I don’t put maps in my books for a couple of reasons. One is purely practical – they’re expensive if they’re any good. The other is kind of philosophical – I think that if the book is well written and compelling that readers won’t get hung up on details of geography. I hope I’ve managed to do that in these books (and others). Geography is fun, but it’s not the story.
That said, I do tend to make maps for myself to use as a reference while I write. Here’s what’s been stuck to the metal part of my writing desk for the past six years, a map of the planet Oiwa:
The bag at the bottom is the collection of role playing dice I used to create the map. I rolled them out and traced around them to create continents and islands, then filled in the terrain. Some of it matched the story idea I was developing, but a lot of it didn’t and impacted things as they moved along.
Essentially, Oiwa boils down into three sectors, two in the north and one in the south. The one on the right is the Unari Empire, which is where most of the action of these books take place. Cye is just off the east coast of that north/south inlet at the bottom. For Widows of the Empire I wrote some about the areas called the Unaru (the very southern part, south of that big mountain range) and the Knuria (most of what’s north of those mountains). The top left contains the nations of the Western Alliance, which have mostly featured as an off-screen force in the books (from the “sometimes you build stuff for your world you can’t use” file). Aton actually goes there in a job that takes place off screen between the first two books.
To the south are the correctly, if unspectacularly named, Southern Islands, which covers everything on the bottom half of the map. They played a larger part in Widows of the Empire and do again in Heroes. As with the Western Alliance I’ve got a whole lot of lore in my head for how the various parts of the Southern Islands fit together politically and culturally, but there was never a good place for it all to go in these books. Aton spends time there in Widows and there’s action there in Heroes, too, but it’s mostly on ships and so we only get a glimpse of some of the Islander culture.
One of the cool things about writing stories that take place in other worlds is the freedom to create whatever kind of world that you want. With that comes a responsibility to bring readers into it in such a way that it feels real and understandable. Building Oiwa, including its history, has been a blast. I hope it was worth coming along for the ride.
Heroes of the Empire – Out June 7. Preorders available here for Kindle and here for other ebook formats.