Thursday, April 12, 2012

RTW: Forests and Tombs and Cities, Oh My!

This really should be about The Rapunzel Curse, or diving deep into my half-outlined contemporary. But lately I've received two wonderful critiques on the first two chapters of The Desired that have me heavily in edits... again.  I can't complain, because I love the result.  To be honest, the beginning of the story was missing... something, and both critiques sparked my imagination with the perfect "something". I've paused my queries and am back in Sara's world. Therefore, for my YA Highway Road Trip post, I'm answering

What images inspire/ represent your WIP?
for The Desired.

Like I've said before, place is as much a character in my stories as any person. The idea for Sara and her story came to me about a year and a half ago while I was in the cemetery in my "hometown" in Portugal. As I stood in the middle of a granite walkway (swaying a little bit from my constant low blood pressure,) I could just see ghostly figures weaving amoungst the tombs and the entire place flowing back to how it had looked centuries ago. From that moment forward, I couldn't look at a new place without thinking of this shift and how it would affect my nameless teenage character. Ghosts of places and people became my constant companions everywhere I went that year.

But, to really have a story, first there had to be a place. Sara's grandparents' house and land is a mish-mosh loosely based on my maternal grandparents' properties with a bit of my paternal grandparents' mountainy home thrown into the mix.

My family's yard. In the foreground- a rosemary bush, in the background, orange trees and roses.
 I wove in the woods that I've known since I was a baby. Land that has been in my family for centuries, filled with pine and eucalytus and fern, pine nuts sitting on the ground next to blackberry bushes. And the occasional stone house that is barely kept standing.

There's a tiny stable on the righthand side, but this house isn't being used now.
This was mostly used for storage and as an occasional overnight shelter for farmworkers.
The closest city is Coimbra, and Sara hops trains there all of the time. She even drinks at a charming little cafe in the city. In the fall, students in full uniform-- down to their capes!-- wander the streets and pop into the bookstores. Shoppers trip down steep stairways. This is a gorgeous city.

One of the shopping avenues in Coimbra. Charming, but pricey!
But, then... there's also the paranormal element. Hints of the past that haunt my main character. In a landscape that still has remnants of its celtic and roman inhabitants, it's impossible not to find signs pointing towards bits of roman road, prehistoric dolmens in the middle of the woods, or tombs on the edge of fields (in fact, many of these prehistoric, celtic, and medieval tombs were broken up by landowners who didn't want to waste nice, big hunks of stone and that stone was repurposed for walls surrounding the properties. Talk about a creepy vibe!)

A double tomb carved in a huge stone on my great-uncle's property.
According to a local historian, this is likely early medieval. Tombs like these litter the landscape.
Plus, there's just... something about stone walls and granite staircases that captures the imagination and adds that surreal element for any of us who spend most of our time in fairly modern North American buildings.

Taken with my grandfather's old bellows-style Polaroid camera. My shoes are too modern!!!
This is the outdoor stairway that leads to my bedroom (cool, isn't it?!?!?!?)

 And this last picture wasn't taken in Portugal, but definitely still captures the feel of Sara's world:

Taken on the grounds at Drumthwacket, the NJ governor's residence.
I love how the light flooded out this image.
These are my images and my story... what are yours? Comment here or go on over to YA Highway to join the roadtrip!

(all of the images above are mine...)


  1. Wow. What amazing pictures and what an amazing setting. Suddenly I really want to read your WIP ;)

    1. Thank you! It doesn't matter how many times I go there, I'm in love with the place and its name: we're in the foothills of the Serra da Estrela- the "Star" Mountains. *swoon* I had to throw that into the WIP!

  2. Ah, there's so much incredible atmosphere in all of these photos. I want to travel and I want to know more about your WIP. That stone staircase is really fabulously surreal. I love it.

    1. I love that staircase, too. Growing up, my grandmother would always have climbing roses up the front and twisted around the metal bannister. Sadly, with no one there to take care of it year round, the roses don't grow there anymore :( I used to call that place my "secret garden."

  3. This RTW was so neat--you can really see how everyone is writing with a different mood and a different vision in mind. Really cool. :)

    1. I agree! I loved this RTW! (and finally have a breather to check out what everyone else posted!!!)

  4. Great pictures! I especially like the little stone house. It really makes me want to know more about its history, you know? :)

    1. Sadly, not as romantic as the picture :) Because his house was only a half hour walk away, my great grandfather built it for temporary overnight stays (top floor) and to store grains, beans, etc. The patio out front was a place to lay out beans to dry in the sun, while a stable housed the work horses, donkey (and occasional oxen!) And right in front? A chicken coop! :)

      Right near there is a stone well surrounded by fruit trees and the most charming little frog pond on the planet!

      But when I was a little girl, I dreamt that it was my house, mentally decorated the inside, and dreamed of living out in the middle of the woods.