The physical world of Daughter of the Wildings was inspired by the landscapes of the western U.S., where I was born and raised and still live. From the surroundings I grew up in and live in, to scenes viewed from the car on family road trips, it's all familiar to me. I do my best to paint these landscapes in words in my books, but sometimes you can't show everything with words. There's a reason for the saying, A picture is worth a thousand words. So for those of you who aren't as familiar with these scenes, or if you are and still want a visualization, here is a collection of photos of landscapes and scenery that helped inspire Daughter of the Wildings. (Most of the photos are by my husband or myself; the old west town photos come from freeimages.com; photographers are credited on the images.)
1. Bitterbush Valley - Beneath the Canyons opens with Silas Vendine riding down into the Bitterbush Valley, a high grassland valley situated between hills in the east and mountains in the west. This view was inspired by the Verde Valley and Sunset Point, between Phoenix and Flagstaff, Arizona.
2. Canyons of the Great Sky Mountains - A large part of Beneath the Canyons involves Silas pursuing the nefarious Carden and his band of miners through the canyons running down from the Great Sky Mountains. A lot of people, when they think of canyons, probably think of the Grand Canyon, an enormous rift in the ground. But the kind of canyon I'm writing about here runs between mountain ridges, basically a long, steep valley that starts higher up in the mountains and opens out into the valley at the foot of the mountains. The Great Sky Mountains were inspired by the Santa Catalina range north of Tucson. If you load the map on this National Forest page, you can see these ravines, carved by streams and creeks, coming down from the mountains, flowing together into larger streams, and also the network of washes on the valley floor. My husband enjoys hiking in the Catalinas, so I'll turn the next gallery over to him:
Down in the bottoms of these canyons, it's steeper and narrower than it looks from up high; take a look at this video of a flash flood in Bear Canyon to get an idea of what it's like when a lot of water is flowing.
3. The Bads - Book 2, Bad Hunting, takes us to the Bads, the lowest, hottest, driest part of the Wildings. This was inspired by the low Sonoran desert that I see out the car window every time we make the drive between Tucson and Phoenix on I-10. Not the most attractive desert scenery, but it has its own challenges and stark beauty. The hills in the distance in this photo are a model for the hills in the Bads where Silas and Lainie are hunting for a killer.
4. Washes - Bad Hunting also involves a hunt through a large network of washes, or creek beds, in the desert. These are usually dry, but can flood quickly when there's a large amount of rain. If you look at this watershed map of the Tucson area, you can see how extensive and complex these systems can be. On my street, there are two washes; one is fairly small and shallow at this point (in fact, it begins in my backyard!) but the other one is far enough advanced that it has a lot of vegetation growing along it and can flood pretty well when it's been raining a lot. The other day, I took my camera with me on my walk and took some pictures. You can see how hard it would be to be climbing in and out of these washes all day and trying to hunt someone through them, with all the thick (and thorny) vegetation!
5. Bentwood Valley, BC Crown Ranch - In Book 3, The Rancher's Daughter, we go north to the beautiful Bentwood Valley, in high country between pine-covered mountains. This area was inspired by some of the ranches you pass on I-17 just south of Flagstaff. (Of course, the BC Crown Ranch doesn't have any cars or trucks on it!) Silas and Lainie arrive in this area in early winter, so I feel fortunate that I was able to get some photos with snow remaining from a recent snowfall. (Which is why the color is funky; my camera metered for the snow and, zooming by on the freeway at 75 mph, I didn't have time to adjust the settings!)
6. Finally, here are some pictures to give you an idea of what the buildings in the towns look like. You can see the false fronts and covered wooden sidewalks. There's also a two-story hotel, with a bath house to the side. There's a saloon on the bottom floor, like the Bootjack and the Rusty Widow in Bitterbush Springs, saloons with rooms to rent on the upper floors. The physical setting is also very much like Bitterbush Springs, grassland with the hills behind the town.
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