Hi guys! As a Snowy Wings Publishing Snow Angel, I am happy to celebrate with you the release of Lauren Jankowski’s The Dwelling of Ekhidna! To celebrate it, I am happy to host Lauren here on how she built the Meadows, the Home of the Guardians! Enjoy!
The Dwelling of Ekhidna (Book Five of The Shape Shifter Chronicles) by Lauren Jankowski
The home of the guardians, the Meadows, has always been a place of peace and safety, untouched by the ongoing war against the Grenich Corporation. But that could only last so long.
During the guardians’ autumn celebration, a bomb goes off, shattering the Meadows tranquility. In the aftermath of a tragedy, a deadly virus is released that afflicts only healers. The only cure to the virus is hidden in the Seelie Court, in a location that only one knows: Eris, a legendary trickster, locked away in the dungeons of the Pearl Castle for her crimes against the peoples of Earth. When the Four are forced into a temporary alliance with the unpredictable Eris, their journey becomes more perilous than anyone expected.
Lauren Jankowski has been an avid reader for most of her life. She holds a B.A. in Women and Genders Studies from Beloit College. She has been writing fiction since high school, when she noticed a lack of strong women in the popular genre books. Also known for her activism for asexual visibility, she has taught a course on writing asexual characters for the “Writing the Others” series. She founded Asexual Artists
Through Snowy Wings Publishing, Lauren is the author of The Shape Shifter Chronicles (The Dwelling of Ekhidna, 2017; and to be re-released through SWP in 2017, Sere From the Green, Through Storm and Night, From the Ashes and Haunted by the Keres), a NA urban fantasy series drawing from ancient mythology.
Building the Meadows, the Home of the Guardians
A major part of fantasy is creating new and fascinating worlds for readers to explore and lose themselves in. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of speculative fiction, but it can also be maddening. This was something I learned early on when I first started writing my series, The Shape Shifter Chronicles.
In the series, there’s a race of beings called the Guardians. Me, being the massive myth nerd I am, I knew I wanted to draw from various mythologies to create the Guardians, who are very similar to deities you come across in different myths. They’re not quite as vengeful and much, much more hands off than the gods we all know and love. However, I knew they needed to be in their own world. They simply wouldn’t go walking about Earth: they love and protect the Earth, but it isn’t their home.
The Meadows proved to be one of the most difficult settings to write. Located in its own sort of dimension, the Meadows can only be reached by Appearing (a skill possessed by all guardians and a few protector families). That took care of the whole, “Why don’t the villains just attack the guardians” quandary I ran into at first.
The guardians exist to make sure everything on Earth runs smoothly (including emotions: there are emotion guardians to make sure no emotion gets completely out of control), so the two places are closely linked. Knowing this, I made Earth kind of a baseline for things like physics in the Meadows. The environments are quite similar, though there’s no pollution in the Meadows because they don’t use a lot of the technology that Earth requires.
When I first started writing about the Meadows, I had a rough idea of what their world looked like (and that was how I came up with the name) and then I started thinking about the various lands there needed to be: the Royals (land of the head guardians, but also the healers, the librarians, and the emotion guardians), Water (all bodies of water), Nature (nature and the weather. The gem guardians caves would be there and the guardian smiths), Day, Night, and Fire. Then I started thinking about how guardians would communicate with each other (through messengers, who delivered handwritten notes because they took a vow of silence). But how would a fire guardian visit a water guardian? The first guardians made a trail that winds throughout all the lands, the Argentine Path, which guardians can safely travel on and avoid contact with elements they prefer not to physically touch (what a guardian watches over is part of their identity, so fire guardians tend to be uneasy near water). I would basically come up with a question and then figure out an answer to it, but not always an obvious one. When figuring out solutions, I had to think like a guardian.
What gave me the most trouble, and continues to give me a lot of trouble, is the issue of time. Because the Meadows is slightly older than the Earth, but there was a cataclysmic event in their history that makes their generations slightly off. When I’m not writing my series, I’m often working on a massive project that I have been working on for as long as I’ve been writing novels: a complete history of the Meadows, both told from the shape shifters point of view and the guardians. If I ever wind up publishing it, it will likely be split because, like all cultures, the story differs depending on who tells it.
This history project is what actually helps keep me on track and helps me build the world that is the Meadows (as well as the other worlds that are revealed in book four). Storytelling is important to cultures: how did we come into being? Why are we here? Even beings as powerful as the guardians ask these questions. And I think that’s what fascinates me about them: they’re immortal, possess great power, and yet they still cherish stories. Even the mythical beings have myths and stories.
The Meadows is a land of nature and one of stories. The guardians live in a peaceful world, though they do still have personal squabbles and tiffs. The one thing they all have in common is they recognize the power of stories. Their culture is one built on stories passed down from generation to generation.
There’s a lot of advice about world building out there, much of it worth a read. My best advice is look at the stories your characters tell. Why do they tell those stories? How do they tell those stories? What do those stories say about your characters and cultures they are part of? Look up old fairytales and myths, study them, figure out what they’re actually saying about the world. Then try creating a mythos for the characters you’re writing. You’d be very surprised just how much insight you get about your characters and the world they inhabit.
Thank you for guest posting for us, Lauren! And congrats on your newest book! Go order Lauren’s newest book, The Dwelling of Ekhidna, here on Smashwords!