Peyton County High School


I wanted to write a young adult, high school, coming of age story and needed a place to do it. My inspiration for the book which turned into a series was John Green's Looking for Alaska. I have always loved the book and read it about once a year around NaNoWriMo to get me in the mood for writing. It was the soundtrack to both Rural and its sequel Urban as I wrote. In part, because it's a similar style of writing and genre but also because the world-building that John did in the book was something I wanted to try to do in mine as well. John created a fictional boarding school to work in and painted an imaginable world for Miles and Alaska to live and die in (spoiler.) That's what I attempted to do in Peyton county. 

Peyton County was the fictionalized version of my high school years all wrapped into one setting based in rural New Brunswick. It's paired with a fictional university and apartment complex in Edmonton Alberta, though many of the places mentioned in between those to points on the Canadian map.

I created Peyton as a way to fully flesh out the characters and composites of people I knew and could remember from Highschool while writing, being extra careful not to mention too much of the geography and local landmarks to actually give it away. Close friends and former alumni of my alma mater would be able to piece it together with a scant few actually knowing who they are or are part of in the books. 

Only one character is named exactly like the person in mind for that character and the chances of him reading the book are slim to none for the worst reasons, to be frank.

Here is a rough sketch of the county where Rural was set.

For the sequel, Urban, I used a similar approach and changed names and locations of popular Edmonton coffee shops and even of Grant McEwan university to give the setting for the book. While using real-life locations as well as the West Edmonton Mall and the nearby Misericordia Hospital. 

A map of that book would essentially be a map of Edmonton with highlights. I may do a walkabout one summer and get pictures of the inspiration for the locations mentioned in the book. 

Overall I wanted to let the characters tell the story in these books. I could have written the books to be set in rural Saskatchewan or back in the GTA but chose places I had either been or was living in currently to connect better emotions and expressions when having the characters react to the locations. 

Overall this was really fun. I highly recommend doing this write from your home towns perspective thing at least once.