I'd written five books before I finally plucked up the courage to write epic fantasy. It's always been my favourite genre so perhaps I was a little apprehensive to take it on. But come on... epic fantasy. It's a made-up world and it's epic! So what writer wouldn't want to take up the challenge?
Where to start? I decided it would begin with a map. I became fascinated with maps when spending the summer holiday with my grandmother when I was around 8 years old. She had a huge world atlas from the 1930s, and my brother and I spent hours thumbing through the pages and tracing the outlines to draw our own maps. I was captivated by the exotic names of remote lakes and mountain ranges and would invent some of my own.
So... I thought, why not start with building the world, then determine what sort of people lived in these lands, and how were they influenced by the terrain. I must have spent about a month with pencil and paper creating my world. From the start I decided it would be a large world to make it more interesting. So, from the Nordruuk border in the north to the Caerwal Mountains in the south is around 1,000 miles, and about 500 miles from east to west.
Well, who would want to read a story about a land where it takes only a day or two to cross? Although, I guess that would make for another interesting story if everyone lived on each other's doorsteps :0)
When the basic map was done, I set about thinking about the history and where to start my story. This was harder than I anticipated and spent another month fleshing out an imaginary history, and again, what sort of civilisations and races would be shaped by events.
Then onto the monsters! This was fun. I wanted to avoid dragons and as many as the usual beasts you find in fantasy. They've been done so often, and by writers better than me, so I decided to make up my own. Again, they have a history and a reason to be in my world. And what are their strengths and weaknesses. It's too easy sometimes to have an all-powerful monster that turns up and destroys everything in its path (yes, dragons I'm pointing at you!). So, I wanted my creatures to be more realistic (yes that's a contradiction) and fallible. Scary obviously, but not so powerful they can’t be defeated.
So, once I had my world, history, races, and beasts, I had to name them all. This is another task that I hadn’t really given much thought to previously. I needed names for mountains, rivers, lakes, seas, cities, ports and villages.
And then fantasy names for all the people (I could never understand why Stephen Donaldson named one of the most intriguing characters in epic fantasy, Kevin???) My names had to sound different depending on which part of the world they were from, and definitely not like the name of someone who might live next door.
And still I wasn’t ready to start writing. I’ve got this world in my mind; now where do I start the story? I had around five thousand years to play with but chose a period when the Five Realms was at its weakest after three hundred years of famine and plague – why not, eh :0)
So, there you have it. I hope I’ve made the right choices and you enjoy the series. And I always have the option of going back in time and writing another series later!
Roy is an indie author who writes the type of book he would enjoy reading himself. He writes in his spare time and would love to become a full-time author one day. He's also teacher of The Alexander Technique and athletics coach.