#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 31: Questions 27 & 28

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

27. Your favourite location in your novel

I’m really fond of a place called Kephal, aka. the “White-Hewn City”. It is situated on the Taronese coastline and carved entirely out of a cliff-face.

Kephal is never actually visited in Part One of The Mayor, but it is mentioned by my character John a couple of times when he tells tales of his voyages throughout the Taro Isles. It’s my hope to take the reader there at some point during Part Two. It’s also the opening location for my current WIP, the John novella.

Kephal was inspired by a combination of the archaeological city of Petra, Jordan — famous for its rock-cut architecture — and the White Cliffs of Dover. It gleams brilliant white in the sun and is renowned throughout all of Liran.

28. Tell us about… sports in your book

I don’t really cover sports in any great amount of detail in The Mayor. They are, for the most part, mentioned purely for world-building purposes.

John’s the ‘sporty’ one in my book. He’s been known to attend boxing matches at the local taverns and play dice with his fellow sailors. He also occasionally bets on blood sports — dog and cock fights, rat-baiting etc.* — and enjoys practising his swordsmanship (an early form of fencing) with his father and/or brother. By the time the events of The Mayor roll around though, Jeremiah is far too ill and Jaspher too busy to participate.

*Note that I most certainly do not condone such cruelties myself. Sadly such things were a very popular way to pass the time in the 18th century. My protagonist Melora calls him out for it though — she loves animals and can’t abide the idea of them being made to kill each other!

S.E. Berrow



Writerly Navel-Gazing ~ Week 14: Questions 13 and 14

I’m not late. You’re late. Ner.

Part of the 30 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

13. What’s your favourite culture to write, fictional or not?

I’m very much of the opinion that I need to be into whatever I’m writing at the moment, so for that reason I’m going to have to answer “mid-18th century European” culture. Rigid class structures, advancements in naval trade, colonial expansion, socio-political enlightenment… I find it all absolutely fascinating. We only ever studied the abolition of transatlantic slave trade (1787-1807) and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1797) at school — both of which take place towards the very, very end of the 18th century, practically the 19th — so everything I end up researching for my story I find new, fresh and exciting.

14. How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

I alluded to this briefly in Week 13. Geography is one of the things I seriously wish to address in my second draft, particularly with regard to the town of New Hardway itself. I absolutely suck at drawing maps, but I do I have really vivid images in my head of what certain locations look like and where abouts they’re situated… I’m just less certain of how it all fits together.

Below is a very early map of the Taro Isles, which provides much of the backdrop for events in The Mayor. It was drawn by a very talented lady named Shannon Hawkes, whom I sadly don’t talk to anymore. I will however treasure her beautiful artwork forever ♥

The Taro Isles

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

Writerly Navel-Gazing ~ Week 13: Question 12

Oh look, guess who’s behind in this challenge again? I’ve been busy writing my actual book. Please forgive me!

Part of the 30 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

10. In what story did you feel you did the best job of world-building? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?

World-building is actually one of the things I really want to improve in the second draft of The Mayor. Whilst I have a really good ‘feel’ for the world and the atmosphere and its rules, regulations and culture etc. there are a few things I’m not so hot on:

  • Religion. When I first started writing The Mayor, my characters made some references to made-up gods, but I decided that I didn’t like the names, so I have since stopped using them. Characters now say things like, “By God!” and, “for God’s sake!” etc. but I’m not entirely happy with this either. I have no holy scripture for someone to swear upon at a trial, but I do have churches and priests. I have religious ceremonies — like marriage — but they’re more akin to a Celtic handfasting than the Christian ceremony I’m more familiar with. Essentially it’s a bit of a hodgepodge and I am determined to straighten it out at a later date, or at the very least actually come up with some kind of working theology.
  • Governance. Whilst I’ve got the political landscape of New Hardway down pretty pat (it is called The Mayor after all), the workings of the inland capital city of Hilt are a bit of a mystery. When I first started writing I spoke about a Duke, but now he’s a king by a completely different name. Also, how does the Council in New Hardway communicate with its capital? Again, I need to sort this out.
  • Geography. Kind of the opposite problem to governance. Whilst I have an excellent grasp of where New Hardway fits in the wider world of the Liran, the actual detailed layout of New Hardway is… vague. I can picture individual areas perfectly: the docks, the market, Winship and Carson, the Main Square, the Carsons’ townhouse, the Winships’ house in the hills… But how it all fits together? That’s less clear. I want to draw up some maps once I’ve finished my first draft so I can correct any inconsistencies.

Side notes: the four corners of Liran were originally based on suits in Tarot. New Hardway is in the western Pentacles region of that map — situated in the Taro Isles — along with the City of Kintaro a bit further north. Pentacles represent material wealth. Both New Hardway and Kintaro are rich and well-versed in trade. Hilt meanwhile is based in Sword (named for the suit of Swords) and is ruled by a greedy warmonger whose people still live in a kind of Medieval Dark Age. Swords are often indicators of strife.

Actual Tarot itself does not exist in my book; I just used it as a source of inspiration.

S.E. Berrow

P.S. I apparently forgot to answer the second half of Question 11 in my previous blog post! I told you who my favourite character to write with is, but not my least favourite.

The answer is William Kale. I spoke a little bit about him in Week 2, but it bears repeating here: “Kale is ridiculously difficult to write because he is a) a lot cleverer than I am and b) involved in a lot of complicated politics. I don’t feel comfortable writing with him at all and have to work really hard on getting him right.”

Sometimes writing with Kale can be really fun though. If you’ve ever pissed me off, be sure to check Kale’s inner monologue. You’re bound to recognise yourself in his acidic hateful thoughts.