A little secret: much of the geography I use in my stories is directly pulled from the places I’m most familiar with from my childhood. I tweak it, but if you look close enough and know the areas, you might find the roads and forests and mountains familiar. It doesn’t make for a varied assortment of geography without extensive tweaks, but hey.
When I want a refresher or fine details, I go onto Google Maps and look at the satellite images, or street view when available. Sometimes I get distracted and nostalgic and spent a lot of time just looking at the street view image of certain places, like my grandparents’ house. The current image is a time capsule from May of 2012; a few years after I was last able to visit, but years before my grandmother died. The surrounding buildings are as I remember them from my childhood, but my grandparents’ house is different — they put on new siding at some point, bright white instead of warm brown, and the garden is smaller and sadder as my grandmother had been too frail to maintain it for quite some time.
Across the street, beyond the small pasture and the farmhouse where a couple of kids I know lived, beyond the trees lush with new greenery, are the mountains that are the bones of my mental landscape.
I lived with my grandparents on and off for years, and visited them very frequently beyond that. The second bedroom at the front of the house, where I stayed, looks directly out at those mountains. Some summers my grandparents would take me camping up in those forests; some winters they’d take me driving through them while my grandmother found places to photograph. I think I still have one of those photos; I’m in it, in a dark sweater and a little scarf and moonboots standing in a snowy field and grinning happily, 8 or 9 years old.
The chance of me ever going back there and seeing those mountains again is almost nil. I miss them.