Into the Wood


I’m not the outdoorsy type. Don’t get me wrong—I love nature. I enjoy plants and flowers and fresh air. I especially love beaches. When Mark and I went to Scotland to visit the Isle of Skye, all I wanted to do was be outside, exploring waterfalls and standing in the shadows of mountains.

Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland

I’m just not good at being outside. Mosquitoes attack me relentlessly. I have an unnatural fear of wildlife devouring me. I have a fear of spiders. I’m not fond of the idea of snakes springing forth from their hiding places because I tripped on them, and I’m not comfortable with the idea of ticks attaching themselves to me and spreading their diseases. I’m also not good at spotting the poisonous plants.

Кивсяк песчаный / Ommatoiulus sabulosus / Striped millipede / Sandschnurfüßer
Seriously, what in Aum is this?! (photo by Katya)

So I was self-amused when writing Uniting the Heavens because Tiede Wood is a character in and of itself, and I had to get to know it just like I’ve had to get to know Aren, Selina, and the other characters in my book. This led to a lot of research in order to back up what was already in my imagination: the darkest, spookiest forest of my nightmares.

Two real world forests served as my inspiration: the Black Forest in Germany and Aokigahara Forest in Japan.

The Black Forest is the stuff of fairy tales, and I regret not visiting while I was in Germany last October. (It’s on my to-do list for when I return.) This is the sort of wood where I imagine faeries and gnomes and all sorts of enchanted creatures live. As dark and foreboding as it is, this is actually the more pleasant side of what I imagine Tiede Wood is like. There are so many beautiful pictures of the Black Forest, and the ones I love most are the ones were light is filtering through the canopy.

Treescape 4 - Black Forest, Germany
The Black Forest (photo by David Blackwell)

If the Black Forest is the “kinder, gentler” side of Tiede Wood, then the Aokigahara Forest would be the nightmare side. The Aokigahara also goes by Jukai, meaning “Sea of Trees,” as well as the “Suicide Forest”—supposedly with one of the highest number of suicides occurring there than any other place in the world (so says Wikipedia). If you do a Google image search, you’ll see some pretty disturbing pictures. Dead bodies, restless spirits…yeah, sounds like Tiede Wood.

Sea of forest
Aokigahara Forest (photo by elminium)

I’ve done super light hiking on Virginia trails where the wood isn’t dense, and you can sometimes still hear traffic on the beltway. Virginia has beautiful trails, and while it isn’t exactly Tiede Wood material, there are several other notable forests in Cordelacht such as the mighty Relythaun Wood in the east and the Plytain Wood in the south.

Visiting trails is enjoyable research. Right now, these little yellow flowers are blanketing most of the forest. I have no idea what they are, but they’re cute.

Virginia Trails
Invasion of little yellow flowers

There’s nothing like experiencing the textures and finding the holes in trunks where trolls might be living.

Virginia Trails
Virginia Trails
Lovely textures

Now that I’m thinking of it, there are some tropical locales in Cordelacht. I should visit some real world paradise…you know, for research! ;)