Tag Archives: worldbuilding

Strange and peculiar things: An interview with Amie Irene Winters

Amie Irene Winters is the author of Strange Luck, a fantasy series about a girl named Daisy and a secret realm that built on stolen memories.

BELINDA: You’ve just released the second book in your Strange Luck series, The Nightmare Birds, tell us a little about the heroine, Daisy.

AMIE: Daisy is one strong and cynical chick, but she also has a kind heart. She possesses the unique ability to create and destroy worlds, but that’s not all. There’s a dark reason why she is able to do these things, and only when she accepts who she really is will she be able to defeat the Order of The Nightmare Birds.

BELINDA: I love the Theatre of Secrets. What inspired it?

AMIE: Thank you! It was a lot of fun to write about the mysterious Theater of Secrets. I’ve always loved the concept of the supernatural creeping into the real world, especially stories with dark magic and unseen monsters (I’m a big H.P. Lovecraft fan). A mythic circus operating beneath a bustling city seemed like the perfect setting to invite strange and peculiar things.

BELINDA: Tell us a little about the Nameless.

The cover of Nightmare Birds, book two in the Strange Luck series by Amie Irene Winters
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AMIE: The Nameless in a beautiful and dangerous world built using stolen memories. The memories are collected by a dark entity who is in search of the perfect memory. All of its residents, called Collectives, were lured there using a variety of tactics. Vain people can be lured with a map to the Fountain of Youth. People who love space or exploration might be lured under the pretense that the map is a wormhole to another galaxy. Daisy fell into the Nameless’ trap in search of immortality in hopes of saving her ailing father. The terrain and everything in the world are based upon other people’s memories, so you’ll find everything from famous wizards in fairytales to talking stuffed animals all looking to escape while retaining their memories before they are stolen.

BELINDA: What’s your worldbuilding process like?

AMIE: After coming up with a general idea for a world/other realm, I look at how it got to be that way. This really helps to fill in the backstory and develop a richer history of the world’s existence. Then, I work in all of the good and bad things in the world which can be used to help and hinder the characters. The rest I leave up to free flowing. I try not to plan things too tightly so that they may change, develop, and grow. I might go into writing with a specific idea about the world and as I’m writing think of something that works much better.

BELINDA: What sort of things do other authors in their worldbuilding that bug you?

AMIE: I think creativity and originality is most important, then planning the logistics. I think a lot of authors do this backwards and spend all of their time planning magical rules and scenarios, but not focusing on the imagination/fantasy part of it. I honestly get bored reading a book that’s all rules and no imagination.

BELINDA: What books do you think are examples of great worldbuilding?

AMIE: Harry Potter and The Neverending Story are my favorites. When you feel like you are completely and totally there, the author has succeeded in immersing you in the world they’ve created—in a world you don’t want to leave.

BELINDA: How many more installments are there in the Strange Luck series?

AMIE: There will be four books total, including a prequel. My newest book, The Nightmare Birds, is the second book in the series. I’m currently working on Book III.

BELINDA: Can you give us any hints about what’s to come?

AIME: There will be lots more dark magic and strange things creeping into the light. Stay tuned for details.

About Amie Irene Winters

Amie Irene Winters, author of the Strange Luck Series.
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As an environmental conservationist, Amie Irene Winters has had a lot of unique experiences—from participating in archaeological digs and camping solo in the Rocky Mountains, to writing grants and designing natural history museum exhibits—but writing fiction has always been her passion. 
She’s the award-winning author of the Strange Luck series. 

Originally from California, Amie has lived in every region of the U.S., and currently resides in a small town in western Pennsylvania. She loves hiking, traveling, baking desserts, and spontaneous adventures.

You can connect with Amie via her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and buy her books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-MillionBook Depository and Kobo.

Image courtesy of Crisco Photography (via Flickr) used under a Creative Commons license.

Worldbuilding and Game Design: an interview with Diana Pinguicha

Diana Pinguicha is a woman of many talents not least of which include designing games and writing books.

BELINDA: Tell us about your book. What’s it about and what kind of audience would it appeal to?

DIANA: The Fantasy novel I currently have on submission is called A Trace of Madness (I call it ATOM, for short). It’s about a mind witch (essentially someone who manipulates minds) who’s sent to a neighboring country to plant the seeds for an invasion. There’s lots of magic, an insane girl, and bad decisions—it’d appeal to YA fantasy readers, as well as older ones, since it has crossover potential.

