Woodwalker was born on a hike.
The trail itself was really nothing special—just a short, easy walk from the Stumphouse Tunnel parking area, away from the locally famous half-finished railroad tunnel. In a past life, we’d have gravitated toward something longer and more remote. But I had just had my second baby two months previously, and having finally healed and gotten some stamina back, it was our first hike as a family of four, and the first time I’d gotten beyond our backyard in months.
I grew up in the Appalachian foothills, so the landscape was nothing new, but after the confines of a winter pregnancy and new motherhood, being in the woods again was almost overwhelming. My brain fired up, and the little germ of an idea that had begun in a Lord of the Rings fanfiction started sprouting into something completely new. And even though Mae had her roots in Middle Earth, on that hike through a classic southern mixed-hardwood forest, there was no question in my mind what kind of environment she came from.
The places in my books are always heavily drawn from real landscapes I’ve worked in or traveled through. Mae’s country of the Silverwood Mountains draws its environment directly from Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the surrounding national forests, where I’ve been a park ranger for three seasons. Alcoro draws from my time in the desert southwest, and Cyprien from the old-growth swamps in my home state. But several locations throughout the trilogy get even more specific than just an American region—in some cases, I can even list hiking trails or mountain peaks that have directly inspired the journeys of my protagonists. Explore some of these below—maybe one of the campsites or castles in Creatures of Light isn’t that far from you!
All photos belong to me unless otherwise noted. Header photo was taken near Newfound Gap, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Header fonts are Valeria Bold Grunge and Amarillo from dafont.com.
See them all after the jump!
Emily B. Martin
Author and Illustrator