Castles Put Me in the Mood

to write. And no, not vampire ghost time-travel romances; that’s a little too weird, even for me, and if I’m being honest, I don’t think I could write romance of any sort because it feels too implausible for my brain to handle.

Elves mucking through a swamp killing undead, THAT I can suspend disbelief for, but the elf and human prince being driven together by circumstance and, despite not getting along initially, falling madly in love with each other? SPOILER ALERT: No. That’s not going to happen.

But being forced by circumstances (inconvenient animated corpses) to spend some time in the human prince’s BEAUTIFUL ancient castle, built in the foothills of a dramatic mountain range and overlooking the empire’s windswept mesas? Why yes, let’s!

I should have titled this post “Looking at Pictures of Castles…” because I haven’t actually been in many castles.

I’ve been in large (and sometimes weird) houses, like Fonthill Castle in Doylestown, PA, a 44-room mansion made entirely of concrete.

Fonthill Castle

Have you ever had a dream that you were in an inexplicably odd structure, with staircases of various sizes, nooks in unexpected places, and mismatched tile and windows, disorienting wall angles, and columns placed irregularly (yes, in front of the fireplace), and you woke up from this dream and told someone, “Hey, I had this crazy dream that I was in this weird house!”? Except then you remembered, no, that was that museum in Bucks County… That’s Fonthill Castle. Trippy and inspiring.

Fonthill Castle – check out that column in the middle of the room

This part’s a bit much.

I’ve also been in large (and not so weird) houses, like Thomas Edison’s Glenmont, which hasn’t made its way into any of my writings, but has influenced how I picture large older homes (that entryway!)

Glenmont with awnings

That light fixture that look like opalescent bug eggs, though…

What are those even??

I went to the Prado in Madrid*, which is probably the most castle-like building I’ve ever been in, but that was about 11 years ago, and there was so much art to study, that I was a bit overwhelmed.

Museo del Prado

I remember a sparse white hallway of windows, which was definitely in Spain and may have been in the Prado… I’d like to go back, let my brain refresh my memories, but if I ever make it back to Europe, I think I’ll head for Scotland or France (there are plenty of castles there!)

And I do so want to go on my dream castle tour of Germany. Someday, maybe.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a vague image of a castle in my mind, something like Olite Castle in Spain (at least the newer wing of my imaginary castle, which has been expanded over the centuries, because I can never just make this easy on myself).

Olite Castle

What would be GREAT would be if someone published easy-to-read floor plans of beautiful old castles so I could figure out how long, realistically, it would take for my characters to walk from their rooms to the hidden passage, down into the old dungeon, and back. That would be tremendously helpful.

I suppose I’ll just have to add Spain to my castle tour. Which I will go on. When I have money, hahahahahahahahaha.

For now, I’ll let Google inspire me. 😉

*Remember that scene in She’s All That, when the mean artsy girl says to Laney, “Sav and I, we toured the Prado over break,” and other mean artsy girl Savannah so helpfully interjects, “That’s in Spain,” because plebe Laney wouldn’t know, would she? And then the mean, rich art girls suggest she kill herself for artistic immortality? That was dark.

Not all mean girls wear pink.


Sometimes a story requires a castle. This is probably fine for people who have actually been in castles, but if you’ve never seen one IRL, it can be intimidating.

I’ve actually been to one castle, in Madrid, that won’t do at all as a model for what I have in mind. It was very square. I need something more interesting, like Hogwarts, which is fantastically awesome and which I don’t think I could ever have designed. How did J. K. do it?

It’s plan-making time.

Step 1 – research castles. Did you know castles were originally designed to be fortresses? Many buildings we call castles today would have been pillaged and burned centuries ago.

Step 2 – figure out whether the above has anything to do with my story. Why was my castle built? How long ago? Was it constructed for its current purpose or for another reason?

Step 3 – forget about Step 2 and look at pictures of castles for three hours. I did this a couple weeks ago. This one‘s nice, as is this one. I’ll probably base my castle off these since I was picturing something like them anyway. I just gotta figure out where everything goes…

Step 4 – complain about the lack of castle floor plans available online.

Step 5 – start grad school, finish grad school, save up enough money for a trip to Germany and go on castle tours.

Step 6 – doodle on graph paper to see what I can come up with.

I’ll let you know how it goes. 😉