BELINDA: What inspired the world behind your story?

DIANA: Normally, when I read books based on European cultures, it’d always be more French/English/Hungary, and so on and so forth. I never found many books whose culture had been inspired by Portugal, so I used my own roots to shape the world in ATOM. It’s actually funny, because I have my main character doing things like eating tomato jam, and a lot of people asked me if it was a real thing—it is, and it’s delicious.

BELINDA: You’re a game designer, has that influenced the way you’ve built your world?

DIANA: Definitely. Before I started designing games, the worldbuilding would be pretty much as I went. There would be a lot of conflicts, and fixing them took a lot of time. However, as soon as I started my Master’s (which was heavily based on game design and programming), I realized it’d be much simpler to create an entire world first. So now I start with the world, the culture, the belief, and then, after I’ve shaped all I need to, I start on the story.

BELINDA: How does designing a game differ from writing a book?

DIANA: A lot. You have to consider a different array of things when you’re designing (and writing!) a game that you don’t in a book. For instance, you need to accommodate a player’s choices, and write outcomes for every different one—visual novels, for instance, do this, and it’s like having five different books that share the same beginning but different endings. It’s almost like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, but trickier, because you also need to consider interaction, interface, and so on.

Another aspect is the way you present your story to the player. In books, people are expecting to read a lot, but if you do that in a game, well… One of the biggest complaints I had for Sightless (a novel which I made a game prototype for) was that it had too much text. Since the game was more of a visual novel-meets-puzzle, it didn’t bother me much, but it’s something I need to be careful with on my job: you need to know how to balance information and gameplay, otherwise your players will get bored and give up. Similarly, one of my favorite games ever, Planescape: Torment, suffered from the same criticism: too much text, which possibly led to low sales when it was first released (but it was such a great game it’s found a lot of love after).

Bottom line is, when you write a book, you control everything the reader will see and know through your characters. In a game, the player can do what they please, and you need to find ways to support such freedom. You also have to be more careful in balancing play time with story exposition in a game, whereas in a book, there’s more leniency because, well… readers like to read. Gamers? Many do, but not the majority.

BELINDA: Do you have a particular worldbuilding process you follow?

DIANA: I always pick a culture I want to base myself on, then build from there. For instance, since I picked Portugal for ATOM, a lot of things are very Portuguese. Everyone loves to eat, and eat well, and they kiss each other on the cheek as a greeting (I do this on instinct and people think it’s weird, but it’s not! It’s just how I was raised, I promise!) Houses are big and mostly in white stone to prevent the flood of miserable heat, and a lot of people are loud—which, if you’ve met me, you know it’s mostly true.

I pick a climate (in this case, I chose to stay true and have it be hellish hot from March to November), then move onto politics—is it a Democracy? A Kingdom? An Empire? Once that’s picked, I pick the rest of the social structure (if it’s a caste system, a merit system, etc), then religion and beliefs, and so on.

I then draw a map, see what other countries I need, and do the same for them. If there are different races at play, I start working on them, their customs, what sets them apart, etc. Once the world is set, I start writing!

BELINDA: What are the things that other authors do, or have done, that really tick you off in regards to worldbuilding?

DIANA: When people do all these different alien races and they’re somehow all humanoids. Also, when there’s absolutely no fleshing out of a culture, and your character just lives in this flat world with no personality whatsoever.

BELINDA: What are some of your favourite examples of great worldbuilding?

DIANA: Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series is a work of pure genius. Even if his prose isn’t your style, his worldbuilding and magic system is phenomenal, and I recommend it to everyone. Tolkien, obviously, and JK Rowling. Juliet Marillier is bright example of taking something that exists, and building up on it to perfection—all her books feel real, like those legends could’ve really happened. Kate Elliot has terrific worlds through and through in all her different series, and all of them feel alive, and real. Last but not least, Susan Dennard, who not only has amazing advice on her blog, did an amazing job with bringing her Witchlands to life.

BELINDA: Do you have any worldbuilding tips?

DIANA: Do it at the very beginning, and don’t hack it together as you do. Research the cultures you’re inspired by so you know almost all there is to know about them, from who rules the land to where do women keep her monthly supplies for when the red sea strikes! And, for your own sanity, keep it all in the same folder and put it on Dropbox, because Jesus saves, but we need to back up!

