Aside from questions about the characters, most of the questions, comments, and reviews I receive after fans have read The Spirit Breather are about the setting details and the world I created. As much as I like to pride myself on my wicked writing skills, I must confess that my home in East Tennessee is the most beautiful place in the world, so I have only to look out my office window for inspiration.

The Spirit Breather Book CoverI feel the same about the mountains of Western North Carolina, which is only an hour’s drive from my home. With my love for the mountains and the fact that my series is set in Cherokee, it should come as no surprise that many of the setting details were inspired by real places dear to my heart. With that in mind, I thought I’d give you some great ideas for your next day trip or week-long adventure in the mountains.

So, if you loved The Spirit Breather and you’d love to know more about the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, I have provided a list of places and activities relevant to the novel and the research I conducted to write it.

1.The Museum of the Cherokee Indian should probably be your first stop if planning a visit to Cherokee, NC. This is really where the first sparks of The Spirit Breather began.

Treat yourself to this innovative, interactive museum that tells the heart-wrenching and inspiring history of the Cherokee and their unparalleled will to survive. While I thoroughly enjoyed my hours at the museum, I probably spent equal time in the bookstore, where I found a wealth of reading material to learn more about Cherokee folklore, belief system, history, and culture. I walked away with an armful of books that hold a special place on my shelf.

2. The Oconoluftee Indian Village is the best living history museum I’ve ever experienced, and this is coming from a girl who grew up only minutes from Sycamore Shoals.

Visiting this village is like stepping back in time to the 18th century, from the Cherokee homes and demonstrations to the cultural dances and reenactments. Several elements from The Spirit Breather were inspired by this visit. Research for the traditional War Dance in Joseph Stomper’s flashback, as well as his isolated home in the forest, and many features of the Nunnehi’s underground village originated from this wonderful experience. My best advice: don’t hesitate to wander around on your own, but be sure to go on a guided tour first–the experience will be so much better!

3. Oconoluftee Islands Park inspired Ezra Crowe’s campground and the creek separating the humans from the foreboding forest where the Raven Mockers dwell. This park is a wonderful place to relax, unwind, listen to the birds, and dip your toes in the water.

4. Visit Mingo Falls. Seriously, people, just go there. You won’t be sorry.

This site is featured in the forthcoming sequel to The Spirit Breather. In Book 2, The Spirit Warrior, Emily, Kadie, and Chandler pass Mingo Falls on their quest to find Joseph Stomper. This gorgeous waterfall is a great place to take pictures, have a picnic, or simply close your eyes and relax, breathing in the fresh mountain air.

On a side note, there are also several hiking trails nearby, as well as places to go tubing and fishing, which are also great opportunities to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the Smoky Mountains.

5. Unto These Hills Outdoor Drama is the perfect opportunity to experience the history of the Cherokee people in a live outdoor performance that will take your breath away. If you are limited on time and money, make sure to budget for this summer event. I can promise you won’t want to miss it.

Filled with action, love, betrayal, and devastation, Unto These Hills is an experience you won’t want to miss. This drama is also the reason I chose the Phoenix as the messenger of the prophecy in The Spirit Breather, as well as why Chandler Crowe shifts into one. I simply can’t say enough about the quality of the writing, acting, and directing of this drama. From the moment the show begins, the amount of time, talent, and love that has gone into this production is undeniable.

6. While not in Cherokee, the Nikwasi Mound is located in Franklin, NC. Built by the Cherokee hundreds of years ago, the site is thought to be the home of the Cherokee Spirit Warriors, who emerge from beneath the mound to help the Cherokee in times of need or peril. According to some legends, late at night, people can hear the sound of drums beating and see the thin tendrils of smoke that rise from the sacred fire of the Cherokee, said to be housed inside the mound. I am also happy to report that just this summer, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians purchased the tract of land that includes the mound as a part of a continual effort to preserve their historical sites. If you’ve read The Spirit Breather, you know what a significant role the Nikwasi Mound and the sacred fire play in the story, as well as the Spirit Warriors.

I hope this list inspires you to do some traveling in the near future and also provides some insight into the beautiful culture and location that inspired my series.

Smoky Mountain National Park, NC” by Daniel Thornton is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, NC” by Gene Bowker is licensed under CC BY 2.0