My Bookish Ways

Guest Post: Kameron Hurley on worldbuilding and The Mirror Empire

THE MIRROR EMPIRE came out last month, and since worldbuilding is such an important part of this kind of novel, Kameron Hurley was kind enough to break her process down for us and give us a glimpse of what went into creating something as rich and complete as Raisa. Please give her a warm welcome, and be sure to visit Kameron’s website for all of her blog tour stops!

Deconstructing Raisa: How I Built the World of The Mirror Empire
by Kameron Hurley

Those familiar with my fiction – from the blasted, post-apocalyptic, bug-infested cities of God’s War to the toxic, flesh-eating plant jungles of The Mirror Empire – know that I take a great delight in building new and different worlds. I get asked a lot how I do it. The reality is that you build a world once piece, one image, one creature, one mountain, at a time. In the case of the world of The Mirror Empire, called, Raisa, the process of building it actually happened over many years. It’s a geographic sandbox I’ve been playing in since I was twelve, growing and evolving in complexity as I got older.

Here are the major things I considered when putting Raisa together.


Mountains and rivers and tectonic magical events, oh my! Raisa started out with a small map of a very small country that I now call Tordin. Tordin gets only a passing reference in The Mirror Empire, but we get more face-time there later. I set a bunch of short fiction in Tordin in my teens, which began to become book length work as I got older. As the stories grew, so too did the map – Aaldia, Dorinah and Dhai joined Tordin on the little thumbprint of an island that I decided resided off the coast of a far larger, colder continent.

Once I had the island down where the main events took place, I sketched out the continent of Saiduan, all tundra and windswept ice fields and colorful port cities. Once I had one major continent I wanted to see what the rest looked like. Hrollief, the larger southern continent, gets a shout-out in the book, but it’s likely we won’t see the eastern half of the world and its islands and continents in this series. That’s fine. Always leave room for more.

Geography is important to have down rather quickly. In my God’s War books, the contaminated desert itself is as much a character as my protagonists. Geography can provide literal obstacles for protagonists, from cliffs and rivers to mountains and deserts. But most importantly, environments also have a big impact on cultures. How resource-rich they are will play a part in the types of societies that are built in those areas. While most fantasy writers start with geography, it’s fascinating to me how few spend as much time on creating the cultures that inhabit that geography. But we’ll get there.

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Your weekly Kindle deal round up, and they’re all under $5!

Here I am again, with your TBR busting weekend round-up! Suspense, SFF, fiction, it’s all here and you’re sure to find something to sink your teeth into over the weekend, all under $5!

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A chat with Caragh O’Brien, author of The Vault of Dreamers, and a giveaway!

VaultDreams BlogTour Banner (2)

THE VAULT OF DREAMERS goes on sale Sept. 16th, and Caragh O’Brien stopped by to answer a few questions about the book! We’ve also got a copy of the book to give away to one lucky winner (US only), so be sure to fill out the widget and I’ll pick a winner on Sept. 19th!

CaraghO'Brien(c)TomyO'Brien (2)Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a bit about THE VAULT OF DREAMERS and what inspired you to write it?
Thanks, Kristin! And thanks for having me by My Bookish Ways. The Vault of Dreamers takes place at a very unusual arts school which doubles as the set for a reality TV show, where each student is the star of his or her own feed. Cameras are everywhere, and they’re always on. At night, students are compelled to sleep for 12 hours, ostensibly to make them more creative, but when a first year student, Rosie Sinclair, skips her pill, she discovers the school doctor tending one of the sleeping girls in a sinister way. Nobody’s dreams are safe. The Vault of Dreamers is a novel of ideas, about dreams and art, and I really don’t know anything else like it. I was inspired by a combination of factors, especially the creative students I used to teach, reality TV shows, the elusive links between dreams and inspiration.

Why do you think readers will connect with Rosie Sinclair?
Hopefully, some readers will be drawn to the creative, imaginative way that Rosie thinks. She’s grown up in a gritty boxcar community with few luxuries, and she wants to be a filmmaker. One of her quirks is that she can see the world as if through a moving camera lens. She’s very honest and brave, but she isn’t perfect, either. Trying to figure out how art and manipulation work at the Forge School is a challenge for her.

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Interview: Tawni O’Dell, author of One of Us

Please welcome Tawni O’Dell to the blog! Her brand new book, ONE OF US, was out in August, and she kindly stopped by to answer a few of my questions!