About Diana Pinguicha

Diana Pinguicha Connors
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A Computer Engineering graduate, Diana is a game designer for serious games, an illustrator, and a Fantasy writer. Born and bred in Portugal, she lives in Lisbon, where she tries not to melt under the sun. Keeping her company are her two cats, Sushi and Jubas, and the bearded dragon Norbert. Together with three colleagues, she made a small game out of one of her novels, and it was the runner up for 2014 SINFO’s Innovation Awards.

You can connect with Diana via her blog, DeviantArt, Instagram, Twitter and Goodreads.

 

Feature image courtesy of wiredforlego.

The Worldbuilding Leviathan goes Spanish!

I love how many people have discovered the Worldbuilding Leviathan and I’m always quite chuffed (and just a little bit amazed) whenever someone drops me a line to tell me how useful they’ve found the template.

One such person was Juan de la Cruz, who asked me if he could translate it into Spanish. I said ‘of course!’ and last December an amazing Spanish version of the Leviathan landed in my inbox.

I do have to apologise to Juan for taking so long to upload the translated template, but now here it is for all the world to enjoy!

The template

On space opera, YA and druids: an interview with Janine A. Southard

Queen & Commander by Janine A Southard
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Janine A. Southard is the author of the Hive Queen Saga, a sci-fi (space opera, to be exact) trilogy about a group of teenagers who steal (kinda) a spaceship and take off on the adventure of their lives.

If you haven’t read the first book, you can find out how to get a free copy of Queen & Commander at the end of the interview.

BELINDA: I love space opera, but as a genre it can be hard to define and often means different things to different people. Personally, I like to think of it as underdogs in space, sticking it to the universe. How do you like to think of space opera?

JANINE: I love space opera too! I think of it as fiction which is both set far enough in the future that the technology involved isn’t currently possible and also where the plot is more focused on the non-technological aspects.

Even though the tech is an important backdrop piece, it isn’t what a space opera story is about. For instance, a space opera mystery is about the whodunit, not figuring out how the robot serial killer gained its sentience.

Additionally, I think of space opera as an innately hopeful form. It presupposes that our current society has continued to improve technologically while also not imploding.

BELINDA: That’s a great way to think of it, and a nice break from the trend towards the dystopian, particularly in young adult (YA) fiction. Speaking of YA, your Hive Queen Saga is among the first in a new wave of YA space opera. Apart from those genres being awesome, what drew you to mashing them up?

JANINE: That is what drew me to mashing them up! I was really nervous about it during the writing phase because you didn’t see any young adult space opera at the time (now there’s a lot more). I wasn’t sure how it was going to do, but it was the book I wanted to write. So I did! It turns out to be popular enough that you’ve heard of me. (Phew!)

BELINDA: What do you think about the YA space opera you see today, is it the kind of thing you expect when you think ‘space opera’ or do you think YA is putting a unique spin on it?

JANINE: I haven’t actually seen a lot of new YA space opera yet. I mean, I love Beth Revis’ Across the Universe… and I just finished reading Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall, though the latter is more middle grade than young adult. Give me your recommendations?

BELINDA: I sure can! Earth GirlAvalon and These Broken Stars are some of my faves, but you can find a whole host of others here.
 
In the Hive Queen Saga, there’s a heavy emphasis on Welsh mythology. What inspired you to create an entire society based around it?

JANINE: Thank you! I’ve got a bunch of these in my reading queue now. Plus, hey, I’d already read about half of the first page.

Oh my gosh, the Welsh mythology. It was kind of an accident.

See, before I started writing, I knew I wanted to name a ship Ceridwen’s Cauldron for all its symbolism regarding inspiration (great for YA characters discovering themselves) and, y’know, being a bucket people could live in. I also knew that I wanted to rename said ship as Manawyddan’s Mousetrap for how the characters grow in the face of adversity.

So this meant two things: some characters had to know a bit of Welsh mythology and building a society cool with alliteration. (Note that the book titles all alliterate: Queen & CommanderHive & HeistReign & Revolution.)

