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.
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?