With the publication of my new fantasy novel GRAYNELORE less than two weeks away I’m excited, and I wanted to tell you a little bit more about it, but without giving too much away. I thought the landscape of the world I’ve created was a good place to start.
I remember reading a comment made by Robert Louis Stephenson explaining just how important he considered a map to be, when he was writing a story. It gave him a visual way of making sense of the fictional landscape he wanted to describe. It’s why you’ll always find a version of his map at the front of Treasure Island.
I guess I feel the same way about GRAYNELORE. In my imagination I can clearly see the landscape I’m writing about in the book.
What does Graynelore look like?
In the novel, Rogrig Wishard – the narrator – gives us a unique description of his world and I close this piece with that extract. However, what I want to do here is give you my own personal impressions of the landscape of Graynelore. The images I can still see in my head, even now.
In my mind’s eye, Graynelore is made up of two major islands – a mainland and a Faerie Isle. The greater landmass is an island perhaps the size of Wales, if not the shape! Rather, its outline best resembles a kind of broken cheese scone. It’s generally oval, but very irregular and badly misshapen. Can you see where I’m going here? The second island – the Faerie Isle – is very small in comparison. If the Graynelore mainland really was a cheese scone, then the Faerie Isle would be the small knob of butter that went with it!
As to their actual physical detail, then of course the mysterious Faerie Isle should rightly remain shrouded in secrecy. Whereas the mainland, where the majority of the book’s action takes place, is more easily described. I can clearly see the Blackheaded Mountains; the sprawling mountain range that sits at the very heart of Graynelore, neatly separating the North from the South of the country. The North beyond the mountains is almost entirely taken up by a vast void, a wasteland, named simply The Great Unknown. It’s a region of little importance to this story. (Mind you, who knows about the future and things still to come, eh…?) Rather, it is the South of the country that requires my description.
The Men of Graynelore have split the South into four regions, called Marches, each loosely belonging to the principle Grayne, or family, who live there. Powerful men live in great Peel Towers. While poor men live in small Bastle Houses scattered about the countryside. There are no actual borders marked on the ground. No walls, no fences. In fact there’s hardly a man among them who truly knows where one March ends and the next begins. (Nor do they care!)
The majority of the land is broad rough fell-land, and rudely exposed rolling lowland hills (reminiscent of my favourite English county, Northumberland). And it is endlessly dissected, across its entirety, by the countless streams and tributaries that make up the River Winding. In fact the River Winding is so extensive its name is used to describe all running water throughout Graynelore.
In the central lowlands you’ll find the treacherous Mire; a huge area of swampland and boggy fen, where no road is permanent, no footstep assured, and no man safe. While off to the north east, below the mountains proper is a large expanse of woodlands called The Withering; a woeful, poor and sickening landscape.
Finally, where the long coastline of Graynelore meets the Great Sea, its cliffs, its rocks and beaches, are cut, bruised and battered, crudely shaped and rubbed smooth by an eternal pattern of wind and rain and storm.
And if my rough description seems to describe an overly terrible or desolate place, I beg to differ. It’s the perfect landscape for my grown-up faerie tale.
Here’s Rogrig Wishard’s description of Graynelore:
To look at, Graynelore was always something of a paradox. It was a beautiful land and yet ugly. It was often glorious and yet as often vague and unimpressive. The Great Unknown in the far north was a world set apart. While the black-headed mountains, at Graynelore’s heart, stood up like the spokes of a great fallen wheel, with the hard fought summit of, Earthrise, the hub, at their centre. The burden of time may well have blunted their edges and reduced their heights but they were no less a formidable adversary. It takes a brave man, or perhaps a fool, to attempt to scale their heights. Looking to the south, where the mountains fell away, and the wheel was broken, there was a great vista, a broad open plateau, only hindered by stretches of feeble, withered woodland – The Withering – that chequered and fringed the otherwise, seemingly endless landscape. Beyond this, came the more gentle rolling hills and shallow vales of the southern marches. And if the lowly hills could not hinder you, if the trees did not stand in your way, there was always the mud, the clarts of the stinking bog-moss to stop a man’s progress, the mire to swallow up the unwary horse and rider. Or else the never ending waters, the countless threads of the River Winding that cut the great open lowland fells and moors into uneven pieces across the majority of its face. To my mind, it was always a lonely, endlessly wind-scarred earth. A difficult land to love; it left no easy place for men or beasts to hide or find welcoming shelter. Yet it was mine by my birth. And if I were to admit that my heart’s meat has always been divided, then surely that land must take its due share.