It probably could have stopped there and just been one character’s quirk. However, when I was picking my favorite mathematics for an FTL drive, I found out that the physicist whose work I liked best had studied at the University of Cardiff. (Miguel Alcubierre. He’s Mexican and a wonderful physicist.)

That was too much coincidence for me. So I went for it.

I had a small medievalist background in Welsh otherworld literature already, which helped in making things up. Then I dove into the language, the current political climate, and (of course) druidry. Using all of this, I tried to picture what a future would be like where a Welsh colony was settled by the people who want a return to the old ways as they rebuild their national heritage.

It pretty much has nothing to do with modern politics or druidry at this point, but my Cymraeg language skills got better.

Aside: for book 3 (which comes out in a few months), I got to learn about all the different kinds of Welsh and Anglo-Welsh poetry. My new favorite poet may just be Gillian Clarke, who is the current National Poet of Wales.

BELINDA: Wow, I love that you chose the FTL you used based upon the mathematics, almost as much as the matriarchal/hive-based society that’s a feature of the series. What inspired you to create such a different society?

JANINE: I do get a bit nerdy about my science research. Never let someone tell you that space opera writers don’t care about science. (It’s more that so much doesn’t make it onto the page because they’re not necessary to the story. The things I have learned about modern neuroscience!)

As for the Queen-centric Hives, they’re a case of art imitating life through a cracked lens. I think everyone has noticed that large groups of friends tend to have a leader, right? That’s just the way things are.

But when I was a college freshman, I noticed something else: a bunch of smart guys will all form an interest in the same young woman. There’s no set criteria to which woman they pick, and it’s clearly a case of “she’s so cool” rather than “let’s all agree to go after the same person.”

So I wanted to combine these things: an informal group leader with a lady people followed out of love as well as admiration. Thus, the basics of the Hive system were born.

After creating that base plan, I worked in some more sensible structures, read up on the court of Elizabeth Regina I, and added the standardized testing angle (which I’d previously made the focus of another book that hadn’t worked out).

With each book in the series, I send my characters off to another society, which is also fun for me. Yes, Book 1 was all Hives of future Wales, but Book 2 did an American Frontier space station, and Book 3 is set largely on a Chinese (mainland-descended) research lab. I had a blast deciding the right things to futurize.

BELINDA: That’s a great observation about the formation of friendship groups. I’m going to have to research that myself and no doubt tuck it away in the creative compost heap where I keep my worldbuilding ideas 🙂 

Do you have a particular method you use when building your worlds?

JANINE: Well, I usually start with a fairly strong idea for some part the story setting. Sometimes that’s a general sense of space and time; others, a particular aspect of society (such as theatre actors). To take it deeper, past that initial idea, I like those lists of questions that you see everywhere. The list makers always come up with something that would not have occurred to me. At the moment, my favorite list comes from Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland. It has great questions like “What kind of clothes are in style?” and “What historical epochs have shaped society?”

Actually, I recommend this book to any writer who doesn’t yet have an outlining method. The exercises are great!

BELINDA: When does the research come into it, and how do you keep track of all the data you collect?

JANINE: Research is a strange beast. For a novel that’s been percolating for a while before I even start outlining it, I’ll have done a bunch of “unofficial” research until I have a strong sense of something that’ll go into a story.

During my outlining phase (3-6 weeks usually), I’ll go deeper. Often my research will inform my final outline by integrating with the plot. What does the tech have to do? How does society work? The novel has to make sense in a larger context.

Anything relevant goes into the outline. (I’m a die-hard outliner. My latest novel has 35k words of outline.) For instance, I can copy a quote from a neuroscience article into my worldbuilding section, or include a photo with a link under it.

Some stuff, though, is less easy to describe. For instance, we talked about Welsh mythology earlier. Yes, I let modern druidry inform my version of future druidry, but they are emphatically not the same. So I’ll listen to the DruidCast podcast while I walk, and that will end up flavoring my stories but isn’t directly documented. Alternatively, I have a character who translates idioms from his own language, and I don’t document those at all other than the fact that he does it (so I can look up an appropriate saying from a “learn to speak” book or website as needed).

After a draft is complete, I’ll do a bunch of passive research while it’s out with beta readers and my editor. That way when someone says “I want more about X,” I’ve got a stronger foundation. I’m really horrible about documenting stuff that comes in during the editing phase though.

