Over the next few weeks, you’re going to see a number of images relating to Carrion appearing regularly on my social media. The most common will be the cover, which I revealed at the end of last year. Here it is again:
Isn’t it a beauty?
But there will be others and they’ll be dotted about in various places, so I thought I should explain them.
All the images are based on a map that’s described in Carrion. It’s been common in fantasy adventure novels for maps to be included, especially if they represent fictional lands – think Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. Since much of Carrion relates to a journey, I had to draw a map to use as a guide for myself when I wrote it. I did something similar for Ravens Gathering, though that was the layout of a village to make sure I didn’t move the Post Office to the wrong side of the road, or have a farm entrance too far from the pub.
As I wrote Carrion, I decided to include a map in the storyline, and used my rough and ready effort as the template for it. When it’s described, it’s mocked by those looking at it because it’s so badly drawn – which is a fair reflection of my own artistic skills.
The map has another distinguishing feature: the images have run because it’s been immersed in water following an encounter with rapids.
So I pondered the idea of including the map somewhere in the book. The question, though, was how to get one drawn. As my version was laughable, I really needed something that looked more authentic.
My partner’s daughter is very artistic, and I’d seen examples of her work in a number of areas, from painting to pottery and even creating a full size Iron Man costume. When I first mooted having a map drawn up, I think she envisaged an exciting ‘treasure map’ project with fancy illustrations. She knew the book included a dragon – or maybe two – and a troll and some other creatures that don’t quite fit in with any of the fantasy stereotypes. So I got a sense that grand plans were being made as I began setting out what I wanted. When I used the words: “Basically, what I want is a map that looks like it’s been drawn by someone who can’t draw, and then the ink’s run because it’s been soaked in water,” the disappointment was palpable.
Nevertheless, Charlotte took up the challenge. Predictably, the first attempt was too clean. You could make things out far too clearly. What I was impressed with, though, was the texture she’d managed to produce, ageing the paper, so it looked like well worn animal hide – and it was cracked and fragile-looking.
Using the same techniques, she produced a second version, which was spot-on. Only two words appear on the map: Dragons Teeth. There is significance in those words, and they’re commented on as the map is discussed. So, too, are the scratched images that you hesitate over interpreting, though you eventually recognise the features they represent: forests, mountains, valleys and a river.
As it came together, the map took on a bigger meaning for me. Some authors get excited by the cover, others will only get a sense the book’s real when they hold a hard copy of it in their hands. But, when I looked at this map, I felt like Carrion had come to life, and that sensation grew even stronger as I ran my fingers over the rough and battered surface. This was real.
At the time, I was still awaiting the final edit, and there’d been moments in the process of writing the story that left me feeling despondent about whether it would ever make it to publication. The map gave me certainty that it would, that even if there were more changes to the manuscript required, they’d be made easily and with enthusiasm. Carrion had to be finished.
I’ve decided the map won’t appear in the book. There’s no way a PDF of this will do it justice. Even the photos don’t. Instead, Charlotte has framed it for me so I can display it when I’m at an event – though those are going to be in short supply this year! So far, I have taken it to one, and it clearly grabbed attention, because everyone who came to see me wanted to know about it. Maybe, as more events are organised again, you can come along and see it for yourself. But no touching – it’s very fragile…