The Healer began long-hand in a notebook beside my bed about ten years ago. I wasn't finding a lot of writing time what with the day job and small children, so I scribbled a page or two each night before I went to sleep.
A few years later, we moved to a small town and I didn't have a job yet so I felt I had time to finish the manuscript. Trouble is, it's really hard to write a story when you don't know where it's set, why things are happening, who the characters really are (deep down), or where you want things to end up.
Well, it's hard for me. Some writers love that feeling of 'flying into the mist.' I like a map.
NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) was coming up. I decided I would challenge myself to finish this story even though I only had a few thousand words. Nano coaxes you to aim for fifty thousand and I knew The Healer would end up at more than a hundred. (The published book sits at one-twenty, actually.)
Another obstacle: this was my first attempt at writing a fantasy world. How does one invent a believable setting that is completely fictional?
Enter 30 Days of World Building by Stephanie Bryant. I worked through these exercises during October and loved it, especially the part where I drew my own map of my world.
Mine looked like this:
But it did the job. I finished the book and a bunch of stuff happened and I sat on it for a few years.
Because of its length, I believed the book would do best electronically. It seemed like a tough sell to the big print publishers when it was around four hundred pages so last year I sent it to small press Champagne Books. They said, "Here's a contract. Please sign it."
I did, and working with them has been wonderful. Then, however, I came to the part where I had to find ways to entice Readers to want my book. Hmm.
I looked at what made The Healer stand out from my other work. It's a Big book and not just in length. While it is very much a romance, it has a lot of mainstream fiction elements: the plot is full of political intrigue, back-stabbing jealousies, tested loyalties and grave consequences.
For some reason I really love to do that to my characters: let them make a really awful mistake and watch them crawl out of the hole they've dug themselves into. Writers are very mean people.
I try to be nice to real people and to that end, decided one way to make my story a fraction more interesting and appealing among the myriad of fantasy and historical romances out there was to provide some background material.
Thus, I prepared a Healer Reading Guide, a Healer Character Guide (contains spoilers) and enlisted the amazingly talented Rob at Cartocopia to evolve my Neanderthal chicken scratch map into a gorgeous, printable map of Kerfdom and the surrounding territories.
Check it out (If you right-click and open image in new window, you can print it):
He went even further and overlaid it on a textured background so it looks like the map that Vaun gains from his battle with the Shotes in the beginning of the book. That's the one you see at the top of this post.
I hope this enriches your reading experience and would love to hear what you think.