BELINDA: You’re releasing the third book in the Hive Queen Saga this year, do you plan to write any more stories in the series or will you be starting on a new project?

JANINE: Reign & Revolution wraps up the current story arc, which still leaves a lot of room in the Hive Queen universe! I currently have lots of plans for shorter fiction there. I’m very excited about doing alternate universe novellas, for instance. (I might have planned out the AU of book three before even outlining R&R.) Plus, I’m intending multiple origin stories for how the sentient robot has gained sentience over the years; the first of these is already available: “The Robot Who Stole Herself.”

But I’m definitely taking a short break from these for a while. My next two expected projects are

  1. A 7-part novelette series about Victorian Vampire Vice Cops. Episode one is already written (though not available yet) and entitled “The Death of Sloth.” I see it as sort of a Sherlock Holmes and Matt Helm pastiche starring Ada Lovelace and her vampire great-great-great-grandfather.
  2. A medieval quest fantasy “done backwards” that I’ve been working on for, oh, a decade, which is almost ready to see the light of day. It takes every point of order that belongs in a book of this type and twists it. The blond farm boy? Actually a manipulative villain. The mercenary with a heart of gold? Actually a sadist. The dragon the villagers defeat? Just grandstanding.

About Janine A. Southard

Janine A. Southard
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Janine A. Southard is the IPPY award-winning author of Queen & Commander (and other books in The Hive Queen Saga). She lives in Seattle, WA, where she writes speculative fiction novels, novellas, and short stories… and reads them aloud to her cat.

All Janine’s books so far have been possible because of crowdsourced funds via Kickstarter. She owes great thanks to her many patrons of the arts who love a good science fiction adventure and believe in her ability to make that happen.

Right now, get Queen & Commander as a free ebook when you sign up for Janine A. Southard’s newsletter. The newsletter will keep you current on things like her latest release dates (and fun news like when her next Kickstarter project is coming). Usually, this is once a month or so, but sometimes goes longer or shorter. Your address will never be shared, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Plus: free ebook!

You can hang out with Janine online where she’s crazy about twitter (@jani_s) and periodically updates her website with free fiction and novel inspirations (www.janinesouthard.com).

Featured image courtesy of davidd. Used with a Creative Commons license.

Authors, readers and worldbuilders for interview

If you’re one of the following, I’m looking to interview you.

  • An author of books and/or comics
  • An avid reader
  • A game designer/game master
  • A worldbuilder in general.

Interviews are posted here and promoted via my newsletter, Twitter and Facebook.

Each month I post a series of interviews around a specific topic (check below for upcoming topics). If there’s a past topic you’d like to weigh in on, or one you’d like to be interviewed about, let me know!

Upcoming topics

  • Strong female characters
  • Writing about other cultures
  • Writing about disability
  • Non-traditional visions of masculinity

Past topics

Willing to submit yourself for interrogation?
Send me your details below.

Feature image courtesy of Josh Lloyd via a Creative Commons license.

On starcats, worldbuilding and cinematic storytelling

This is a reposting of an interview I conducted as part of the launch of Leonie Roger’s second book, Frontier Resistance, and has been edited to reflect the growing list of Leonie’s published works.

Frontier Resistance by Leonie Rogers
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Starcats are the kind of animals that we all would have nagged our parents to get for Christmas. Fortunately for our parents, starcats only exist in the works of Leonie Rogers, author of the Frontier trilogy.

Set on the alien world of Frontier, where everything is deadly, the Frontier trilogy (starting with Frontier Incursion and continuing in Frontier Resistance) tells the story of Shanna and her starcats as they defend their home from the invading Garsal.

Q) How did you come up with starcats?

I’ve always loved cats. I’m a cat person. When I began to write about Frontier, I always knew that the settlers needed to have some kind of special companion animal, so of course my mind gravitated immediately to cats. The normal house cat isn’t big enough to be much help on a planet as dangerous as Frontier, so I began to imagine a larger cat, and all of a sudden the cat was 100kg, and had glow-in-the-dark markings that flickered and glowed. They’re able to vanish at will, move at extraordinary speeds, and are completely loyal to their chosen humans. They also like to sleep on the bed, just like any other cat. As a result, beds on Frontier are often built with humans and starcats in mind.

Q) As someone who shares her bed with 2 regular-sized cats, I applaud the Frontier bed-makers’ thinking.

