Happy Tuesday Book Dragons!
How is everyone? Today is my stop on the blog tour for the release of Midnight’s Twins. It sounds amazing and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity. I’m thrilled to have a guest post written by Holly to share with you all, it’s a good one! If you fancy buying yourself a copy there’s some links towards the bottom.
Building the world of Midnight’s Twins
As far as I can tell, world building in sci fi and fantasy can be done one of two ways: methodically or slapdash. I definitely fall into the latter camp. In Midnight’s Twins, my protagonist Fern is introduced to the world we enter when we dream, which is called Annwn (pronounced Ann-oon – the name for the Otherworld in Welsh mythology). I spent a long and undisciplined time working out how the world worked, filling reams of notebooks stretching back a decade. Inside those notebooks are scribbled questions like, ‘How does inspyre actually work?’ and ‘RESEARCH BATTLE FORMATIONS IN CITIES’.
A world set inside our dreams sounds as though it’s going to be amorphous, but I knew it was crucial that there was a ‘physics’ behind the workings of Annwn, otherwise it wouldn’t feel believable.
At first, I focused my research on looking into the way our brains work when we dream. I looked up the supposed meanings behind common dreams, but it all felt a bit dry and scientific for the story I wanted to tell.
A much more fruitful approach, for me, came when I started to think about how our imaginations work – and how we subconsciously process our problems when we’re sleeping. I looked into mythology. From that stemmed the idea of the ‘Fay’, who are essentially the gods and goddesses of Annwn, made up of the kind of character tropes found in stories all around the world. Psychology helped me to work out the different types of nightmares and dreams found in Annwn – things like Poisoners who thrive on dreamers’ self-hatred and depression, and their opposites, vampires, who drain us of those emotions.
It took me a long time to find the right balance between creating a world that felt detailed and one that was needlessly complicated. At one point I wrote a ‘bible’ for myself and my editor, where I explained all the workings of Annwn; the history of the thanes, how they work in different countries and so on. In the end, though, I simplified a lot of that – as soon as it became difficult to clearly convey something in the story, I knew that it should be cut. In the bible, there were three types of ‘inspyre’ – the substance that makes up most of Annwn and is generated by dreamers’ imaginations – but in the final book there is only one type.
Despite my efforts to do a lot of the world building in advance of writing, in the end most of it evolved from me hitting a ‘how’ or ‘why’ in the storytelling. It’s a bit heart-breaking to think about all of that wasted work! In any case, I hope that the decade’s worth of material scribbled into those notebooks has or will come in useful in some way! I retrieved all of my notebooks the other day in preparation for some work on the sequel, so you never know – maybe something I jotted down in 2014 will make it into book two!
Holly Race works as a development executive in the film and TV industry, most recently with Aardman Animations. Holly is a Faber Academy graduate, and Midnight’s Twins is her debut novel and the first in a trilogy. After spending several happy years in East London, a few streets away from where Fern lives, she now resides in Cambridge with her husband, their daughter and a large black poodle called Nymeria.