I’m excited to have author of The Golden City joining us here on Not Yet Read, Ms. J. Kathleen Cheney! Look forward to Pabkins’ review of The Golden City soon!
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One of the fun things about writing a historical fantasy novel is that you get to write in interesting time periods about interesting places…but you also get to stretch that world. My world has selkies and seriea (that’s Portuguese for a siren) and witches of several different types. As the author I get to sit down and think hard about how the world would be different due to those things. Authors slave over this, doing massive mental gymnastics to work out precisely how these things all fit together. We call it worldbuilding.
(Have you ever read one of those books where the world didn’t make any sense at all? With too little worldbuilding?)
But one of the challenges of worldbuilding is not to say too much, either. I’m not advocating secrecy or evasion. I’m just talking about boring the reader. There comes a time when readers rolls their eyes and skips on to the next scene. The author, who has worked so hard to build their world, wants to show it off. But that’s like showing someone all your vacation pictures at a party–it’s easy to go too far.
(Or read one of these novels, with way too much info being thrown at you?)
As the writer, I often have to bite my tongue and not include that neat tidbit I figured out that makes my universe work. But since I’m here, I’ll talk about selkies for a moment. (Pulls out photos.) For those who don’t know, a selkie is a magical creature who lives most of his or her life as a seal, but can remove their pelt and be a human, more or less. If you take their pelt away, they’re trapped in human form.
To flesh out the selkies who appear in my books, I studied seals, among whom the males often have harems of as many as fifty females. Having one male per fifty females seems unbalanced to me, so I had to consider what such a ratio would mean. To me it made sense for the females to be self-sufficient, so although the male appears to be in control of the harem, he wouldn’t be. They would be in control of him, which would be a reason for a male to seek out less-controlling human females at times.
In folklore, selkies also have a reputation for seductiveness, although I’ve never unearthed exactly why they’re so seductive. I reasoned that it must relate to their sealness, so my selkies always have a hint of seal musk about them. They would be attractive, naturally, and have lovely, deep eyes. And surely part of their seductiveness is pure magic.
But this raises a question about two of my characters: Erdano and Alessio. These two half-brothers are the sons of a selkie, one by the local selkie king and one by her human husband. And one thing they have in common is their desire to have a harem. Both brothers have more lovers than they can shake a stick at. So why isn’t the countryside littered with their progeny?
Well, here comes the tidbit that only I know: in my world, although a selkie female is fertile with a human male, a selkie male isn’t fertile with a human female. I’ve written three books in this setting, and I’ve never found a way to work in that little bit of information without it being an egregious bit of infodump. It’s among that stack of vacation photos that would bore the reader. (In fact, farther down in that photo stack is the question of whether a selkie male would then be fertile with a female seal. We really don’t want to go there.) But this is the sort of thing writers contemplate when working on their universe…it can be messy inside our minds.
So what are the kinds of things that you always wonder about, but your favorite writer never told you? What makes you sit and ponder after reading a book? What makes you want to write your own version?
For two years, Oriana Paredes has been a spy among the social elite of the Golden City, reporting back to her people, the sereia, sea folk banned from the city’s shores….
When her employer and only confidante decides to elope, Oriana agrees to accompany her to Paris. But before they can depart, the two women are abducted and left to drown. Trapped beneath the waves, Oriana’s heritage allows her to survive while she is forced to watch her only friend die.
Vowing vengeance, Oriana crosses paths with Duilio Ferreira—a police consultant who has been investigating the disappearance of a string of servants from the city’s wealthiest homes. Duilio also has a secret: He is a seer and his gifts have led him to Oriana.
Bound by their secrets, not trusting each other completely yet having no choice but to work together, Oriana and Duilio must expose a twisted plot of magic so dark that it could cause the very fabric of history to come undone….