When you started thinking about the setting for the Frontier series, what came first, the starcats or the planet’s dangerous ecology?

I think I might be a little odd. I write from the pictures inside my mind. The initial concept for Frontier came from one of those pictures. I pictured a girl scaling a cliff face, above a dangerous jungle. I immediately knew that the girl was called Shanna, and that the planet was dangerous. I always knew that the settlers would need some kind of companion animal so that they could be safer than just humans alone on an alien world. So, it’s probably dangerous ecology, followed by starcat companions.

Q) That makes two of us! I also write from pictures inside my head; I think of it as a cinematic approach to writing. How does it work for your approach to world building?

It’s nice to meet another ‘pictures in the head’ person! Sometimes people give me funny looks when I try and explain it…

It’s very much like I ‘see’ the vegetation, I ‘see’ the animals, and then I just describe what’s happening. Sometimes it means that I use way too many adjectives – I’m an excessive user of adjectives – which then have to be edited out. Having said that, I have to make sure that my world building makes sense – that the ecology actually works, and that the world is believable. In my first book I wrote a scene that involved a tornado serpent, and because of the way the serpent appeared in the story, I had to explain that they were very rare, and constantly roaming, otherwise Frontier would have been completely depopulated and also denuded of vegetation. It’s one thing to know all of that inside my head, but another to realise that the reader isn’t actually reading my mind!

I think a key element to world building is to make sure that the world you’re building hangs together. For me, practically, it means that I sometimes have to slow the pictures down a little to examine them properly, or later on, go back and edit really well so that I weed out the ‘silly pictures.’

Q) Do you do all of your world building in this fashion, or do you employ other methods as well?

Most of the time I see the images inside my mind, and then I write them down, but at the same time there’s stuff that isn’t pictures. That’s the stuff that’s the building blocks of the society I’m creating – things like socio-political stuff, governmental organisation and the odd bit of back history that motivates the characters. Every now and then I’ll even write a short story of the back history so that it solidifies itself in my mind and makes sense. I have a few of them tucked away in folders on my laptop. I like to think that the world I’ve built is almost another character.

Frontier Incursion by Leonie Rogers
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Q) I think you’ve done a really good job. In fact, as I was reading Frontier Incursion, I was struck by how the characters interacted with the environment, not just in their physical movement through it, but in how they used and recorded the things they saw. It was a little like David Attenborough meets Bear Grylls. Is this utilisation and observation of the natural environment inspired by your work with the SES (State Emergency Service)?

The answer to that is partly… I was a volunteer with the SES for a number of years in Western Australia, prior to moving to NSW, but I’ve always been fond of the bush, and particularly walking in the bush. As a teenager and young adult, my group of friends would go walking on day trips, or backpack for a week or so somewhere in the Western Australian wilderness areas. One of the most useful adages of writing is ‘Write what you know.’ The people of Frontier like their natural environment, and so do I. Even now, I walk for exercise, and love seeing the native wildlife on my wanderings. The Scouts of Frontier can navigate flawlessly and they’re very competent with climbing and abseiling – I wish I was as good as they are – and I drew on skills learnt when I was a vertical rescue team member and search team member in the SES in the Pilbara.

The Scouts of Frontier are their people’s lifeline. The things they learn keep their community safe and allow them to spread out across the planet, so they have to be keen observers and they’re extraordinarily well educated. In that way they are both Bear Grylls and David Attenborough – who I suspect would enjoy exploring Frontier!

Q) Do you have a system for organising your world building, or do you keep it all in your head?

I began with lists and a card index, but a lot of it’s now written down in the bodies of three manuscripts. As I write, I try and update my character list as I go so that I can make sure that they’re consistent. Consistent as in the same sex, with the same cat (who is also consistently one sex), and the same name spelling. I also have a reader (our eldest daughter who’s now 21) who tells me bluntly when I’ve got something wrong. As you can imagine, sometimes you can get those things mixed up, despite the fact that you invented everything! I have all kinds of files with all kinds of funny names in folders on my laptop. I’m a bit obsessive about backing it all up as you can probably imagine.

Since finishing the Frontier Trilogy I’ve begun to experiment with a program called Scrivener. It has spots to file all of those things into one document, so that with a click on the sidebar I can pull up a character sketch, a helpful link if I add one and I can label chapters/scenes if I wish. So far I’m liking it, as it has everything in one place which makes it simpler than having ten documents sitting in my task bar.

