This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by the author.
I don't think of myself who's naturally gifted at world building, so I cheat by doing research on real-life ancient cultures and then I throw in my own twists and turns.
For example, when I started writing my Dragonslayer series, I knew I wanted the story to take place in a medieval-type fantasy world where dragons, ghosts, and shapeshifters are real. In fact, the whole thing began as a short story, so I felt stuck with the world I'd already begun in that short story. Even though I write mostly fantasy, I want my books to feel as if they could really happen – or maybe that they already have happened in some parallel world. I've always been a big fan of Viking culture, especially because women had solid legal rights. (In my opinion, the rights Viking women had were much stronger than the rights women in the U.S. have today.) I'd already been reading about Vikings for as long as I can remember, so I just delved deeper. But I also started thinking about Beowulf and read a few different translations of it. I wondered what would happen if some of my characters had a historical connection to Beowulf. My idea was that the story of Beowulf had happened about 100 or so years before my story begins.
To get myself grounded in history, I read history books beginning with the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance. Then I dug up facts about what houses and clothing and food and other basic things were like in medieval Scandinavia. I didn't find a lot, but the little bit I did find helped. I also borrowed facts from other countries in medieval times.
But the best steps I took to build my world fall into what I refer to as “physical research.” Because my main character, Astrid, is a blacksmith, I took a course in blacksmithing. After all, how could I possibly write about a female blacksmith if I hadn't tried it myself? My experiences played a huge role in making decisions about the world I created, especially in the details of Astrid's everyday life as a blacksmith. Because she forges weapons for dragonslayers, I took courses to learn historically accurate ways to use medieval weapons at a museum. In other words, I learned the same techniques that real knights used in the Middle Ages. To my great surprise, I loved using swords! I joined the museum's sword guild and became a weapons demonstrator for several years. All of this experience helped me expand my Dragonslayer world in later books in the series.
But maybe one of the biggest things that helped me with world building is my love of travel. Whenever possible, I go to a country I've never been before. My intent is to learn. I want to understand the country, its people, its customs, its habits. My intent is to be open to whatever experiences come my way, good or bad. So when Astrid travels through different countries in the Dragonslayer world, I often drew upon my own experiences. For example, in Egypt I happened to meet a group of school children who were anxious to practice their English. After chatting with them for a while, a boy asked me, “Do you speak Arabic?” I only knew a few phrases of Arabic, so that's what I told him. Confused, he said, “Why don't you speak Arabic?” The more I thought about the boy's question, the more sense it made. Why DON'T I speak more languages? That influenced my novels in that Astrid doesn't have the knack for learning languages of other countries and often doesn't understand what other people are saying when she's outside of her own country.
So maybe if I draw so much from my own experience – whether it's physical research or life experience – maybe I'm not as much of a cheat that I think I am when it comes to world building!
About the Author:
Resa was also the TV/Movie Columnist for Realms of Fantasy magazine for 13 years and was a contributor to SCI FI magazine. She has sold over 200 articles to magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Her first novel, The Dragonslayer’s Sword, was nominated for the Nebula Award and was also a Finalist for the EPPIE Award. This medieval fantasy novel is based on a short story first published in the premiere issue of Science Fiction Age magazine and ranked 2nd in that magazine's first Readers Top Ten Poll. The Dragonslayer's Sword is Book 1 in her 4-book Dragonslayer series. Book 2, The Iron Maiden, was published last December, Book 3 was published in May, and the final book in the series is scheduled for publication in November.
Resa's standalone novel, Our Lady of the Absolute, is a fantasy/mystery/thriller about a modern-day society based on ancient Egypt. Midwest Book Review gave this book a 5-star review, calling it "a riveting fantasy, very highly recommended."
Resa lives in Massachusetts.
Resa Nelson’s links:
Resa’s website: http://www.resanelson.com
Free “mini” ebook of Dragonslayer short stories: http://www.resanelson.com/files
GoodReads giveaway: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/27323-the-stone-of-darkness
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Resa-Nelson-The-Dragonslayers-Sword/122200661871
Ebooks ($4.99 each) are available directly from Mundania Press at: http://mundania.com/author.php?author=Resa+Nelson (get a 10% discount at checkout with the coupon code MP10) Paperbacks are available from Mundania Press (use coupon code above for 10% discount), Amazon, and Barnes&Noble.
In Book 3 of the Dragonslayer series, Astrid accepts her duty and follows the winter route--until she's bitten by a dragon. Everyone knows dragon bites are poisonous and deadly, so she reluctantly accepts her impending death. In a twist of fate, she survives. Desperate for an explanation, Astrid believes she has somehow been protected by the black stone she keeps with her at all times, a stone that emerged from the sole of her foot a year ago.
Determined to find out what the stone is and what kind of powers it possesses, Astrid begins a journey that leads her to alchemists and an army of men under the rule of the powerful warrior, Mandulane, the acting lord of the Krystr army. Mandulane's mission is to spread the word of the new god Krystr, which preaches the evil intent of women and the danger they pose to all men, who are entitled to dominate the world. Rumors about this new god and army have spread, but Astrid is the first Northlander to encounter them.
Soon, she stumbles upon a secret of a far-reaching and mind-numbing plot that will impact the entire world. Astrid must find a way to spread the news of this threat and protect her people and everyone else at risk. She's convinced the answer lies inside the Stone of Darkness, and she must find a way to understand the stone and the powers she's convinced it must hold before it's too late.
Book 4 will be published in November 2012