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  • Writer's pictureSofia Sawyer

World-building for Tangled Up in You

Back in February, I talked about world-building and how I tend to gravitate towards fictional lands that only exist inside my head (and now, my books). As a traveler, I love to immerse myself in the local scenes, enjoy the foods, see the architecture, and appreciate the arts. I also look for those quiet moments so I can truly take in the place I’m visiting. I’ll snap a photo of something seemingly unimportant, but they’re usually the memories that resonate most with me. They also are the memories that inspire my worldbuilding, such as my remote Scottish island in Tangled Up in You (note: the new title is One Stormy Night.)

Scotland has always drawn me in. Something about its history has me fantasizing about it often. It's people's pride, the landscapes, bagpipers, the accents, and people like Jamie Fraser (swoon) are alluring, all giving me a ton of ideas for this story. In the end, I decided on a forced proximity trope. Being thrust into the quiet slowdown of life on a beautiful island meant my two main characters had to face a turning point in both their lives.

We all could use a beat to slow down, couldn’t we?

Inspiration for the Isle of Murdina

In 2015, I had the pleasure of visiting Scotland. Although I hadn’t planned on venturing outside of Edinburgh due to exhaustion from city hoping (I had already visited several towns/cities in Ireland before jumping on a plane to Scotland), my heart was set on seeing the captivating Isle of Skye and explore its unbelievable landscapes. Unfortunately, time wasn’t on my side, so I had to nix it.

Instead, the hotel staff convinced me to take a trip to the Highlands on one of the clear days they rarely have, and I’m so glad I did. I can still remember stepping off the tour bus and seeing the endless green hills filled with purple heather that danced in the wind. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. So open. Untouched. I remember feeling like I wanted to sit my ass right there and never leave. If I could have built a tiny cottage so I could see those views every day, I would have died a happy woman.

On the way back down to Edinburgh, we stopped to do a boat trip on Loch Lomond, landing in a small beachside town called Luss. I instantly fell in love with the picturesque village with their neat little cottages, many with pretty flowers on display. With mostly foot traffic, the quiet island felt like it sat on the edge of the world. From the shore, you could see the still waters of the loch and the mountains in the distance. It was this day trip that inspired me to write my fictional island for Tangled Up in You.

About the Island of Murdina

Here are some quick facts about the island:

  • Located on the Northeastern side of Scotland, south of Isle of Skye

  • 4,500 residents

  • Established in 1437

  • Port Ophelia is the main village, situated on the coast

  • Economy includes fishing, a whisky distillery, and tourism

  • Winter months make the town inhabitable, wind gusts reach 115 mph

  • Northern side has mountains and untouched landscapes

  • Only 90 sunny days a year, mostly in early summer

  • A ton of photographers come there because the landscapes are remote and beautiful

I did research on the Scottish islands, using a lot of my findings in the creation of the island. This includes how people access it, the village layout, and the dangers of the uninhabited areas.  Also, looking at the photos helped me create specific details such as the colorful structures along the shoreline (like in Portree) or how the cottage would look. Sometimes, it's hard to imagine places like this actually exist, but they do! It's no wonder why Scotland has a rich history of folklore, these places make it easy to think of imaginative tales.

Not going to lie—it totally makes me want to go back to Scotland again and explore these areas. Until then, I’ll have to live vicariously through my stories!


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