About The OWSCyCon Fantasy Blog Tour
As part of the OWS CyCon 2019, we asked our fantasy authors to write about what makes their world, or the world of another author unique. Each of them has come up with very different answers which reflect their writing processes, their research methods, and their views on world building.
We hope you find these insights interesting, and that they maybe give you some new things to think about when you pick up a new book, or even start writing your own.
After reading this interview, be sure to check out the responses from our other fantastic writers: https://owscycon.ourwriteside.com/fantasy-events-at-cycon/fantasy-blog-tour-what-makes-an-authors-world-unique/
What Makes My Fictional World Unique?
By Leslie Conzatti
Greetings! I am Leslie Conzatti, and my book is called Princess of Undersea. It’s a fantasy re-telling of “The Little Mermaid” and I am excited to share with you a little bit about the world it’s set in, as part of this blog hop! To get the full effect of the uniqueness of this story, I’ll be looking at three main world-building components: The Land, The Characters, with a narrower focus on specifically the non-human inhabitants of the world.
The world of Princess of Undersea is pretty typical at first glance, as far as fantasy worlds go. The majority of the setting consists of three main regions, all in close proximity to one another.
There is the island kingdom of Overcliff. The castle is situated on the high cliff at the southeastern part of the island, surrounded by the principal city, and below that, all around the northern part of the island, is the farmlands and a town or two. Just inside the city is a University, sponsored by the Crown, intended to provide a subsidized education for any who wished, with opportunities to travel to the mainland for work, since most of the work available in Overcliff would usually be something farm-related. There was once a thriving fishing business, but that has dwindled for a while.
Just across the Channel–a narrow waterway separating Overcliff from the mainland–is the kingdom of Crossway. Being a mainland kingdom, it’s a lot larger, more affluent and sprawling. While most of Overcliff’s subjects are farmhands and agrarian types, craftsmen and rural folk, Crossway does contain a more sizable social hierarchy, with gentry, upper-class, middle-class, and serving classes living alongside each other and not mixing much.
Below the surface of the Channel, bridging the space between the two human kingdoms, is the mer-kingdom of Undersea. The boundaries of this kingdom aren’t really at all like the boundaries of a land-based kingdom. It stretches from the very bed of the ocean to within a mile or so of the surface. After a terrible accident resulted in the Mer-Queen getting caught and dragged away in a fisherman’s net, King Davor established a line called the King’s Boundary, that no citizen of Undersea may cross at any time, lest they come too close to the humans. The merfolk live in towers built from huge coral colonies, and instead of doors, these colonies simply have large round openings in the walls to permit a merperson of any size through, and a system of smaller openings across the top to let in sunlight.
Possibly the most unique factor in this book is the characters you meet along the way.
The first thing to note is that there was once a healthy trade relationship between the humans of Overcliff, the Merfolk of Undersea, and a group of fairies who migrated from the mainland to Overcliff and back during certain phases of the moon. The fairies acted as a sort of liaison between the Merfolk and the humans, since their magic allowed them to traverse in both air and water. The fairies would engage in trade themselves, with their ability to bestow special Gifts upon humans and Merfolk, such as the Gift of Magic, to create potions or work spells, or the Gift of Song, to influence others by the sound of one’s voice.
That peace was shattered one day, and when the fairies ceased traveling between the kingdoms, there was no longer a means through which the Merfolk and the humans could interact, so relations quickly soured and grew cold between them.
The kingdom of Overcliff is ruled by King Theodore. He is a fairly elderly king, and hasn’t done much in the way of ruling ever since the death of his wife, Queen Theresa. He lapsed into depression and allowed the Royal Council to pretty much run things. What is more, King Theodore blamed the fairies for the mysterious disease that killed his wife, because not a single doctor could devise a cure for her. Cutting off the fairies basically cut off Overcliff from the mainland, and the kingdom has slowly been withering away because of it.
The King’s Steward, Giles, has seen all of this happen, and he has stepped forward at the King’s behest to do his best to train the young Prince Nathan to ascend the throne when King Theodore finally decides to abdicate. Much hope has been placed on Prince Nathan to perhaps rekindle the economy, to find that missing element to be able to get Overcliff back to thriving again. So far, though, Prince Nathan hasn’t shown much willingness to give up his carefree life as a Prince who can do what he likes with his time.
Meanwhile, in Undersea, Princess Ylaine (pronounced Ee-lane) has plenty cause to be resentful of her father. King Davor (Dah-vor) blamed the humans when the fairies refused to leave the mainland and come out over the water as they once did. The fact that one irresponsible fisherman dropped his nets over the designated Undersea hunting grounds and happened to tangle his wife, Queen Yssandra (Ee-sand-rah) and drag her away, lost to them forever, was just the “barnacle that broke the ship’s hull,” as it were. King Davor desired to declare war on the humans, but his Royal Council objected, citing reason and feasibility as their reasons for not going to war. No one knew much about the humans anymore, and there wasn’t enough evidence that the Queen’s disappearance was intentional or malicious–and besides, war against the humans wasn’t possible if the Merfolk couldn’t survive more than a few minutes out of water. They would rise up just to die there on the shore. Davor didn’t listen, and insisted on marshalling a royal army anyway. When they still wouldn’t listen, the King had his daughter, Ylaine, sing for them. Her voice had been legendary, considering that the young princess had been the last Merperson to receive a Gift from the last fairy anyone ever saw: the Gift of Song. Once Ylaine sang, the Council fell under the thrall of her song, and they would listen to whatever Davor said. The Gift was supposed to aid the King in becoming a just and wise ruler; it could have been the answer to soothe his anger and help him reason clearly–but of all the Merfolk in Undersea, King Davor is the one who refuses to listen to his daughter’s voice. She sings for him but once, on the anniversary of Queen Yssandra’s disappearance, but not for too long, as he refuses to relinquish his bitterness.
