Since I was little, my parents have taken my siblings and I on numerous trips around the United States. Their favorite places to visit are usually national parks. Just being able to see the different terrains and beauty around the country helped me imagine what Asteria would look like. Let’s begin with the Maplewood Forest.
The forest surrounding Layla’s home was originally called the Emerald Forest—and Asteria was the Emerald Forest Kingdom. Well…that sounded too Wizard of Oz-like so I went on to name the kingdom Asteria and the forest Maplewood. I had moved away from imagining it being made entirely of pine and introduced maple trees into the mix. This was purely out of the need to have a forest that changed colors in the fall--and let’s face it, maple trees are gorgeous.
The Northern Mountains
Now, the Northern Mountains that bordered Asteria and became the home of King Darius’s castle was something I knew had to be grand. The greatest inspiration for these mountains came from my trips to Glacier National Park and Grand Teton National Park. The mountains in these areas of the US just jut out from the ground with no warning and that’s what I wanted. I needed the mountains to be beautiful and dangerous which is why it should have come as no surprise that the king’s soldiers didn’t bother following Layla up to Avalanche Pass in the novel.
This was the river that acted as a border between Malan and Asteria. I imagined it to look something like this.
[Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t read SAPPHIRE yet]
When James and Layla begin training together, he takes her to a place he calls Midnight Cove. Other than the sapphire necklace, it is the only place in the book where there is anything supernatural. The river in the cave glows and eventually leads out into a small blue lake. This was inspired by a bioluminescent kayaking trip I took in Florida. Every time my paddle hit the water, a green glow followed it—water running down your hand looked like glitter. After that incredible trip, I decided to combine that with the turquoise colored lakes in Glacier National Park. Add some ancient oak trees and Midnight Cove became quite the romantic spot.
Nature is one of my greatest inspirations for creating a fictional land. While I just touched on a few of the places I’ve seen, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve watched the scenery in movies and just thought wow, I can use that for my next book! But in the end, just because I imagine something one way, every reader is going to have his or her own vision for what Asteria and Malan look like. If you pictured something different, let me know in the comments! If you’re a writer and want to share what inspires the settings in your stories, comment below!
Thanks for reading!
Image credit: All pictures are owned by Sarah Fay Olson