Like many others, my first real exposure to a fantasy map was in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I remember carefully unfolding the map from the special edition box set my mother kept on the bookshelf next to The Hobbit and seeing all the details included in the map—I was smitten. I think that early experience shaped my idea of what it meant for something to be a “proper” fantasy book: reams of paper filled with diagrams, maps, and appendices including all kinds of supplementary information. Over the years, that narrow vision changed, of course, but there is still some piece of it left in the back of my mind.
I did not know when I set out to write the first book in The Sundered Kingdoms Trilogy I would have a map in the finished product. As I wrote notes, it became ever more apparent to me how intrinsic the landscape was to the plot. Knowing how extensive the journeys of the characters would be throughout the series, I drew a simplistic map, altering it as needed during the development of the plot. Eventually, I had a brilliant masterpiece of cartography ready at my disposal, surely in the same realm as Mercator. Soak up the brilliance:
While the original map only materialized for my reference, I realized as the final draft of the book came to a close the book needed its map. As much a tale about the world of Dweömer as the characters, it felt wrong to deprive readers of a supplement to the books showing Dweömer in all its glory.
Satisfied with the placement of everything, I sent off my sketch to illustrator Tony Mullins. To match the feeling of the book, I wanted a hand drawn map. Not long after contacting him, he presented me with the initial sketches. To my elation, the map was just as I pictured it.
After Tony and I worked out a few tweaks to the layout, he drew the final copies in ink and sent them back to me for the finishing touches.
With my background in graphic design, I knew what I wanted to achieve for the feeling of the typography. To match Tony’s beautiful illustrative style, the map’s text needed to appear handwritten as well. From the beginning, I wanted the map not to only look at place in a fantasy novel but also at place in the world of Dweömer.
And there you have it! I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. Somehow, seeing the map finished made the book finally seem real for the first time. All of those childhood feelings about what it meant to be a proper fantasy epic came back to me. The book no longer existed only on sheets of paper—it was real.