Q) You’ve finished the trilogy already?! Wow! So, since you’ve only just released book 2, Frontier Resistance, when can we expect book 3?

Well, that will mostly depend on Hague Publishing! I submitted the manuscript last week, however submissions for this year have actually closed, and they’re flat out with several other books, so I can’t imagine it’ll be particularly soon. One of the reasons I submitted it knowing all the above was because I needed to stop fiddling with the manuscript. It had been completed and compiled, it had ‘rested,’ and I’d gone through three complete edits myself, so it was time for me to leave it alone.

Authors are often picky, and we can edit ourselves into oblivion, looking to perfect that “one little thing – oh and then that other thing I just noticed! But hang on – I need to change that over there so the other thing makes better sense…and I really hate the way I worded that, so I’d better rewrite that whole chapter…” Sometimes you just have to stop, and wait for some external feedback from a completely objective other party.

Q) Sounds like excellent advice. What other advice would you give to young writers, and readers, wanting to create their own worlds (and possibly, starcats)?

The biggest thing is to keep writing. If you never try, you’ll never know if you could have done it. That seems self evident, but it’s still very true. You also need to think – a lot.

Examine your work for plagiarism. Being influenced by another writer’s style isn’t plagiarism, but blatantly reusing their work or world is. Get someone else to examine your world – sometimes we unconsciously model our world building on someone else’s world.

Remember that you are unique, and so are your stories, and somewhere inside of you, you have the special thing that’s different. For me, it’s been starcats. For you, it might be a volcano made of cheese, or a talking frog, or perhaps you’ve just invented the most amazing time travel machine using two straws and a piece of elastic BUT it has nothing ‘Timey Wimey’ about it!

When you’re world building, use concepts that you really know about. Stuff you actually do or have experienced in real life, or talk to someone who knows a lot about those things or does them. If you want to know how to shoot an arrow, go and learn or talk to your local archery club people. You need to convince your reader that what you’ve created is really real, so that when your character is experiencing something in the story, they’re seeing, feeling and experiencing the right things.

It also needs to hang together. You need to know which way in your world is north or south and you need to know how the government works and why there’s only one language (or lots of languages) and where your character fits into the world. I tend to think about this stuff a lot, mainly because readers are picky, and I know this, because I’m a picky reader.

Having said all of that, none of us are perfect. We’re often blind to our own faults as writers, and having that external set of eyes that says “Hey Leonie, did you know that that bit really sucks?” or “Leonie, did you realise that you’ve just plagiarised Tolkien?” is more valuable than you can imagine.

Q) Thanks for that Leonie. With Frontier Resistance out and the third book with your publisher, what’s next for you? Will we be seeing you at NaNoWriMo?

I’m currently experimenting with a few new characters. I have several different things in mind, all quite different and I’ve been playing around with the characters, using a few short stories, just to get them solid in my head. There’s two in particular who have interesting stories to tell, and I’m vacillating between them, trying to decide if I want to tackle ‘Plague in Space’ or ‘Aliens Invade Earth’ – with a few more twists than those themes suggest. And I also had this weird image of a girl who wakes up with a talking wombat on the foot of her bed…

I’ve never done NaNoWriMo. Is that a bad thing for a writer? And I’ll be on a blog tour with Frontier Resistance during the NaNo month, so I’m guessing perhaps not. Of course it doesn’t mean I won’t be writing – I’ll just be trying to juggle the new story/ies, a blog tour, the other job and two kids arriving home from Uni instead!

Sounds like you’re going to be busy!

Thanks Leonie, for taking the time to let me pick your brains about starcats and worldbuilding. It’s also great to meet another ‘cinematic storyteller’.

Leonie Rogers
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You can read more about Leonie, her cats and her books on her website, and connect with her on twitter (@RaeYesac) and Facebook.

Leonie’s Frontier trilogy starts with Frontier Incursion, continues in Frontier Resistance and concludes with Frontier Defiant, due for release this year. Additionally, she has short stories in May the Fourth: A Collection of Stories Across Time and Space, The Cat The Crow and The Cauldron and the upcoming Novascapes Anthology 2, due in March 2016.

Header image courtesy of clement127.