Photo by John Mark Rafacz

Photo by John Mark Rafacz

Will you tell us a bit about your new book, ONE OF US, and what inspired you to write it?
One of Us is about Dr. Sheridan Doyle, a brilliant, successful forensic psychologist on the surface but beneath his polished, pedantic façade he’s still Danny Doyle, the awkward, bullied, bookish boy from a coal mining family plagued by tragedy including an ancestor’s execution as part of a band of rebellious Irish miners and his mentally ill mother’s incarceration for killing his infant sister. He returns to his hometown to visit his ailing grandfather and while there discovers a body near the infamous Lost Creek gallows. The victim has a mysterious tie to the coal baron who was responsible for the deaths of the miners more than a hundred years ago and whose descendants still control the area. Danny joins forces with a local police detective he’s known since his youth when another body is found and as he begins to close in on the killer’s identity, he also discovers shattering truths about himself, his family, and the town’s legacy of violence.

As with all my novels, what inspired me to write One of Us was the appearance of a character in my head, in this case Danny Doyle, who had a story to tell and I knew I had to tell it if I wanted to get him out of my head. In this particular novel, I was also inspired by the very real group of Irish coal miners living in Pennsylvania during the late 19th century known as the Mollie Maguires. Their story is one I’ve been fascinated by since I was a child and I always knew I’d put a fictionalized version of them in a novel someday. I just had to wait for the right novel.

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Cover Reveal: The Younger Gods by Michael R. Underwood

Micheal R. Underwood’s brand new book, THE YOUNGER GODS, will be out on the 13th from Pocket Star, and I’m happy to share the cover with you! Enjoy!

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The first in a new series from the author of Geekomancy (pop culture urban fantasy) and Shield and Crocus (New Weird superhero fantasy)

Jacob Greene was a sweet boy raised by a loving, tight-knit family…of cultists. He always obeyed, and was so trusted by them that he was the one they sent out on their monthly supply run (food, medicine, pig fetuses, etc.).

Betrayed by his family, Jacob flees the family’s sequestered compound and enters the true unknown: college in New York City. It’s a very foreign place, the normal world and St. Mark’s University. But Jacob’s looking for a purpose in life, a way to understand people, and a future that breaks from his less-than-perfect past. However, when his estranged sister arrives in town to kick off the apocalypse, Jacob realizes that if he doesn’t gather allies and stop the family’s prophecy of destruction from coming true, nobody else will…

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Giveaway: The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire

I have an extra galley of THE WINTER LONG by Seanan McGuire to give away to one lucky US winner, so check out the book (here’s my review), fill out the widget and I’ll pick a winner on 9/17. Good luck!

Toby thought she understood her own past; she thought she knew the score.

She was wrong.

It’s time to learn the truth.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

stationelevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf, Sept 9th, 2014)-Station Eleven takes place, mostly, in Year Twenty, which is, appropriately, 20 years after 99% of the world’s population is obliterated by a swift killer called the Georgia Flu. The comment is made by one character that it’s kind of a lovely name (after the Georgia of Eurasia, it’s origin), for something that kills so quickly and ruthlessly, roughly 48 hours after infection. The Symphony, a traveling troupe of musicians and Shakespearean actors, is the focus, most prominently Kirsten Raymonde, who was very small when the Flu hit during a production of King Lear,which she was performing in, alongside Arthur Leander, a very famous actor in his 50s that would not die of the flu that night, but of a heart attack, on stage. Kirsten will never forget that night, or Arthur Leander, and she still carries with her a few comics he gave her that day, entitled Station Eleven.

Station Eleven is an apocalyptic novel, but although it takes place pre and post-apocalypse, that’s not what the real story is about. While there’s much to be mined from how humans would survive after such a devastation, and the author does explore this, she focuses on a small group of people whose lives have resonated with one another in some way, be it intimate or fleeting, and of course, their connection to Arthur Leander. As we follow the Symphony in Year 20, they’re traveling from settlement to settlement and performing for those that remain, but they also seek two of their troupe members, and during this search, the narrative branches out to explore Arthur’s life before the fall, a portrait of a sensitive man loved by so many but unable to become settled in his own life, his regrets, his loves, and ultimately, his heartbreak. Meanwhile, the Symphony comes across evidence of a man that seeks to serve his own dark agenda, and who calls himself a prophet. The author makes it pretty obvious that eventually there will be a reckoning with the prophet, but it may not be what you think.

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Catching up with David Barnett, author of Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon (and a giveaway!)

Please welcome David Barnett back to the blog! GIDEON SMITH AND THE BRASS DRAGON, the newest installment in his Gideon Smith series, will be out next week, and he kindly stopped by to answer a few questions about it, and more!

