A Journey Through Ambeth, Part II

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about the real landscapes that had inspired Oak and Mist, my first Ambeth book. With the release of Hills And Valleys, the third book in the series, that landscape has now expanded somewhat. So, with the past week being what it was, I thought I might take a wander through my fantasy world, and share it with you πŸ™‚

I hope this isn’t too much like Toto pulling back the wizard’s curtain in Oz – I just wanted to share the landscapes I had in mind when I wrote the Chronicles. For Alma’s adventures in the human world, I used real locations – places I’d lived in or visited many times that had left an impression on me. However, when I created Ambeth, I didn’t have specific places in mind, wanting instead to write the world I could see in my mind’s eye. Later, when I looked back, I could see where the influences had come from.


Hearst Castle, California

‘From out of an immense structure of white stone came towers topped with tiles that gleamed like mother of pearl… It shone so brightly in the sun that Alma blinked, shading her eyes.’Β  Oak and Mist


Criccieth Castle, Wales

‘My heart rejoices at the thought that our old castle will guard my secret, high on its mound behind its twin-towered gate.’ Hills and Valleys

Notre Dame Doors

Doors to Notre Dame, Paris

‘The large wooden doors… were wondrously crafted, with hinges made from intricately shaped and figured metal that curved across the… wood like living things.’ Oak and Mist

Criccieth, Wales

Criccieth, Wales

‘Alma sat with Merewyn on a low wall near the jetty, looking along the curving beach to the mountains beyond.’ Hills And Valleys

Inspiration comes to us from many places. I recently walked past a grove of trees in my neighbourhood and immediately had another book idea. An unusual outside light on a neighbour’s house inspired a short story. So how about my fellow writers out there? Do you write from the real world, or gather influences to shape a new landscape? And where have you been that has inspired you?

18 thoughts on “A Journey Through Ambeth, Part II

  1. I was originally inspired to write the then ‘Crystal Cottage’ which I have now renamed The Curse Of Time, by visiting a sculpture park and crystal grotto in Scotland. Places definitely do inspire me, as do fascinating buildings and clocks….

  2. Hah, this is great; now I’ll know what to picture when I get to those places in reading Hills and Valleys.
    I can’t say I’ve written after specific real places I’ve been to (maybe I have, but I can’t think of it at the moment), but I definitely go the other way around: I think of a place, then I google for images that fit my mental picture and use those for inspiration. So in my latest WIP, in ended up using a picture of Mousehole, Cornwall, as reference (it had the right kind of curved harbour against a hillside) – and now I want to go see it for real…

    • Oh, that’s a good way to do it as well. As I say, I could see Ambeth in my mind’s eye as soon as I thought of it, then later I realised where I’d pulled bits and pieces of it from. But Google is also my friend, definitely πŸ™‚ Oh, I hope you get to Mousehole – I haven’t been there either, though I’ve been to Cornwall. And one of my favourite writers, Charles De Lint, set a novel there.

  3. Reality and dreams.. both wander in, morph into other things and decide for themselves what my mind will see. Though Swords was definitely about a real place… ‘my’ moor in Yorkshire πŸ™‚

    • That’s such a wonderful way of putting it, Sue – it’s just what the process feels like. It’s a bit like the city I visit over and over in my dreams, made up of bits of cities I’ve visited. However, it also has bits of Edinburgh in it, where I’ve never been…

      • You can dream of all those faraway places… and if you’ve never been there in your life, then what about other lives, other realities, the wings of the soul… or the ‘yet’ that questions whether time really is linear πŸ™‚ A writer can play with all those factors πŸ™‚

      • Absolutely! Other lives and other realities are what we trade in, really – we don’t have to live with dragons to write about them. The only limits are our imaginations πŸ™‚

  4. Most of the settings for my novel come from my childhood growing up in Tasmania. I set it in the northeast, even though I hadn’t visited that district for more than two decades. I wrote the settings how I remembered them, and when I returned to Tasmania, I was amazed by how close I’d got itβ€”the rivers, the trees, the green fields, and especially the cold weather! I made up one settingβ€”a cemetery with three pine trees in a line at the entrance. On one of my return visits, as I was exploring the northeast and making sure I’d captured the feel of the place, I came across a tiny cemetery in a green valley. And there at the entrance, were three pine trees in a line. I took a photo because it was so close to what I’d imagined. I do wonder sometimes, whether we’ve imagined or remembered these things.

    • That is just amazing, Louise – I think you must have been tapping into something beyond memory there. How very beautiful you make it sound – I do regret not getting to Tassie in my time in Australia.

  5. Quite a few of my settings have been in woods or on (and sometimes in) water. These haven’t been inspired by particular places, but they’re both environments I feel very much at home in.
    Having just read Oak and Mist, I could relate to some of the images you’ve shown here. (Review should be written this week.)

    • Thanks Graeme πŸ™‚ I love the woods and the mountains, which is why I think I tend to set stories there, or at least have scenes there. I guess it’s the old ‘write what you know’ thing coming through πŸ™‚

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