Monday, June 11, 2012

The mapmaker and the author

[One commenter today will not only win an ARC of SANCTUM, but also one of the (very few) custom maps of the dark city!]

I love books that include maps. I think a lot of people do. Maps allow us to envision the world in which the book takes place and help us follow the journeys of the characters. Maps bring us one step closer to the story.

Much of SANCTUM takes place in a vast, walled, dark city, and the characters travel all over it before the story's through. That alone was enough reason for me to want a map of the place, but there's another: Malachi, the Captain of the Guard, draws a map on the wall of his quarters. So I decided I wanted a map to reflect THAT map. His map.

I did some research. I looked at mapping software. I rapidly realized there was no way in heck I could do it myself. And then ... I discovered the CARTOGRAPHER'S GUILD. And through that site, I discovered Luka Rejec, who not only made me an absolutely amazing map that will grace the first few pages of SANCTUM, but who also agreed to come here today and answer a few questions:

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into mapmaking.

Well ... where to start ... I'm a bit of a jack-of-all trades, really. I work mostly as an illustrator and designer, but I'm also working on my studies as an anthropologist and always look for ways to expand my horizons and experience - maps and fantasy lands are something of a natural extension and a great hobby of mine. It all really started with fifth grade English in Dar es Salaam, where we had a teacher who read us the entire Hobbit. I fell in love with the story, the imaginary journey and of course the maps. It's been a pursuit of mine ever since - a real hobbit hobby, though thankfully I haven't ended up looking like a hobbit myself.

Is there any particular style or type of map you really enjoy creating?

Well, yes - hand-drawn maps in an old or illustrative style are my favourite, idiosyncratic maps as well. Basically maps that go beyond just representing a landscape, but that also seek to convey atmosphere and feeling. But I'm not picky, really, in the end, a map that is functional and aesthetic - and that I enjoyed making - is a good map for me!

If an author wants a map for her book, what should she do?

If an author wants a map for her book, I would really suggest she has a look at the cartographer's guild! It's this crazy little forum full of people that enjoy making maps, particularly fantasy maps, in all kinds of different styles. Just google it - it's not hard to find!

One thing I personally love is to collaborate with an author, so that the map grows organically to fit the style and mood of the work. I feel that every map does more than just serve as a road-map for a literary work - it has to "fit" in somehow.

*Note from Sarah: I couldn't agree more about the Cartographer's Guild. The talent on display there is phenomenal, and the members are so enthusiastic about their--and their fellow cartographers'--work. They are also very helpful and friendly to newcomers.

Talk about the process for making this particular map.

Oof ... the process for this map. This one was very long, starting with a lot of discussions with Sarah (fun conversations, by the way!). With this map, of a huge fantasy city (it measures about 60km on a side), there were massive issues of scale to address - basically, we decided to create the illustrations to represent the in-story work of one of the characters. The in-story map covered a whole wall, so to approach that I simulated the tools and resources that would have been available to the characters - pens and paper, lots of paper, that I then stitched together on the computer, to keep the hand-made feel. In fact, the final map can print out to approximately wall-size, about 3 x 3 meters.

*Note from Sarah: I am contemplating wallpapering my office with this thing. The level of detail is rather astounding.

However, we also realized as we were discussing the map that it's not a precise map of the city, since the character making it doesn't have access to precise measurement tools and equipment, rather it's a rough guide to a mutating, shifting city, with notes and sketches of important landmarks to help him move around. In fact, more than a map, I've come to think of it as a complex visual archive, a history of the guards of the Dark City on a wall, if you will.

Did I mention I had great fun working with Sarah on this? I did. Really great to work with.

*Note from Sarah (who is blushing): One of the reasons I chose Luka for this commission is that he approached the project so analytically (very much like Malachi would). Also, he didn't just offer to do something he'd done before; he created the style of the map to precisely fit my vision and what made sense for the character.

Are you open to commissions?

Of course I'm open to commissions :) - but the more time there is in advance to plan and design the work, the better - and more fitting - the work can be. But, well, as noted - I have my preferred styles and for more artists, the Cartographer's Guild is a good place (and some of the guys there are just amazing. Seriously).

Where can we find you on the web?

Umm ... you can find me all over the web, but my basic portfolio site is at, while my regular, every-day living-drawing blog is at They're probably the easiest way to find me. I also frequent DeviantArt now and again, dabble in some Pinterest, hate some Twitter,  am on Facebook, and - of course - the Cartographer's Guild.