Also, we’ve got 2 copies to give away to 2 US/Canadian winners, so be sure to fill out the widget at the end of the post, and I’ll pick a winner on 9/17.

davidbarnettGideon Smith and the Brass Dragon, the followup to Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, is out this month! Will you tell us a bit about what Gideon and his crew are up to in this installment?
Well, at the end of Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl (without spoiling it too much for those who haven’t read it yet…) Gideon had been promoted from “boy from nowhere” to “Hero of the Empire”, following the shocking events in the skies over London. It’s been a pretty steep learning curve for him, and he’s had to undergo some serious military training. He’s moved into the former residence of Captain Lucian Trigger and Dr John Reed in Mayfair, with Mrs Cadwallader looking after him. Oh, and Aloysius Bent, now Gideon’s official chronicler, has moved in with him! What Gideon really wants to do, though, is get after Maria and the brass dragon Apep, who were hijacked at the end of book one. And that’s what he does… his adventure takes him to America, which is somewhat different to the America we know. The British still control much of the east, a breakaway Japanese faction has established a progressive meiji on the West Coast, and the Spanish control what we know as Mexico. But the biggest problem for Gideon and Co is Thaddeus Pinch, the despotic, steam-powered cyborg who rules Steamtown (formerly San Antonio). And it looks like he has the dragon… Over the course of it, all Gideon learns a lot about his world, and himself. And his feelings for Maria the mechanical girl…

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Interview: Helen Giltrow, author of The Distance

Helen Giltrow’s debut novel, THE DISTANCE, will be out tomorrow, and she kindly stopped by to answer a few of my questions about it, and more! Please give her a warm welcome!

helengiltrowWill you tell us a bit about your new book, The Distance, and what inspired you to write it?
The book’s central character is a woman who calls herself Karla. For years she sold information to criminals, from behind a façade of wealthy respectability. Now she’s trying to distance herself from that past – but she’s plunged back into her old world when a former client, professional killer Johanssen, approaches her. He’s been tasked with what looks like a revenge hit on an inmate within an experimental prison, and to get in, he needs her help. She knows he shouldn’t take the job. She also knows he will, and so to keep him safe, she agrees. Then she discovers his alleged target doesn’t appear to exist …

The book began life – a long, long time ago – with the character of the inmate: someone who’d been caught up in terrible events and was now trying to live with a crippling burden of guilt. But I knew I didn’t want to write from that character’s viewpoint. I’d been messing around with various options when I suddenly realized: the person to tell their story would be the man sent to kill them.

So originally the story was going to be told exclusively in Johanssen’s viewpoint. Karla appeared in the third chapter, as an incidental figure whom he approached for information. But from the moment she opened her penthouse apartment’s door to him she was fully formed as a character – and completely in charge of the situation. I loved writing her. Eventually she just took over.

Charlotte/Karla is a very intriguing protagonist. Why do you think readers will root for her?
Karla’s a professional criminal who doesn’t agonize about the moral aspects of what she does. But she’s also the kind of criminal you’d want as a friend: fiercely loyal, and with a set of boundaries that she will not cross.

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Blightborn (The Heartland Trilogy #2) by Chuck Wendig

blightbornBlightborn by Chuck Wendig (Skyscape, July 2014)-WARNING: If you haven’t read Under the Empyrean Sky, you may want to skip this review, since contains inevitable spoilers (although not much more than you can read in the back cover copy for Blightborn) for Under the Empyrean Sky. You’ve been warned!

In Under the Empyrean Sky, we were introduced to the homespun, very earthy realities of the Heartland, a landscape firmly under the Empyrean’s thumb, or so we thought. In Blightborn, we’re simultaneously immersed in the glittering, very often debauched skyscape of the Ormond Sterling Saranyu, a flotilla of great wealth and dark desires. Cael McAvoy is determined to get Gwennie back, but to do that, he’s got to hitch a ride on the flotilla somehow, and that’s not going to be easy. He’s also got his Obligated, Wanda, on his tail, along with Boyland (Gwennie’s Obligated), who genuinely loves Gwennie and doesn’t plan on letting Cael get to her. Meanwhile, Gwennie is mucking Pegasus stalls under the eye of Balastair Harrington, a geneticist tasked with creating the perfect Pegasus for the Empyrean. Winning the Lottery didn’t yield the riches promised to Gwennie and her family, and all Gwennie cares about is rescuing her family and getting off the Empyrean flotilla. However, rebellion is brewing, in the air and on the ground, and it will prove to throw everyone’s best laid plans into a whirlwind of violence and betrayel.

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