Today I’m pleased to welcome Sandy Williams, author of the Shadow Reader series! The Shattered Dark, the second book in the series following The Shadow Reader (my review), was just released at the end of October.

Sandy is discussing making the map for her new book, which I found really interesting since I haven’t seen a lot of maps in urban fantasy books and certainly not ones as detailed as hers. I hope you enjoy it, too – and at the end, there’s also the details on a giveaway for a copy of The Shattered Dark!

Three Things I Learned About Map Making

I read big, epic fantasies before I ever picked up an urban fantasy novel. Michael Stackpole’s TALION: REVENANT and A HERO BORN are the earliest fantasies I remember reading. I stumbled across the author when I started devouring Star Wars books (I became a rabid Star Wars fan in junior high/high school), and I fell in love with the genre. I started reading all the big, fat fantasies I could get my hands on: Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, George R. R. Martin, and then, eventually, Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, and Patrick Rothfuss. I devoured them! I loved the stories, the writing, the world building. I especially thought it was cool that the authors had created worlds that were so vivid and different that they included maps in their books.

I love maps! If a fantasy didn’t include one, it always disappointed me. It didn’t feel like a real fantasy for some reason. But when I switched from reading primarily fantasy to reading urban fantasy and more romance oriented books, I forgot about maps. I stopped looking for them, and it never occurred to me that maybe one day, I could have a map in one of my books.

Then, about halfway through writing THE SHADOW READER, I realized I was getting lost. I couldn’t remember what city was where or how long it might take someone to walk from place to place. So I started sketching out a map. Whenever I mentioned a new city, mountain range, or other physical feature, I’d scribble it down.

I made that map just for me. It was on a legal size piece of paper that I folded in half and lost for months at a time. Every time I found the map, I told myself I needed to digitalize it, but it wasn’t until I was almost finished writing THE SHATTERED DARK that I looked at that piece of paper and realized that my book had a map! A crappy map, yes, but I could see it as a real map, one that I could put in the Shadow Reader novels because I’d built a really cool world. Cue: happy dance.

I asked my editor if I could possibly include a map in THE SHATTERED DARK. Maps aren’t standard in urban fantasies, so my publisher didn’t want to take on the expense. They did agree to publish it, though, if I wanted to have someone else create it. I hooked up with illustrator, Adam Watkins – check out the work on his website! – and he made my map “real.”

(click to embiggen)

Since I went outside my publishing house to create the map, I can’t comment on how the map creating process usually goes. For me, though, it was incredibly stressful!

1. Start your map the moment you write your first word. One of my mistakes was not thinking about the possibility of having a map from the moment I began the Shadow Reader novels. I basically had to reread both my books to make sure I was putting every feature where every feature needed to be. Not an easy task!

2. Keep track of features and page numbers. I ended up moving around several cities and gates on the map to make it make more sense. I then had to go through and make sure I changed those references in my manuscript (THE SHATTERED DARK, at least, since THE SHADOW READER was already published by this point; couldn’t move any of those landmarks). It would have been easier to do this if I knew exactly where I’d described the locations of the features. (Sidenote: I recently started using the writing program, Scrivener, and I think it will make keeping track of this type of thing so much simpler!)

3. Find a patient illustrator. I can’t count the number of “one last change” emails I sent to Adam Watkins. He was so incredibly patient with me! A patient illustrator is a must. Even though I’ve looked at that map a zillion times now, I still have nightmares about mislabeling things.

The map has been complete for over six months, and despite checking it almost daily, I haven’t found anything wrong with it. I’m crossing my fingers that it’s perfect! I’m excited my publisher agreed to include it, and I hope it adds some realism to McKenzie’s story.

Courtesy of Penguin, I have one copy of The Shattered Dark to give away. Sorry to everyone else, but this giveaway is US only.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen (AT) fantasybookcafe (DOT) com with the subject line “Shattered Dark.” One entry per person. This giveaway is open to those in the US, and a winner will be randomly selected. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Saturday, November 17.  The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book to).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

Update: The entry form has been removed now that the giveaway is over.