Ylaine, having no one else to talk to, found a willing ear in her godmother, Nayidia. The merwoman came forward to offer her services in raising the young princess, and she has been a steady mother-figure for her. Nayidia has heaped on sympathy toward Ylaine and her feelings. According to Nayidia, Ylaine’s disappointment in not being able to help his father is well-justified, and King Davor certainly doesn’t seem to be in his right mind lately. She encourages the young princess to pursue the things that make her curious, in spite of her father’s restrictions. The two mermaids regularly meet on the fringes of Undersea, in a massive graveyard of human ships, exploring the man-made treasures and talking about life on the surface–something Davor refuses to discuss with his daughter. Nayidia seems to know quite a bit about the humans, as she was a young mermaid when the fairies were still trading, and according to her godmother, Ylaine is quite right in refusing to trust her father’s opinion on things.
The world I’ve created for my novella is also unique in the matter of the non-humans–the merfolk.
I diverted from the idea of merfolk being “humans with fishtails”, mostly because I knew that there were conditions of human skin that would make it impossible for a water-based creature to survive and live comfortably, such as the fact that human skin absorbs water, and tends to sag, creating an inordinate amount of drag when swimming–which would be the only way that a merperson could move about in the water.
Hence, merfolk, to me, became more sort of a hybrid between a human and a fish: too fish-like to be accepted as human, and too human to be dismissed as a very large fish.
The skin ranges in hue as much as human skin does, only instead of shades of brown, white, yellow, and red, merfolk skin comes in hues of grey, blue, or green. The hair, the eyes, and the tail can all be a multitude of colors. The hair keeps growing, and some merfolk opt to tie it back so it doesn’t get in the way while swimming, while others might be too impatient and choose to whack it off with a bone knife.
In Princess of Undersea, for example, King Davor has dark hair, amber eyes, and shark-grey skin. Princess Ylaine has purple hair, light-blue skin, aquamarine eyes, and a long black tail with irridescent flecks in the scales. Nayidia has long red hair she keeps in three thick braids, and a long blue tail.
On the face, the merperson has small gill slits under the eyes and above the mouth, serving as an initial respiratory filtration system, with a more substantial set of gills inside the throat for more thorough oxygen filtration.
One of the other things I chose to do when writing the merfolk is that when I would use metaphors and expressions, I would tailor them specifically to an underwater-based culture. Rather than “sighing” to vent frustration or annoyance, a merperson will flex the gills in their throat with a “pop” sound. The sharper the snap, the heavier the “sigh.” A long, drawn-out “sigh” sounds more like a “rattle”, as the water running through the gills is low-volume and sustained. Expressions like “take the bait like a tarpon”, or “stings like a sea urchin” also come up during the narrative.
Finally, the culture and tradition of the merfolk is reflected in the way King Davor and Princess Ylaine both wear gold-plated shells around their necks as a sign of their royal birthright. Davor’s is a sand dollar, and Ylaine wears a gold cowrie shell. Without the shell, they wouldn’t look any different than the average merperson, and they wouldn’t be allowed in the royal castle without invitation.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this small tour of the world of Princess of Undersea! If you’re interested in reading the whole adventure for yourself, you can find it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Princess-Undersea-Timeless-Leslie-Conzatti-ebook/dp/B01MSWZRUU
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For now, enjoy the rest of the blog hop!
Leslie Conzatti, a native of the Pacific Northwestern US, has been writing stories from a very young age. In 2013, she launched her writing blog, “The Upstream Writer.” In 2016, she published her first book, the novella “Princess of Undersea.” In the years since, she has had short stories published in a number of anthologies, all the while plugging away at her next novel. By day, Leslie works as an elementary school paraeducator, leading reading groups and investing in the lives of children as they learn to read and love books as much as she does.
Meet Leslie Online
OWSCyCon2019 Author Booth: https://owscycon.ourwriteside.com/forums/topic/leslie-conzatti-author-booth/
Author Blog: https://www.upstreamwriter.blogspot.com
Learn More About the OWS CyCon 2019 Event
CyCon is the biggest online book event of the year, bringing together authors and readers from all over the world for an entire weekend of book-related fun. Between the organizers, and 230+ writers, you’ll be able to:
- view live (and recorded discussions),
- listen to samples of their stories,
- vote in the various genre tournaments,
- browse the author booths, and
- discover some amazing books and writers.
We hope you enjoy this event as much as we enjoy bringing it to you. For more information, and links to all of the activities, visit us at: https://owscycon.ourwriteside.com/about-ows-cycon/
You never know, you may just find your next best read!