Choosing the Perfect Setting – Part Three

Edinburgh, Scotland may seem an odd choice for a YA novel about King Arthur returning to modern day. Given that premise, London probably makes more sense or else somewhere in the English countryside where Camelot may have been located. But Edinburgh? Why there?

Because it is perfect. Here’s why:

The architecture helps visualize the themes and what the characters are going through internally.

  • While Edinburgh is a thriving modern city, most of its facades are cold stone several centuries old. Everywhere you look, the present is clashing with the past . . . and considering King Arthur is returning from some otherworldly past, this visual is appropriate: He feels this clash within himself—a man out of time. So the juxtaposing architecture reflects his inner turmoil.  Arthur isn’t the only mythical person or creature who steps foot into the modern world, so although he’s the one the story focuses on, what he feels is echoed by all of the legendary beings that pop up.
  • Additionally, Old Town is a multi-layered maze with new mysteries around every corner. There are more ghost stories and local tales of gruesome horror than any other city I know of—plenty of interesting details to help flesh out the world. There’s even a system of tunnels sealed up beneath the city—the world of the past, sealed up and forgotten, but right there, just underneath the surface. In my story, the barrier between the world of myth and our own world is weakened. Where better than a city where the barrier between past and present is already thin and, at every turn, under attack?
  • The city’s mysterious nature reflects another theme: that no one is what they seem and that everyone has a secret.
  • Edinburgh Castle sits atop a hill at the center of town, backed up to an imposing cliff. This castle was actually J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts. This is the perfect setting for my climax when our heroes defend the city against a siege of mythological beasts.
  • The mountain opposite the castle is called Arthur’s Seat. Legend has it that King Arthur led a battle campaign from there. Is there a better place for King Arthur to reappear than on a mountain that bears his name?

It is also true that I fell in love with Edinburgh. It is one of my three favorite cities (alongside Chicago and Wellington, New Zealand). I might say this story is my love letter to this amazing city.

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