Of all the series I’ve written, the world of Dark Shores is by far the largest in geographical scope: it literally encompasses an entire planet. Most of the challenges associated with creating such a large world are obvious. It requires inventing many different nations, all populated by peoples of different races and cultures who speak a multitude of languages. It requires fabricating multiple continents with topography and weather patterns that reflect reality or, should I choose to fly in the face of physics, a supernatural justification for doing so. It requires creating places that my characters might never visit, because the alternative is a map full of blank spaces and gaps! But of all these challenges, the aspect of world building that demanded most of my initial interest was how my characters would traverse this vast planet I’d created for them.
The reason this was so important to me is because I don’t write stories about worlds, I write stories about characters within worlds. More specifically, I write stories that focus on the relationships between characters, whether they be romances or friendships or familial dramas. Particularly with new relationships, every moment the two individuals spend together changes and grows that relationship. What they are to each other is very different after a day, a week, a month, and that development must align with the pace of the plot exterior to the relationship. Marcus and Teriana meet each other at the beginning of a journey across the world, but I didn’t want all the growth in the connection between them to take place over a months’ long sea voyage – I wanted it to take place once they reached the Dark Shores, which was where I intended for the bulk of the novel’s action to take place.
To that end, I was presented with two choices: make my world smaller or give my characters a method of traveling long distances very quickly. I went with the latter, and thus the xenthier stems were born. Functioning almost like a wormhole or portal, they transport anyone who touches one end to the opposite end of its path, but not back the other direction, because that would be far too convenient! They allow my characters to explore many different places without sacrificing the pace of the novel.