I’m guessing half of you readers opened up the first Sufferborn book and said, “Look, a map,” and then you flipped on to the story without paying any more attention (I’m that kind of reader too ;)), and the other half said, “Uhg! What is she thinking with this map? Doesn’t she know that maps in fantasy novels should be perfect with clear and present routes going this way, that way, and every way? I need to be able to plan my trip across Kaihals! Why can’t I see the windows on the hundreds of tiny houses?” Well, the answer to that question is I’m not thinking about it.
Though I like to tout my love of making art, I am not a cartographer. Is a cartographer even an artist? Or some kind of engineer/designer/mathematical-architect type illustrator? I don’t know. And I wouldn’t know, because I’m an oil painter, I hate math, and I don’t like thinking in incredibly technical ways. I think in enough technical ways when planning out my epic fantasy series and publishing it. By the time I get out of revision and into the design aspect of publishing a book, my brain is coming out of the deep fryer: greasy, sluggish, thickly breaded like takoyaki (why do I do this to myself DX?), and then it’s time to get back into the emotional, artsy, frolicking in the blissful, flowery, fields of imagination and creativity phase: the illustrations. Except there’s that darn map.
Perhaps crafting a map is a good idea when it comes to long-term series development. In that case it doesn’t have to be pretty, because I’d be using it and adding to it over the years, going back to it, and making sure I’m not tripping over the “facts” established throughout the multiple series I’m planning for this world. And this is where I’m coming to the number one factor in my decision.
Even though I had spent twenty years developing the Sufferborn world before publishing book 1, it’s still very much in development. Lots of things change as you make your way through creation mode. Once it’s published, it’s set in stone. Therefore, what I have written in Sufferborn and Unwilling Deity cannot be changed. Everything outside of the places we’ve visited in those books (even right there outside the surrounding wall of Alkeer) is still up in the air. I can literally fill anything into those blank areas. Those blank areas will remain for an indefinite amount of time, waiting to be filled, as I continue on to future books/series. So, I would rather not publish a claim I might wish to change later. Does that make sense?
If you go back and look in book 1, you’ll see the Darklands side of the map empty. Although I definitely knew what was up there at that point, I chose not to reveal it, because it still wasn’t too late to change something if needed.
The other reason not to bother with a map is that this is really not my forte in art. We all have media we love, media we hate, media we dabble in, and media that just didn’t stick, and the ink pen medium is one of the latter, along with the act of drawing the certain lines and symbols that make a map. I am not good at it, but it also doesn’t draw me (no pun intended), so there’s also no real practice under my belt or an interest in practicing.
In short, map making isn’t for me.
“But J.C., don’t you think you should hire someone to do the map?”
Like I said above, the Sufferborn universe is very deep in development, and I’ll need as much “blank space” as possible to make any and all of my future series work. It simply feels impossible for me to sync all my notes with the artist and receive a satisfying product. Also, thinking of doing that feels like the worst migraine of my life, more than just me drawing the map myself.
“So is that it? No maps? Ever?”
To that I’ll also say no. Give it time. I just bought a very nice drawing tablet and might get really good with it, resulting in a new, freeing ability to whip out some maps someday. By then, certain areas of Kaihals should be complete and ready to represent in a visual medium. I imagine it could be a good idea to draw the maps zoomed way in so that it only covers places we’ve seen in Sufferborn so far, instead of showing the whole continent on one 8 X 5.25 page. Look and see if one pops up in distant future editions of the Sufferborn books. For right now, if you see the map disappear out of current books, don’t be surprised.
To those who will miss the map, I am sorry. At least there’s a bunch of copies floating around that have the map, maybe they’ll be collectors’ items someday. For now, for me, for my mental health and stamina, this is probably the best decision. I would much rather focus my energy on making beautiful linocut illustrations of scenes from the books.