search and learn
Writing a book set in another time and place often means a lot of research. Some writers of the genre like to invent amazing magical beings and things, some like to progress current inventions into the future, and some like to draw from the past. The worlds that I write about are what I like to call jigsaw worlds. I like them to be believable, real seeming worlds, so I do a lot of research about plants and foods and structures of societies. I research religion, politics, crafts and clothing and all manner of other things.
Learning about the myriad different ways in which the world works is fascinating to me. My first degree was in anthropology, and my knowledge and interest in other cultures has been a constant in my life. I really enjoy learning about how people all over the world and in different times have organised themselves, what stories they have learned from and how they explain their place in the world. Inventing my own social systems based in my own imagined lands is very satisfying.
Consequently I research a lot of different subjects as I go through my planning for my new worlds. Anyone looking at my search history online might be quite confused by the breadth of subjects! Everything from bees to plants to drugs to desert architecture to reedboats to a hypogeum. I've researched ways of cooking food and brewing coffee, how long it takes for a body to turn to burn when buried in hot sand, metallic elements that are liquid at low temperatures, parchments and scrolls and fermenting mead. They don't all go into my writing, but they definitely all inform my writing.
Along with the seaching and the learning, I am also planning out the geography of the places I write about; what sort of landscapes they might have and how their climate might impact on what grows there. I need to consider what the terrain will be like and how long it might take for a person to get from A to B on foot, or on a horse or a boat. In the book I am writing at the moment, some of the action takes place in a group of islands off the Kashiqi coast, so my research has led me into examining boats and sailing practices from different cultures in time and place. Its also made me look at what sorts of things could be produced on islands and what sorts of things they might wish to trade for. I also draw out the maps for the places in my books so they can be better imagined.
All the research should make it so that the worlds I describe in my books feel natural and the different elements fit together well. At the beginning of this piece, I said I called them jigsaw worlds. When you ar writing a series, as I am, it means that you have even more pieces to fit in to the jigsaw with each book of the series. Its as if a 500 piece jigsaw is expanded to a 1000 piece jigsaw and so on, and each time the peices fit together in a slightly different or more illuminating way. Just like Talla in the books, my mind likes to untangle things and sort them out so they are straight in my mind, just like sorting out Gladia's tangled threads!
I hope that you enjoy the worlds that I imagine, and that they leave you with questions as well as answers!