Much of the action in my In the Heart of the Mountains trilogy is set in a country called Peqkya and its capital Riaow. It’s surrounded by a belt of mountains called the Meliok Mountains.
The inspiration for Peqkya has come from my world travels and specifically the amazing mountains I’ve been fortunate to visit and trek. Below I round up some of the locations and experiences that have helped me bring my world to life in Melokai (Book One) and Violya (Book Two).
The idea for the trilogy first came when I was trekking in the stunning Annapurna sanctuary in Nepal. As I walked, I imagined a matriarchal nation living at a high elevation, surrounded by mountains. I drew on the incredible scenery around me and from my daily experiences and observations while on the trail to create a unique fantasy world and culture that inhabited it. (Want to know more about my worldbuilding? Click here)
To me, there’s something utterly breath-taking about a mountain landscape – the gigantic scale where humans look like teeny specks, the wide-open space for as far as you can see, the colours, the nature, the raw intensity of a massive bit of rock jutting into the sky.
And not only is it incredibly beautiful, there’s also the sense of a challenge to traverse it – and the massive sense of achievement when you do, and also a hint of danger lurking at the edges. These aren’t completely safe places – a blizzard might hit, there’s the chance of falling or suffering from altitude sickness.
I’ve trekked in Peru up to Machu Picchu, climbed to the top of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, drank whiskey with glacial ice on a gigantic glacier and hiked the southern Andes Mountains in Patagonia (Argentina and Chile), as well as visiting Tignes in the French Alps, the mountains and glaciers in New Zealand and slogged up the dry, dusty Jebel Hafeet mountain in United Arab Emirates.
All of these diverse places fired my imagination – from the utterly staggering Incan city on top of a lush, green mountain in Peru to the two-storey-high snow in Tignes. And the heavy fog when nearing Annapurna base camp on a dirty, mud-covered glacier to the bright blue sky with not a cloud in sight at Mount Fitz Roy in Argentina.
And every mountain has different scenery on the way up. Nowhere quite like Kilimanjaro, which had dense rainforest, sparse bushland, moors and heaths, rocky boulders, weird trees, sheer rock faces and slippery slate. Each day brought something different!
Here are a few of my photos (it was hard to choose just a few – I honestly have hundreds of pics of mountains!)
Inaly Lake is a huge lake just outside of Riaow where the Peqkians go for leisure. They swim in it, lounge on its shores, fish and take out boats. Its dotted with small islands, one of which is where the ashes of the first Melokai (ruler) of the country were scattered and a statue in her memory.
One of the most incredible sights in the mountains is the lakes. The water can be a stunning colour – especially in the case of the turquoise lakes of New Zealand – can be crystal-clear or a murky green-grey.
Occasionally, lakes have small glaciers floating on them or be covered in ice. Often, they are vast, but they are generally always serene with a calm surface and few, if any, waves – perhaps a few gentle ripples. It’s a stark contrast to the rugged mountains. And what always takes my breath away is the snow-capped peaks that surround them.
The capital city of Riaow is at a lower elevation, which makes the atmosphere easier to breath. It is flatter and more accessible and so aids survival during the heavy winter snows.
Riaow’s location is based on a few different places I’ve visited – including Pokhara in Nepal, a city surrounded by mountains and with a fabulous lake. Also, Cusco in Peru and La Paz in Bolivia. These cities are much larger than I imagine Riaow to be, but situated with looming mountains surrounding them – wherever you are, you can see the mountains in the distance.
The city of Riaow is described as colourful with painted dome-shaped huts. This is from the bright towns and neighbourhoods in many South American cities and towns, such as in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Rio de Janeiro and Paraty in Brazil, Havana in Cuba, and also the colourful national dress of Peru. The Peqkians love colour and express it in their colourful homes.
(To see the scale, a couple of these aren't my pics, credit linked)
One of my most memorable treks was up to Annapurna base camp in the Annapurna range in the Himalayas in Nepal. The scenery along the way was striking, especially the bamboo forests, which lined the paths and rustled continuously as you walked.
One of V's (the main character in book two) favourite places is in the bamboo forests outside of Riaow, where she goes for solitude, as well as with loved ones. It’s a welcome respite from the bustle of the city and refreshes her.
Here I am on a wobbly bridge with lots of bamboo on the left.
Although I’ve not yet been to Mount Everest, I do imagine Zyr Peq, the highest peak in Peqkya, to look like the majestic mountain – with a point that reaches proudly into the sky, often shrouded with clouds that cling to its magnificence and blanketed in snow.
Zyr Peq mountain is unmistakable. It is mentioned by both Melokai Ramya in Melokai and by V in Violya. It has a magical pull for those with The Sight and in days long past, many would make pilgrimages to the highest peak.
I’m always thinking about my next visit to the mountains… and a trek to Everest base camp is high up on my list. I also need to explore more of the mountains in my home country, the UK!
The Stone Army has been rooted to the spot in Ashen Valley for one thousand years. It’s the place where a huge battle between two opposing armies almost took place before the Stone Prophetess Sybilya cursed them.
There is little flat space in the mountainous terrain and the valley sides are often steep, but occasionally you come across great expanses of level land, surrounded by the mountain peaks – which is where I can always imagine a huge battle taking place! These kinds of valley spaces and great flat plains are mentioned by various characters in the books.
I love the mountains, and I love to write about them in my fantasy world. Here's to more 'research' trekking trips and hikes!
>>Violya, Book Two of the In the Heart of the Mountains trilogy is available in ebook and paperback from Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google Play Books and Smashwords. You can read more about my books here. <<
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