I’m not one of those writers who spends time writing out a huge bible for their world. Some do this, for sure, devoting intensive efforts to detailing the history, the culture and so forth. I find that writers who come to fantasy via role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons tend to approach world-building this way. Very fun and interesting way to do it!
And so not me.
I’m a write-for-discovery type. That means that I discover the world as I ride around in my characters’ heads and see it as they do. It might not be the ideal process, but it’s mine. One thing I’ve learned about being a writer is knowing your process and owning it, whether you like it or not.
As a result of this, while I could draw a map of The Twelve Kingdoms – yes, I drew the one in the front of the books – I don’t know a whole lot about the various kingdoms until one of my characters thinks about it or goes there. Thus it was really fun to write Ursula’s book, THE TALON OF THE HAWK, because she’d studied and traveled through the kingdoms much more than her sisters had.
Through Ursula, I discovered quite a bit more about Aerron, with its desert creatures—including their version of chameleons and big cats. She’s been to Elcinea, with their soft sands and tranquil, warm sea and up to Branli, which is partly like the Pacific Northwest in the US – lots of rain – but gets very cold and wintery the closer you get to the Northern Wastes.
I’m working on book four, THE PAGES OF THE MIND, which is Dafne’s book. A lot more is happening in Elcinea and Dafne will be going on a long journey, so I’ll get to see even more. I think she’ll travel down the Danu River, which is a major trade thoroughfare through The Twelve. Her perspective is more of the lay person’s, as she’s not royalty and therefore is less buffered from the world.
In general, I see the Twelve Kingdoms (Thirteen, if you count Annfwn, too, which we should) as similar to both Europe and the US. The culture and people of each kingdom vary widely depending on geography – as Finland is so different from Turkey – and the climate varies as much as Alaska is different from the Florida keys.
It’s probably no coincidence (though I didn’t plan it that way) that most of the stories take place in and around the world’s equivalent of The Front Range in the US, where I’ve lived all my life. That region encompasses the eastern side of the long spine of the Rocky Mountains. I grew up in Denver, Colorado, lived in Laramie, Wyoming for over twenty years, and have been in Santa Fe, New Mexico for nearly six years. Very possibly if you overlaid a map of the front range, putting Denver at Ordnung, you would see strong parallels. I haven’t done this, but now that I think about it....
The big difference is that I added oceans! I love where I live, but it would be nice to have an ocean closer. Now in my fictional world, I do.
Do you have questions about any of the kingdoms? Ask me about them in the comments and I’ll tell you what I know!
*previously published on Book Girl in 2015*
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