Creating a New World

Though some writers set their stories in real locations, a lot of us create our own settings. That has been the case for my books, and yet every new locale I create is inspired by places I’ve been. For the past seven years, I’ve been writing in mainly one location — Blue Falls, Texas. Blue Falls was inspired by several real towns throughout the Texas Hill Country. The downtown shopping district was modeled after Fredericksburg; the lake was based on Lake Marble Falls; and the Blue Falls Music Hall was based on the the oldest dance hall in Texas in Gruene.

Yellowstone River running through the Paradise Valley. By Warrenfish at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Though I still have one Blue Falls book still set to release next January, I’m fully immersed in creating a new setting for a new series for a new publisher. In my Once Upon a Western series for Tule Publishing, I’ve created the small tourist town of Logan Springs, Montana (I evidently like towns based on bodies of water). It’s set in the real Paradise Valley north of Yellowstone National Park, a simply stunning valley that stretches out between the Absaroka and Gallatin mountain ranges. And once again, I’ve used bits and pieces of real-life inspiration to create Logan Springs. It’s one part Gardiner, Montana, the northern gateway community to Yellowstone National Park; one part West Yellowstone, which as its name suggests is the western gateway to the park; and one part Chico Hot Springs, which is in the Paradise Valley and home to a hot springs resort that gave me the idea to have the main family in my series, the McQueens, own a hot springs resort as well as an expansive ranching operation. As with these real world locales, the Yellowstone River runs through my fictional one.

Even though my main setting is fictional, I do have my characters visit real towns. For instance, my Blue Falls characters would make trips to cities such as San Antonio and Austin. In the Once Upon a Western series, the characters go to Livingston, which is the town where travelers exit I-90 to head south to Yellowstone. It’s also the nearest place for such things as a hospital, which is where the hero of my second story in this series is a doctor. Livingston is a charming little town with some neat western history. In the first book in this series, Her Cowboy Prince which comes out in June of this year, I have a scene where the hero and heroine have dinner in Livingston and he tells her some of the history of the building where the restaurant is located. Though their dining location is fictional, I borrowed some real history from the real Murray Hotel, which saw the likes of Buffalo Bill Cody and Calamity Jane as guests.

I like the freedom of creating my own town but being able to pepper it with real-life details. As a reader, do you like fictional or real locales?

Trish Milburn
Trish Milburn is the author of nearly 40 romance, suspense, paranormal, women's fiction and young adult titles. She's a two-time winner of the Golden Heart Award and the recipient of Romance Writers of America's top award for service, the Emma Merritt Award. She's a big sci-fi geek girl, loves seeing new places, and has been known to cosplay on occasion. She's always loved westerns, so considering her other love is sci-fi it's no wonder her all-time favorite TV show is Firefly, which blends the two genres. Check out her books, links to various social media and sign up for her newsletter at http://www.trishmilburn.com/
Updated: April 29, 2018 — 8:46 pm

25 Comments

  1. A touch of real has me looking it up on the map. It helps me visualize the setting better.

    1. I do the same thing! I do this with nonfiction, too. I’m currently reading a memoir, Educated by Tara Westover, and it had me looking up the area in Idaho where she grew up.

  2. I like knowing that the location is a place to look up and learn more. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Happy to share. The Paradise Valley is such a beautiful place.

  3. I like both.

  4. I like both, But a real location gives me a better visual to go along with the story. When it’s a fictional town, I always like to have lots of descriptions of the location.

    1. This is part of the reason I base them on real places or at least set them in a real locale, such as the Paradise Valley. Those who are curious can do image searches to get a better visual.

  5. I love when there are real life historical tidbits in my books. I don’t mind if the town is fictional, but if it is real then I always love to know more and look up more about it later.

    1. I’ve learned a lot of history this way. I distinctly remember learning about Pancho Villa in a romance novel, though I can’t remember which one.

  6. Fictional most of the time. Sharon Sala books set in Blessing Georgia are some of my favorite reads 100% fictional town.

    1. I love Sharon. She’s such a sweetie.

  7. I like both. It all depends on how well the story makes the locations come alive for me, real or fictional.

  8. fictional

  9. Fictional ones–gives the author a better chance at taking liberties with the location.

    1. That is a definite plus. You can’t get wrong what isn’t real. 🙂

  10. Trish, making a town fictional sure gives us a lot more liberties but I really love when the town is a real one. When I was just a reader, I used to try to find each town where a story was set and would be really disappointed when I couldn’t. Now as a writer, I love the freedom of fictional and I can make them any way I want. Blue Falls, Texas sounds like a wonderful place and one I’d love to visit.

    Wow! I love Cowboy Prince! Great cover and such a fantastic title! That cowboy is hot.

    1. Thanks, Linda. It is fun when you really get into a real setting as a reader, especially if it’s a series and you get to go back again and again.

  11. I like both. With real locations, the author is restricted a little bit. However, I enjoy recognizing places from the book when I visit the area or recognize a placeI have been when I read a book.. This has been the case with several series I have read set in New Orleans (historical, contemporary, and paranormal) and with B. J. Daniels’ books set in Montana. It is kind of nice to realize you know right where a character is standing or seeing.
    When an author creates their own location, they often incorporate what they like from other areas (as have you) and add in what they need from their imagination. It gives us a rich setting that can be added to and embellished as the author sees necessary.
    Both ways, the reader wins.

    1. Thanks, Patricia. That’s what it’s all about — the reader enjoying the experience of reading the book.

  12. I like both. If the author can transport me that is the key. I like real versus fictional so if i fall in love with a place I can go visit it some time though. 🙂

  13. I enjoy both.

  14. Trish, I love the Hill Country!!! Was lucky enough to be a student there for 6 years, getting my BBA and MBA from U.T. Austin. Don’t want to give away how old I really am, but when I was in graduate school, tubing down the Guadalupe was beginning to be really fashionable. Still miss it, such a peaceful past time. I can’t think of three better locales to put together for the setting of your books. Though, I also love Wimberley and Boerne, too, they’re so quaint. Gruene Dance Hall is iconic, and I love all of New Braunfels. As a matter of fact, I found my maltipoo, five years ago while staying at the Gruene Mansion B&B. He was born just down the street.
    As a reader, I like either fictional or real places. Usually, though, when I write, my locations are real.

    1. Yeah, that entire area that stretches from San Antonio to Austin and over toward Fredericksburg is really cool, so very different from the areas that stretch out in the opposite directions into other parts of Texas.

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