The Dordogne River, in the morning. Photo copyright Karla Thomas.
In 2008 I, along with my husband and two friends, took a trip to France to research the setting for Wake Unto Me. We spent over a week in the Perigord Noir region, hiking trails from village to village and castle to castle along the Dordogne River. Some days we hiked as far as 16 miles in 90 degree heat; other days, we stayed in place and enjoyed the good food and local sights.
I can always find out a lot of what I may need to know to write a story by using books, the internet, and the occasional DVD. It’s much more fun, and much easier, however, to travel to a setting myself. In five minutes of standing on a trail in the woods, I learn a hundred things about the setting that it would have taken me hours and hours to discover in a book. Even more important are the accidental discoveries: the pieces of history that are revealed; the unexpected village and farm scenes I come upon; the people I meet; the food I eat; the surprise view of a creepy scarecrow in someone’s back garden, or of witch dolls in a store window… the list is endless.
Here’s some of what inspired me in France.
The town of Rocamadour, built into the side of a cliff. Photo copyright Karla Thomas.
Standing in a field dotted with poppies, in the valley of the Dordogne River.
A woodland section of the Grand Randonee trail system we followed on our hike. This section may have been part of the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella. Photo copyright Karla Thomas.
Chateau de Beynac, the inspiration for the setting of "Wake Unto Me". Photo copyright Karla Thomas.
Chateau de Montfort, another castle on a cliff. Photo copyright Karla Thomas.
Traditional stone roofs in a village below the bastide town of Domme.
The view from our room in the bastide town of Domme.
Balcony in Sarlat la Caneda, France. This is the closest real town to my ficitonal 'Chateau de la Fortune'. Photo copyright Karla Thomas.
In the town of Les Eyzies, 'troglodyte' homes were built into the soft limestone. Sometimes, unfortunately, the overhead cliffs collapse. Photo copyright Karla Thomas.
Standing by the well at Chaumont, with the Loire River in the background. Photo copyright Karla Thomas.
The chateau of Chaumont was filled with windows like this, portraying different scenes.
Painted floor tiles at Chaumont, in the Loire Valley.
The hunting hounds at Cheverny, in the Loire Valley. Photo copyright Karla Thomas.