Today Mara Valderran has stopped by my blog to talk about World Building and spotlight the upcoming release of her novel Heirs of War.
I have to admit: Creatures are pretty much my favorite part of world-building. I tend to take my creatures from mythology and adjust them as needed for my story. Two of my favorite resources for discovering new creatures to add to the worlds of Heirs of War are the Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John and Caitlin Matthews and the Encyclopedia Mythica, an online mythical database.
I use more creatures in the next book, but the main creature featured in Heirs of War is the Donnfay. I make a direct comparison to the legend of the Brownies of Scotland. I’ve always been fascinated by these little creatures, and not because I suck at housework.
Okay, not just because I suck at housework.
I’m fascinated by them because I want to know their motivations for cleaning up after us silly little humans. Some legends say you can leave them offerings of food or sweets, but all of them seem to agree that if you try to pay a brownie, you are going to tick them off. So what kind of creature slaves away at night while we sleep and refuses any sort of payment?
We’ve seen brownies in different forms in other books and television shows. The most popular incarnation of the brownies would probably be the House Elves of Harry Potter. There are so many similarities between the house elves and the brownies of legend that I am just going to assume J.K. Rowling was inspired by the furry little Scottish creatures, too. Her elves are actual slaves, kept in line by their subservient attitudes and stringent beliefs that wizards are meant to be served. In television, you can see another interpretation of the brownie on the show Lost Girl. This elf is very human-like with features, but has very odd ways. But he serves because he wants to. He finds it fun, and doesn’t even seem to mind when Kenzi takes advantage of him (until she forgets his cereal).
I’d hate to see what happens if she forgot the milk…
My Donnfay have the typical look of the brownies of legend. They are furry, tan or brownish fur, big eyes, small nose, and wide mouths all the better to grin at us. They despise violence, and unfortunately this means there aren’t many places for them anymore since the worlds have been torn apart by war. They’re motivations are simple: They take care of humans because they believe they are superior to us. We’re like pets to them. They think it’s just adorable when we try to dress ourselves or cook our own meals.
The Donnfay have their own belief system, their own culture, and their own way of life. I think it’s very important when developing the creatures of fantasy worlds that we give them depth. Sure, you might need a big dog-dragon hybrid creature to attack your characters at some point, but what’s the deal with the dragon dog? Why is it attacking them? Are these creatures feared by all because they are vicious and without mercy? Or did your characters come to close to its nest? I think the more we explore these things, the more believable and tangible our worlds will be.
Oh, and I’m not gonna lie. I use television as research too. Lost Girl and Blood Ties are my go-to shows when I’m looking for supernatural inspirations.
Where do you look for inspiration or research when you’re looking for creatures? I’d love to hear about some of the creatures you’ve developed or used along the way. =)
Mara’s upcoming release:
Title: Heirs of War – Book One
Genre: New Adult/Upper Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: October 13, 2013
Seventeen-year-old Zelene doesn’t believe in magic or prophecies. When she’s told she is part of the prophecy foretelling five powerful girls bringing peace to the war-torn worlds, she scoffs. The idea of other dimensions layered on top of the world she lives in is almost as ludicrous as the idea that she might be able to save them. After she is attacked by magic-wielding assassins, she finds she can’t argue with reality.
As their enemies strike, the girls are taken back to their world and discover the ties binding them together. Rhaya has always had an uncanny knack for reading people, but can’t seem to unravel the mystery tying her to Isauria, the new friend she bonded with instantly. For years, Isauria has been dreaming of Terrena, a girl living her life on the run in a magical world ripped apart by the tragedies of war, completely unaware that she is psychically linked to the world she was born in.
Zelene views them all with a distrustful eye, familial bonds or no, and can think of a place or two she’d like to shove the crown she supposedly inherited. When she learns that her long-lost twin Ariana has been captured by the rebels, Zelene’s attitude changes. She doesn’t know how she is supposed to go against an army of magic-wielding rebels when her own ability to manipulate the elements is still locked within her. But can she trust the elders to rescue Ariana when it seems their medieval politics are what brought about the war in the first place? With all that is at stake, the answer becomes clear to Zelene.
Screw the worlds. She’s getting her sister back.
Amazon: Not Available Yet
Barnes & Noble: Link TBA
About the Author:
Mara Valderran has been coming up with stories pretty almost since she could talk, often commandeering her brother’s G.I. Joes to play out her fictional tales alongside her Barbies. Once she hit adolescence and realized playing with dolls wasn’t cool anymore, she started putting her ideas to paper. And she hasn’t stopped since.
Mara has worn many different artistic hats throughout her life. She has dabbled in screenwriting, plucked guitars and basses, toyed with singing, retired from acting, and drawn some pretty mean stick figures in her time. However, writing books seems to fit her best as she finds nothing more fulfilling than creating worlds and characters she can lose herself in.
Mara is more than just a madwoman with a writing box. She lives in the south with her husband and demanding cat. She hopes to one day meet Daniel Jackson from SG1, or at least the actor who played him. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing video games, or spending time at her favorite local coffee shop.