Fantasy author Gail Z. Martin kicks off her new Ascendant Kings Saga with Ice Forged, which hits shelves today! The series starter tells the story of Lord Blaine McFadden, a young man charged with killing his violent father in order to protect his brother and sister. Blaine is subsequently sent to the frigid edge of the world, Edgeland, as punishment. After making a home for himself there, Blaine is called back to his home country of Donderath when a war breaks out and several supernatural incidents occur. With many fantasy novels set in large, immersive worlds, we're always curious to know how authors plan the start of a fantasy series. Today Martin shares how she built up — and tore down — her universe in Ice Forged.
A blank page is always daunting, no matter how much opportunity it presents.
I don't know if it ever stops being scary when you start writing a brand new book in a new world with new characters, but if it does, I haven't gotten to that point yet.
I had gotten very comfortable in my world of the Winter Kingdoms, the setting for my previous six books in the Chronicles of the Necromancer series and the Fallen Kings Cycle. I knew the characters. I had the lay of the land clearly in mind, and I had spent a lot of time creating the culture, religion and history.
I'm not a big fan of modern apocalyptic fiction, perhaps a side effect of having grown up during the Cold War. But the idea of an apocalypse in a medieval setting intrigued me, especially if magic was involved. I liked the idea of having a culture that was dependent upon magic come apart at the seams when magic goes "off the grid" (so to speak) at the same time as a devastating war. And I liked the idea that the people whom that culture had thrown away — exiled to a far-off prison colony — might be the only ones who could put the pieces back together.
So with a germ of a plot idea, I started thinking about the characters who could bring the plot to life, and the type of culture that would create the best setting for the story. The weather in Edgeland, where the prison colony is located, plays a big role in the story, so I needed to think through what impact the weather would have on the colony and how it contrasted with what the colonists were used to. I thought about the technology of a medieval culture that has acquired its stability and prosperity relying on magic for essential parts of its infrastructure, and what would happen when that infrastructure failed. I asked myself questions about how magic works in this world (quite differently from how it functioned in my prior world), and how magic factored into the history of this continent.
As I pulled the pieces together, I kept circling back to the characters asking, "How would that affect a person from that culture?" Doing that helps me to shape the customs, beliefs, holidays, cultural norms, socio-economic divisions and texture of the world, because all those elements arise from a confluence of geography, history, and technology.
So consider this an invitation to come and visit the world of Ice Forged! I hope you’ll have as much fun exploring as I have had creating this world.
- Gail Z. Martin