The Island Behind Lily Everett’s Sanctuary Island
Sanctuary Island. Simply typing the words makes my shoulders relax and brings a smile to my face. As a writer, I can’t imagine setting my books in a world I wouldn’t want to live in—and with the Sanctuary Island series, every day when I sit down at my computer, I get to travel to a tiny, close-knit community set on a naturally beautiful wild horse preserve off the coast of Virginia.
I grew up in Virginia, and like a lot of kids in that lovely mid-Atlantic state, I grew up horse crazy. I read every horse book I could get my hands on, from Black Beauty to The Black Stallion, but my favorite series was Marguerite Henry’s books about the wild ponies of Assateague Island. And once I realized it was a real place, not far from where we lived? My parents didn’t stand a chance.
So we packed up the car and went camping on Chincoteague Island, Assateague’s populated-by-people neighbor. Assateague, which is half in Maryland and half in Virginia, is designated a National Seashore, protected by the National Park Service. I highly recommend taking the driving tour through the salt marshes, or biking along the barrier island paths through the natural habitat. There’s a lot to see—but of course, all I cared about were the ponies.
It’s hard to describe the thrill that shot through me at my first glimpse of a band of wild horses roaming freely across the gritty beach. Pastured horses are a common sight in Virginia, and I’d been in my share of barns, but this…no fences, no barriers, no stalls. The island belonged to them.
When I set out to create the backdrop for my new series, I remembered that thrill of possibility and freedom I first felt watching those wild horses. I knew if my characters could experience the same thing, it would help them heal and open their hearts to the chance at love. So I thought…what if there was a little town in the middle of the nature preserve? And what if the townspeople were committed to caring for the wild horses and letting them stay wild? I loved the idea of the human community coexisting peacefully alongside the wild horses. Even more than that, I loved the idea of getting to visit a place like that every day at my desk!
To check out the visual inspiration for a lot of Sanctuary Island’s settings, from the Firefly Café to the lighthouse to the character’s homes, visit my Book Inspiration board on Pinterest. And if you want to chat with me some more, come on over and “Like” my Facebook page. I hang out there almost every day (when I probably should be writing…don’t tell my editor!)
Lily Everett grew up in a small town in Virginia reading Misty of Chincoteague and Black Beauty, taking riding lessons, and longing for a horse of her own. Sadly, her parents gave her a college education instead—but she never forgot what the world looked like from the back of a horse. She currently lives in Austin, Texas, where she writes full-time. Learn more and order your own copy of Sanctuary Island here.
Contest: What’s your favorite place? It could be a destination spot or even just a room in your house. Let us know in the comments by August 16th, and we’ll choose a random reader to receive a copy of Sanctuary Island (US entrants only please).
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