I began by setting my story in a future Wisconsin, near where I live, for several good reasons. Then I moved it to Central Europe, Slovakia in particular, for other good reasons. Though the fact that I have just returned from Slovakia was a primary motivator. Or, at least it gave me the first hand experience and knowledge of a setting that fit well with the structure of my story. There was also the matter of the salt road, which had attracted me -- like it has attracted many others. I also have learned about the more famous salt road from the marshes near Venice to the highlands where prosciutto and other stuff was produced. But I had become attached to the mountains, as an In-Between. I have worried about my treatment of the Rom as major characters, but then someone has to serve this role, and it does give me the opportunity to portray these people in a more positive light than previous depictions. And there is a good deal to be said for a location with castles and a fitting geography and history.
What will readers, young adults apparently, think about this location? It has promises both for the traditional fantasy realm, and for gritty post-apocalyptic dystopia. In fact, Slovakia and other parts of Central Europe already convey these contrasts -- castles, panelaky and abandoned mega-industrial complexes like the steel mills of Nova Huta, super-glitz shopping malls, ritual pig-slaughters, drinking, atomic physics and the manufacture of weapons, the strangeness of Slavic languages ... The American locale offers a much more shallow history, unless ones partakes of the Native American history, which was my original plan -- all the names were in Ojibwe. I suppose its not more or less exploitative to use Indians than it is to use Gypsies. In either case, my intention seems to be put a marginalized, degraded people into a position of centrality and power. In both cases, these "natives" occupied the land that the white folks wish to cross. In the American context, this is a replay of American history, in European history, it is also a replay, but of a different type. My conclusion for now is that I should stay in Karpatia, and be even more exotically there, without for now getting into Romania and the vampires.