On Leigh Bardugo‘s ninth stop in her blog tour, Leigh discusses her collaboration with artist Keith Thompson on the map for Siege and Storm:
Some fantasy authors begin with the map. They know where everything in their world is before they write a single word. I ended up taking a different route. I started with only the vaguest idea of what my world looked like: All I knew was that Ravka (nameless at the time) was surrounded by enemies and that the Shadow Fold had left the country landlocked. But about halfway through the draft, I had to get serious about what the geography of this place looked like. I wanted a good sense of the distances between locations, and honestly, I just needed to keep track of where things were.
This is a section of the original map I drew that became the map for Shadow and Bone. (Is it a coincidence that my heroine is a talentless cartographer? Possibly.) Though it looks like it was drawn by a precocious toddler, it did the trick. I was able to chart Alina’s journey and get a stronger sense for the geopolitical forces at work in my story.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to include the map when I began querying for agents. (Note to aspiring authors: Agents do not want to see extras in the slushpile.) So I put the map aside and didn’t think of it again until I was beginning Siege and Storm. Once again, the world was expanding and I needed to keep up. This time, maybe because I knew my world so much better, I had a lot more fun with it. I knew the places that I wanted to go and some of the future stories I wanted to tell, and the geography came alive—the land bridge between Kerch and the Shu Han kept submerged by Tidemakers, the peaks of the Elbjen, and the icy islands of Kenst Hjerte, the Broken Heart.
Of course, at this time, I had no idea that Keith Thompson was being brought on to turn my awkward sketch into a work of art for Shadow and Bone. I’d been a fan of Keith’s work since I first saw it in Scott Westerfeld’s brilliant Leviathan, and hearing that he would be creating the map for my book was truly one of the most bizarre and incredible moments in my journey to publication.
When I asked Keith about how he approached the process of creating the map, he said he began by going through his own map collection. “Knowing the general equivalent timeline and type of cultural setting meant that I was already keeping to a specific selection of maps and artworks. After steeping myself in those real world analogues I filtered everything through my own aesthetic and vision and of course tried to instill in it your own visions of the world.” He most enjoyed working on the Shadow Fold: “It really is the focus of the map. It’s like a manifest act of violence on a piece of cartography. That’s a fun thing to present as something which obviously must be crossed by the protagonists.”
Keith’s map creates a beautiful first impression, but it’s also full of revealing little details. If you look closely, you’ll see a representation of the Darkling’s symbol on the right. On the left, he added the Ravkan double eagle—the symbol of the Lantsov family. The details of the eagle aren’t revealed until book 2, but I gave them to Keith and he managed to work them into the map in Shadow and Bone. (The eagle holds a scepter in one talon. In the other, he grips three black arrows bound by red, purple, and blue ribbons. These symbolize the Darkling’s power through the three Orders of the Grisha.)
As far as I’m concerned, Keith didn’t just draw a map, he created something ominous, lovely, and integral to the experience of reading Shadow and Bone. I’m thrilled that he came back for Siege and Storm, and I hope the expanded map will make it even easier for readers to journey into Ravka—whether they’re finding their way or just enjoying getting lost.