I seem to remember, when reading the Weird Stone of Brisingamen, that the map in the front of the book is essential to understanding the story, and, that the map is real – the places in it, really exist. This is pretty unusual in a work of fiction. I think most of us use a little of what’s there, and add quite bit of what isn’t. We have a notion of the geography, we may even use very specific buildings that we know, but the distances grow and melt and the landscape goes up and down.
For example, with the Clifftopper books, I have a map on my desk which I’m adding to as I write the series – and I can see the landscape quite clearly in my head, but it isn’t quite an exact place. It’s almost a real place. The Dragon Peninsula of The Clifftoppers is quite similar to a real one somewhere in the south west. The village of Drake’s Bay is very similar to a fishing village of my acquaintance, but its relationship with the lighthouse, or a moor are totally different.
Also, writing a series creates it’s own geographical challenges. Normally, I spend an intense time with one book and get to know that landscape really well. sometimes, quite a bit of it is real. With the Clifftopper series, the four cousins visit different aspects of their surroundings, and I have written the books over four years. The first book (which I wrote second) is set on Arrowhead Moor – which speaks for itself. Bogs, stone circles, ancient barrows, and a country house with gardens and flowers. There are turnings and hills and small hamlets that all have to make sense – but they only have to make sense to themselves, until the second book, The Fire Bay adventure. Here it’s all in Drake’s Bay, and very close to home, which is fine, until the third book Thorn Island Adventure – which is set in an extended version of Drakes Bay and has THE SEA in it. I wrote this book first – in 2016, so I have almost forgotten the geography I had in my head. Which is why I have a scribbly map on my desk.
I’m not expecting any child to be desperately particular about this, but I don’t want to let them down, and nor does my editor.
So far, everything makes perfect sense, but I haven’t yet written the fourth book Frost Castle Adventure, and who knows what quirks of geography I may need for that…? Will my map be big enough? Will I have to go and spend some time in a castle in the snow in order to get the feel of the place? I do hope so!