I have always been a mountain girl. Born in Colorado, raised in Texas, but visiting the Rocky Mountains every summer. I could spend the rest of my days in the mountains and be a happy girl. (The beach not so much). It’s this love for the mountains which inspired me to set my first book, Blue Violet, in Estes Park. When deciding on where to set Andromeda’s Fall – book #1 of the Shadowcat Nation series – it was a no brainer.
The series is centered on a community of mountain lion shifters. I wanted to be authentic to the animals my shifters become. Mountain lions (also called cougars or pumas) have a very wide range and a variety of natural environments where they thrive. So all that did was narrow things down to the Western Hemisphere. However, one of the more common environments for these amazing creatures are the mountainous regions of the western United States. Mountains? SOLD!
Next question? Where? There are a lot of mountain ranges in that space. Since I’d already placed one series in the Rockies, I decided against that. I could easily have decided on closer to my current home in northern California where cougars do live (in fact one has been sighted in my very suburban neighborhood several times this summer). However, for my purposes I needed wider spaces of low to no human population. Time to pull out Google.
I love the internet! It allows authors like me to discover settings and virtually travel to those settings. Would I prefer to go visit and experience for myself? Absolutely. It would be tremendous in helping me write the world I’m describing more vividly. But you gotta have cash for that. So until I’m world-famous, virtual travel is my best method.
In this case, the internet helped me find all sorts of information. I concentrated on the western U.S. and looked at the following (I added links to some of my websites below in case you’re interested):
- locations of mountain ranges
- population heat maps over those ranges
- proximity of large cities to small towns to wilderness
- cougar population and ranges
- wolf population and ranges (that’s one of my bad guys in this series – wolf shifters)
- images of the areas
- any blogs that the images would lead me too – frequently resulting in helpful descriptions