I've been sharing some of the real-life geography that inspired the landscapes in my novel, The Ban of Irsisri (release date T-24 days and counting!). Many of these landscapes were inspired by geographic features in Tennessee.
Visylon, one of the main characters in The Ban of Irsisri, begins his search for his friend Enkinor in the Parthulian Hills. There, as the sun sets, he is approached by Anquilon, the ghost of a historic warrior. Anquilon points to a nearby double-peak in the hills, and explains that on that peak Visylon will find the grave of an ancient king, and a small cedar growing from the grave. Visylon must cut down the tree with his sword in order to draw into his sword some important power critical in the development of the story.
The double-peak was modeled after the Chimney Tops, a prominent geological feature easily seen from the parkway crossing the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and accessible by a steep 3.7-mile hike. In the early 1970s, my father and brother and I made the climb. The trail at that time ended at the base of the rocky pinnacles and a sign (long since gone) warned hikers about proceeding further. Naturally, having inherited a bit of my mother's rebelliousness, I scrambled up the first of the two peaks. I was rewarded with not only a view across the "saddle" to the second peak, but also a breathtaking view of the Sugarlands valley through which the parkway climbs on its way from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina.
The tree growing from a grave was inspired by a real-life grave in the woods of Jackson County, Tennessee. My step-great-great-grandfather's first wife, Lucinda Deatherage Matheny, is buried in an unusual above-ground brick-encircled grave. A tree once grew from the top of this grave. I always felt the grave was unusual; to see the tree growing from the grave, drawing nourishment from the dust of human remains, felt very Gothic to me.