Eirie: eerie and fantastic … the art (or not) of world-building

I am well into the writing of the fourth novel of the world of Eirie.  One of the hardest things has been to create a world that many would believe in, would be able to relate to. My image of my world was always inside my head, made up of the choicest of views and places that I had visited through the years.  But somehow I had to place it on paper and have you believe that you could see what I see, survive there if you had to.

The difference between my world and our world is that Eirie is overlaid, underlaid and woven through with the Other world.  At all times and in each of the provinces, Others; enchanted beings like the Færan or Siofra, hobs and merrows (and a thousand others from legends of our own world); merge and mingle, causing malicious mayhem before retreating to their secret places within Eirie.  Till now the story of Eirie has shown little of the Other worlds, as though Others dragged at my pen for fear of what I might say.  But in the fifth novel, I am fairly sure we shall be meeting a cartographer who shall cross through the cloak that veils those Other worlds and we shall see him taking his chances.

Till now my world-building has shown little geo-politics, something critics have found wanting.  My comment is this: this is a story about characters, about what happens to those characters.  The arc that the characters follow is never driven by some nebulous Venichese Doge’s political ambition or the Baron of Pymm’s mild mannered management of his archipelago, but by interaction with Others who help and hinder them in their journey.  To be frank, life goes on for my characters in one way or another, whether the Doge, the Baron, His Bright Light in the Raj or the Emperor of Han sneezes, scratches himself or passes a law.  Such detail which works for many, doesn’t work for me and I prefer not to drag my own  characters through it.

What I love about world-building is the freedom to create rivers, forests, mountain ranges, villages, oceans, even celestial byways and to name them the way I wish.  I use names that exist, some that might resonate and be familiar.  But I never make up names.  Again it’s something that works for others but ill-fits me.  Tolkein is an icon and he managed it par excellence.  Why would I even try?  My names are now synonomous with my world, with a toe in the world of fantasy and reality.  The most recent editorial report describes the path I’ve taken as magical realism and I’m immensely happy with that.  Never have two words meant such a lot.

I admire the many fantasy worlds created by the most highly regarded of our fantasy writers but the ones I love the best come from my childhood, from legend told by heavens knows how many mouths.  Tales from the riverbank or from the willows. From the wild oceans.  From soaring minarets and ochre deserts.  They have names I know, that are familiar, that may even exist .  We all write differently, we all have different imaginations.  This is just one writer’s view of a world . . .