Forest, and with wooded cliffs that are more reminiscent of somewhere I’ve been to but can’t quite place.  Kira’s run over the bare rocks reminded me of an orienteering competition area I went to near Sudbury in Canada, a long time ago now.

Hattan is, of course, Manhattan in the USA.  It’s the only US place I’ve used in the books so far.  I’ve been to a lot of places there, though, so more of them might emerge.  Hugo arrives at the Inn of the Seventh Happiness, which is an entirely fictitious location, although it is a little like an outback or cowboy town sunk below the plain like the Ewok city that was filmed in Tunisia!  Maybe I had Coober Pedy partly in mind, or maybe it was actually the London train system, where tunnels sometimes emerge into the open for a station, then go back underground again.

Castles Buckmore, Powell and Sowerby are all based on imagination, inspired a little by various places in Wales and the Lake District. Sowerby Castle looks like it’s in St Johns in the Vale (or even Hardknott Pass), although the real Sowerby Row is the other side of Blencathra!  Buckmore worries me because its geology is not right for the productive nature of the surrounding farms and communities.

In the Talent Seekers, Humphrey sets off west, starting in a nice Surrey forest (like Leith Hill) and ending up in a slightly squashed and merged New Forest for Castle Forest, Salisbury Plain to the Lambourne Downs and Vale of the White Horse country for the area for Castle White Horse to the Sarsen hill (in the book), and  St Catherine’s Down near Winchester for Castle Deeping.  I’ve lived and had family in those areas for many years.  But I wanted Humphrey to end up at Castle Cabot, which is based on Bristol, where I also lived for about 6 years.  He’ll get there, eventually!


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