I’m super happy to have Canadian author Julie Czerneda here, stopping by on her A Turn of Light blog tour. I haven’t read anything by her before and I’m excited to have discovered a new author (and I hope you will be too, if you don’t know her already). She’s written a bunch of science fiction novels which I cannot wait to get my hands on. I’m currently reading A Turn of Light and hope to have a review by the end of the week. What I can say now is that I’m enjoying it immensely and have already ordered one of her other books, so that’s a good sign! I’ve invited her to talk about her creative process on world building for her fantasy novel.
Author photo by Roger Czerneda Photography
Cover art by Matt Stawicki
About the author: Many of you know Canadian author Julie E. Czerneda as the former biologist turned science fiction novelist published by DAW Books NY. You may have read her Clan Chronicles series, or be a fan of Mac or Esen from her other work. Maybe you’ve heard she’s an editor. Also true. This spring, however, prepare to meet the Julie you don’t know. After three years of work, she’s letting out her whimsical side with the release of her first fantasy novel, A Turn of Light, also from DAW. The setting, Marrowdell, is based on pioneer settlements in Ontario. There are toads. And dragons. The magic? All her own. For more about Julie’s work, including book excerpts and upcoming events, please visit www.czerneda.com.
Discovering the Edge
by Julie Czerneda
There are two worlds in A Turn of Light, experienced as these settings: Marrowdell, the pastoral valley where Jenn Nalynn lives, and the Verge, home to much stranger things. (In the interests of full disclosure, there are a couple of scenes on the road to Marrowdell, but that hardly counts, does it?)
Why two? I’ve any number of reasons, but at first it was simply to have a source for anything I chose to add to Marrowdell that was unusual. The story I envisioned would have magic seething through the fabric, some obvious, much not. I’ve described the type of magic I like in another post, but suffice to say it’s not something you carry along with your bedroll and pots. It’s there already, if you’ve the eyes to see it.
When I built my as-yet unnamed landscape (as a 1 cm : 20 m scale model), I began with contours for the valley and a rough sketch of the village. In the first photo below, you can see how I made the beginnings of hills to either side.
At this point, I literally had a real world taking shape in my hands, but as I shaped it, my thoughts were about the magical realm. How did they touch? Was there a physical connection? If so, what history might be in view, waiting to be understood by another light? After all, one of the key blocks to Turn was that fantasy elements were revealed at sunset.
I pondered as I carved cliffs where cliffs might be expected, digging and gouging to create the illusion of scared and shattered stone. In other places, in line with those scars, I smoothed instead. Polished. Hinted. For those places, I suddenly decided, weren’t stone or earth.
They would be bone.
Bone implies, doesn’t it? As ruins suggest a once-complete construction, with purpose and inhabitants, so bone suggests both life and life’s end. Here I had bone of massive, unusual shape, rising from the ground like fingers. There, cliffs, scarred as if something immense and untamed had tried to claw its way out of the valley. I gave myself shivers even as I experimented with paint suited to what were now, in my mind, The Bone Hills.
(The name Marrowdell came second, you see. A lovely, peaceful place, with a name linked to those bones.)
Having created something more tangible than I’d initially imagined led to a great deal more. Something had reached into Marrowdell and still had a hold there. Which meant, to my way of thinking, that the magical realm was held too. But not all of it, just as it wasn’t all of the “real” world of my story. I now envisioned a zone along which where immense forces met and strained. A seam.
In the “real” world, in Jenn Nalynn’s world, places like Marrowdell were on that edge. In the world where dragons roared, the Verge, a place of wild magic, had formed. What I liked best about this notion? That both worlds were affected, with most of their area normal or less magical, but with this ribbon of tension. An edge along which marvels could happen, leaking from one world to the next. As likely, where deadly convulsions could twist and destroy.
I’d hoped my landscape would become a memorable character in its own right, and admittedly went to extremes in my world-building for that goal. Imagine my delight when I found it had become a foundation to the plot as well. Two worlds. One perilous edge. Held together by … what?
Oh my. Shivers indeed!
Thanks, Julie, for this amazing guest post!