The one thing that has always amazed me about fantasy writers is that they can create worlds so different from our own and use those worlds as settings for their stories. I have a hard enough time figuring out the planet Earth, never mind create a whole new world out of nothing.
I was intrigued by the synopsis of The Winds of Asharra and decided it would be neat to offer you a guest article on world building.
Here is how R. Leigh created Asharra, the setting for her new fantasy romance novel:
Asharra, the land of the twin suns, under the purple sky, is a far cry from the day to day routine of American life. Devoid of modern technology, highly sensual in nature and utilizing unusual materials such as crystals and “zim” for daily needs, the world described in The Winds of Asharra, is where I spend most of my time. It’s my second home.
Creating the mystical world of Asharra was much more than transposing images of tranquil beaches or lush jungles into my brain, and populating them with fanciful creatures including musical dragons (actually, the little ones are called dreegins), sexy evolved felines, telepathic trees or dream inducing crystal beings. They are all a “nice bunch of folks” but without a compelling and rich culture and philosophy, Asharra would be as elusive as any myth. That would not be my Asharra.
After an exhaustive study of comparative earth cultures and their associated religions for approximately ten years, and armed with my own mystical feelings of serendipity, interconnectedness and societal empathy, I began to create something different from anything I had ever encountered, something wonderful and magical. I created the philosophy of Asharra, which is the backbone of the story. Did it spring from my subconscious or was I somehow channeling a complete world with all of the trimmings? I’ll let the readers be the judge.
Describing a complex philosophy and making it believable and the prime motivation for the (alien) characters was a challenge, especially when it had to be done in such a way as to not disrupt the flow of the adventure and the sizzle of the story. The saga of Victor, Zoe and Ionera (and all of the rest) must blend harmoniously with all aspects of Asharran culture until the reader forgets that he/she is learning about another place, another way of life. He becomes Asharran, inch by inch, as do the two main characters, in The Winds of Asharra, the two 18 year old teenagers.
It would make sense to say that I took plenty of notes, cross-referenced them and meticulously pieced together specific elements from a variety of earth cultures from the past several thousand years. That would make sense, but it would not be true. In fact, creating the world of Asharra was similar to the way nature creates diamonds from carbon under the ground... it takes time and pressure, nothing else.
There was a ten year gap between my first novel, 3 Passports to Paradise (now out of print), a Science fiction effort and The Winds of Asharra. During that time, I lived and experienced life, traveling and absorbing (mostly through books) as many different cultures and beliefs as I could. The “pressure” part of the equation in this literary diamond creation came from my unconscious, relentlessly pushing me to put it all together. The silent nagging in my brain continued for years until something magical happened. I sat down at my computer and the world of Asharra burst onto the screen. Sure, there are elements of shamanism, Taoism, and a dozen other “-isms” within the world of the Asharrans but the mystery is that the culture and world sprung forth almost fully formed. My fingers were struggling to keep up at the keyboard. Either I can thank my subconscious, after having imbibed so much raw data for ten years, or I was channeling another reality.
The results matter far more than the process and the resulting diamond is the world of Asharra. After 600 pages, the readers are comfortable with the mundane elements such as looshi’s, doh-rah, dreegins and zim but also with the “feel” and the philosophy of Asharran life. They learn through Victor and Zoe’s eyes, step by step, how to be Asharran, distinguishing “true”, “shallow” and “empty” words, and engaging in the “Friendship Doings” and the “Uatu”.
While the obvious cast of characters includes humans and all manner of creatures, the least obvious character is the world of Asharra itself. Unlike most authors, I can not provide you with detailed explanations how I painstakingly created each term and notion. Nope. That’s not the Asharran way. I suppose I must have used my “Greater mind”, as the characters suggest in the book. Magic only happens when you allow yourself to be carried along by the Winds.
Thanks for having me here and as the Asharrans say, “Warm and Deep, Never Empty!”
THE WINDS OF ASHARRA VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on May 1, 2008 and continue all month long. If you would like to follow R. Leigh's tour in progress, visit http://www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/ in May. Leave a comment on her blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of her tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this tour page on May 30!
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