Zaya Feli is the author of the wonderful Stag’s Run fantasy-historical trilogy, the Icefjord duology and has an upcoming release, Wild Sky, which has dragons! Zaya is visiting today to talk about journeys in her work- both physical ones and mental ones. Plus, making world-maps!
My name is Zaya Feli. I’m an illustrator and author living and working in Denmark, writing LGBT+ genre fiction, and journeys have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
I rarely sit down with the intention of writing about a journey.
My one exception is my upcoming novel, WILD SKY, where I created an expansive world I knew I wanted my characters to explore. From the backs of dragons, they could cover large distances in little time, so I deliberately focused on creating a world that would allow my characters to, quite literally, stretch their wings.
But most often, the physical journey simply happens. I’ll finish plotting an outline and realise I’ve dragged countless lines all across my world map in the process.
the characters’ mental journeys reflect their physical ones.
In my fantasy trilogy, IRON BREAKERS, the main character, Ren, is forcefully ripped from the comfort of home within the first three chapters, and doesn’t get a chance to return until the very end of the final book. At the start of his journey, the world around him feels almost like an enemy in its own right. By the end of the third book, he’s been across the nation and back, as at home in the wild as he once was in his comfortable castle quarters.
My stories rarely take place in the real world.
Maybe it’s the result of being an illustrator as well as a writer, but one of the first things I do when I start working on a new story is to draw a world map. I create a world first, then place my characters in it. The world might change as I write, and then I’ll redraw the map, but it helps me to have markers, locations and a solid layout of geography.
I think most authors have their own writing-related quirks, and mine include keeping track of distance and time. It’s something I’ve always done, even way back when I wrote my very first original story about puppy dogs when I was 10 years old.
How long will it take the characters to get from this town to this inn? On horseback? Dragonback? How much time has passed since they left home, and how long a distance do they still need to cover? I’ll cover whole pages of notebooks with timetables and charts.
In my Norse-inspired fantasy duology, THE ICEFJORD SAGA, the story takes place in two distinct locations – one for each book.
The first book centers largely around one of the main characters’ home town, while the second book sees them leave the safety and comfort of home behind, and sail to a hostile and uncharted frozen woodland in the high north, in search of a magical runestone.
In a way, this split of locations paralleled my own life at the time: when I wrote the first book, I based the map of the characters’ home on my own home. And just like my characters, I was uprooted midway through writing the series, having to adjust to a whole new place.
And that is perhaps why physical journeys keep being such a strong, subconscious theme in the stories I write.
I haven’t gone on many holidays in my life. I’ve only ever left the country twice, and have never been outside Europe. My physical journeys are on a smaller scale, but no less impactful. Throughout my life, I’ve rarely lived in one place for more than three or four years at a time.
I started my life in the capital city of Copenhagen, moved within city borders before moving to the countryside across the island. There, I moved around even more, before making a big switch to the other end of the country two years ago. And within the coming year, I’ll move again, to a different place.
Like my characters, I’ve lost and gained things and people along the way. I’ve changed and grown as a person, not to the extend I often force my characters to, but in a way that still feels profound.
Maybe I simply enjoy writing about new places and varied scenery. Or maybe I keep searching for the various ways in which I can translate the same core idea that means so much to me: that home isn’t necessarily a place. Sometimes it’s a feeling. Or a person. Or a soft sweater on a cold day. It’s what you make of it.
You can read my own post talking about The Flowers of Time and Edie’s Journey today, at Love Bytes Reviews