Exclusive piece by Sarah Tolcser
Mapping the world of SONG OF THE CURRENT actually began when I was in high school. During class, I used to keep a sketchbook on my desk, under whatever we were supposed to be doing. I was world building and planning a fantasy series about a school for witches. Of course, the book I wrote will never see the light of day, because shortly thereafter a little book called Harry Potter came out. But I based the Riverlands on the map I drew of that world. It had a River Thrush and a River Hanu, and even a river tavern on stilts called the House of the Shipwright. So it makes me happy to think a little piece of that fantasy world I invented so long ago eventually made it into this one and got published. If any of you are writers, never throw any ideas out!
Finding out SONG OF THE CURRENT was going to have a map was one of the coolest moments for me, because I’ve always loved fantasy books with maps. This one is by Virginia Allyn, and it is the most amazing map ever. My favorite things are the little Cormorant and Victorianos, and the family crest inside the compass rose. And of course, the drakon and the little herons. I’m in love with everything about it. I should also note that if, while reading, you are curious about what the ships in the book look like, those drawings are accurate.
My worlds are always mashups of many things, so I’ve taken lots of liberties—but if you Google the Norfolk Broads and Norfolk wherries, you will get a good idea of how my imagination thinks the Riverlands and Cormorant look. Wherries were real boats that hauled cargo in a specific part of England in the 1800s. They had black sails and white painted noses, just like Caro’s wherry, Cormorant, does in the book. Very early in the planning of this book, I decided I wanted the Riverlands to be a Mediterranean-infused culture, which is why a lot of the names and places are based on Greek roots. The coastal cities in the book have a Greek look to them, built on hillsides with stucco walls and tiled roofs. As for the rivers themselves, I grew up sailing and canoeing on small rivers and lakes, so I tried to channel those sights and smells as I wrote. I wanted my network of rivers to feel like a real place.