The central location in my upcoming book The Tower in the Mist is an actual place along the Oregon-Washington Border called Sauvie Island.
The island, near the city of Portland, covers over 32 square miles, and is one of the largest river islands in the United States. Much of modern day Sauvie Island consists of a wildlife area, but the island also supports a small community. Some of the roughly one thousand year-round residents operate u-pick farms and retail outlets serving bicyclists and other tourists who cross the single bridge to the Island.
Portland would seem to be an odd choice of location for the return of the Sidhe to the human world, but it's wild places and creative pulse are just the kind of place that would attract the fae like moths to flame. The Underworld, where the fairies reside, is a place betwixt and between. It is a realm parallel to our own and accessible in wild places that are themselves in a between state. In most fairy stories, the only way to reach the Underworld is to cross water. An intrepid traveler might descend to the bottom of a lake, step through a mist, or cross an ocean to arrive in a mystic land. Sauvie is a perfect place for both wildness and being not fully land yet not fully water. It lies between two rivers and the area is very often covered in a mist.
Mist is also a liminal state, not quite water, not quite air, making it a perfect crossing point for magical beings entering the Green World. Fogs feature strongly in the stories of the Celtic gods, the Tuatha de Danann. The tale of how the Tuatha first came to Ireland describes them arriving in a mist lasting for days. So Sauvie Island being surrounded by water, between two great rivers, and misty made it a wonderful place to set a modern day tale of gods and fae. But it is not just Sauvie Island's natural resources that make it a great setting.
The Island's history and present day culture also offers some wonderful fodder for storylines.
In 1805 Lewis and Clark were the first non-natives to see the island, they called it Wapato Island after the growths of wild tubers they found there. The tubers were a staple crop to the Chinook people who lived in the area. The Multnomah village was the prominent native settlement on the island at the time, but plague and displacement brought by the settlers eventually decimated the native population. The last survivors were removed from the Island in 1832 and the village burned. The image of Sauvie in the 1800s above is from the Oregon Historical Society.
My family drove past Sauvie numerous times on our summer trips to the Oregon coast. Until my late twenties, I just assumed it was the shore of Washington State on the other side of the Columbia River. The picture below from TravelOregon.com shows the lakes and thick trees of the wildlife preserve.
The energy of Faerie runs strong on this freshwater isle. It's brimming with artistic energy and human creativity always attracts the Fair Folk. Two interesting creative works stand out, the annual corn maze and the UFO near Collins (nude) Beach.
The Bella Organic Farms corn maze is an annual work of art and family attraction. Each year, when viewed from above, the maze forms a detailed picture. My personal favorite was their Rosie the Riveter portrait. I really need to find a way to work it into the storyline of the trilogy somehow. Corn mazes provoke waves of mild anxiety for me, having never successfully navigated one. Friends delight in reminding me of the time I had to be rescued from one we visited near Tamaqua, PA. In my defense, it was cloudy out and I had nothing to navigate by. Since standard writing wisdom is to write what you know, a labyrinth of maize might become downright terrifying for a book character lost in one while pursued by Fae out for blood.
Perhaps the most bizarre attraction on Sauvie is the graffiti and moss-covered UFO near Collins Beach. When I first discovered the strange vessel, I scoured the internet for its history.
So, first things first, it's not a UFO. Unless the F stands for "floating". This 31 foot long disk of concrete on legs was formerly a sailboat. You read that right. That lump of concrete was meant to be a groovy sailboat. Apparently when Richard Ensign built it in 1972, there was speculation that it would float as well as a large rock. He was ridiculed for daring to believe the thing would sail. And yet, Mr. Ensign got the last laugh. Outfitted with a sail and a paddlewheel powered by a 6 cylinder car engine, the craft took a crew of eight on a three month voyage up and down the Columbia and Wilamette Rivers of Oregon.
The sailboat was self-righting and designed to have everything a crew of 12 would require to survive an extended period of time on the water. Considering the tiny homes movement today, Ensign was ahead of his time. He believed the impending social and economic collapse of society would force people to live more simply, and he wanted to be able to flee onto water to survive the tumult that would accompany inevitable decline.
In 1996, the sailboat came to its resting place near Collins beach when floodwaters cast the vessel high onto the shore. When the waters finally receded, the concrete boat was stranded. There will be a fun scene featuring the Sauvie UFO in the second book of the Last Battle of Moytura trilogy because I couldn't resist incorporating this fascinating bit of Oregon culture into my writing.
Hunted by Fae will see Sauvie Island transform into something far more sinister than corn mazes and nude beaches. I hope you enjoyed getting to know a bit about the place and why I chose it. I have created a Pinterest board featuring a smattering of my location research for my books. I'll be adding more images to it as the world of the Last Battle of Moytura trilogy is built.
I'd love to hear about places you have visited that felt very "faerie" to you in the comments below!