I live in the mountains of New York State where the closest store requires a drive through the breathtaking Autumn displays of New England. We have maple festivals in the spring and apple fests in the fall and cruel winters as cold as Norway that follow our sweltering, humid summers. I love New York! I really do.
While writing Dolor and Shadow, I realized, suddenly…after two years…that I couldn’t visualize Kallan’s Norway. If you are a writer, you know how much of a problem that is. I need to stop for a moment to say this about Norway. Unlike most areas of Europe, especially England, where the only thing separating one village from the next was a road or a forest, Norway was segregated — completely cut off from each village by the mountains. For centuries, prior to 793 C.E. when the Norsemen first invaded Ireland, entire villages were isolated and developed into petty kingdoms. It wasn’t until Harald Fairhair launched a campaign and united these petty kingdoms under one crown, the Kingdom of Norway. The year was 872 C.E. From there, Fairhair passed on the rule of each former petty kingdom to his sons. I discuss their story in detail in Dolor and Shadow so will stop the history lesson here.
When I began studying the region where Kallan and Rune are lost, I realized very quickly that their world is real. Jotunheim is the mountain range in central Norway! The country’s two highest peeks are there. Alfheim is real. It is the region known as Bahuslan in Sweden. You know the spot. It’s where Beowulf defeated Grendel. This is where my research became cool! Any reader can trace a line on any map of Norway to outline Kallan’s journey. Here’s where the research became hard. To this day, I haven’t stepped a single foot across the sea, let alone to Norway. Obviously, this posed a real problem. How was I going to depict the road, the trees, the sea, the mountains, the climate, the Northern Lights without ever stepping foot in Norway?
Google! What else? I began with Google Maps and spent hours…HOURS…days…weeks…months pouring over Norway’s E6 (That’s their main highway that starts in Oslo and goes north to Troms). I walked Norway’s coastline with Steve, Google’s little yellow guy. I went to Olaf Tryggvason Square. I visited Denmark where the stones of Harald Bluetooth still stand. I translated the Old Norse you can see on the Jelling Stones. Then I went to Flickr and YouTube. I watched days worth of footage on boar hunting, grouse hunting, and bear hunting. I studied the Norwegian tundra of the Dovrefjell where the oxen and reindeer migrate. I found the Sami.
I returned to Google maps where I traced Kallan’s journey. I calculated the time it would take her to walk the length of Norway from the Jotunheim Mountains north to Trondheim (Nidaros, in the book) and down through the ancient realms called Fylkes. Now…for the real challenge.
I can’t draw. Not even a little bit. One of my persistent worries about writing a fantasy was the map. To make matters worse, I couldn’t get a straight answer from anyone when I asked, “Is the fantasy writer responsible for supplying their own maps?” When I asked fellow writers in forums, the only answers I ever seemed to get back was, “You don’t need maps” or “I hate maps”.
Well I love a good fantasy map!
If you ever want to treat yourself, take a look at the artwork in Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings. Beautiful work! After half a year in research on the subject, I went out on a limb and made my own.
(I have since learned that some publishers have a staff of illustrators who work with the author to create a professional map. If you know someone who is able and willing to supply their time and skills, you can bring in someone of your own. Thanks, Michael!)
In the meantime, here are my crappy maps. Yes! it’s Norway…kind of. I used paint and Microsoft office 2010 and spent days toggling the changes between the two programs until I had the results seen below.