Thanks, Luka! I am so excited about this map. We had a phenomenal response to it at BEA, and there are only a few left! I'm going to be giving them away over the next few weeks and months. The map will be in the final book and on my website in a few weeks, but this version is special :)
Another sneak peek!

What do you think of maps in books? When are they particularly helpful or enjoyable? What kind of style do you like the best? Would you ever commission a map for one of your works? Had you heard of the Cartographer's Guild before today? Also--Luka will stop by later, so if you have a question for him, let him know!

Remember--one commenter today will win an ARC of SANCTUM and one of the maps of the dark city! I'll announce the winner next Monday!


  1. I love a good map, especially if it leads to treasure. Also, I'm hopeless with directions so it's pretty much a must for me.


  2. Thank you for this! *would kiss your feet if you were here* I have mapmaking software, thinking I could learn it. Not. Happening.

  3. This is fantastic! I had no idea you went to the lengths you did to have your story-world come to life, Sarah. I love stories with visual maps. It draws me deeper into the story, even connecting me on a more personal level.

    It's great to meet you, Luka. You really do amazing work!

  4. I LOVE maps. Since I was a little girl I've always stared at them. My husband bought a sailboat three years ago so now I get to stare at charts all summer, which have numbers on them and little spots to show hazards and are printed on plastic-y paper that can get wet.
    Anyway, so when I saw you were going to be at BEA last week, giving away some kind of "special" map along with your ARC, I thought, I should go! I can go to NY for the day! I totally can! It's only a four hour drive and a short train ride...I would love to read the book, and the map sounds so cool!
    Well, I didn't make it. But I'll be paying attention to these giveaways (and curse the lucky ducks who were AT BEA to get your ARC's and maps.)
    (Not really. Cursing people isn't nice.)
    I can't wait to look in to the Cartographer's guild.

  5. That's amazing! You never think about how the maps featured before some stories came to be. Loved learning about this process! So interesting!

  6. Hello all! Thanks "SA", glad you like it. I just have to reiterate at this point that working with Sarah was really great. It's always fantastic when you get to work as one artist with another who is really passionate about their work and willing to go that extra mile.


  7. I've heard of folks who consider maps to be a different form of infodump, but not me. I LOVE maps. I would absolutely commission the Cartographer's Guild if and when I need a map (and all my books need maps :-). Thanks for this info, Sarah!

  8. I adore maps in books; if there is one, I usually read with one finger marking the map page so I can flip back to it. I'm much better at immersing myself in a story if there's a map to actually look at. Otherwise I'm distracted from the story by having to keep all the physical details straight in my mind. (Wait, the stables are near the airport? That's not right... *goes back to find passage explaining where stables are...loses story thread*). I always wondered who drew the maps in books...and now I know! Great post :)

  9. Sometimes I pay attention to the maps and sometimes I don't, but I can't wait to see Malachi's. And not just because he is one hot dude. :)

    I loved hearing about the process. Luke's maps sound like the one's I prefer.

  10. Oh wow. This sounds like a thing of real beauty. Many maps are, of course. And how awesome is it that the two of you hooked up through the Cartographers Guild to collaborate on this project!

    Sarah, if you don't wallpaper your office in the map, you will at least frame it, right?

  11. I actually tend to avoid maps when I read a book. I mean, they are full of SPOILERS. The entire world is often /right there/, and sometimes, there is even a path that marks out the whole story. SPOIIIILERS. When I finish reading a book, and there's a map, the first thing I do is flip back to the map and finally look at it.

    That said, Malachi's map is so pretty. I love it. It is my precious. Luka did a fantastic job bringing the map to life. He conveys so much personality and history in the work. (And just to note, not commenting to enter! I am content with my precious.)

  12. So ... I could go on about this forever, but basically: I LOVE MAPS! The Hobbit and LOTR were the original source of my passion as well, so this is the coolest thing I've read this year (at least as far as blog posts go).

    I once even created a gazeteer (Luka probably knows what that is) for an entire fantasy city when I was a teenager. I wish I still had that thing.

    I want maps in all my books. Books without maps are not nearly as cool as books with maps. Unfortunately I can barely draw. Fortunately, you introduced me to this guild the other day, and I've already left my five requisite comments over there.

  13. This is outstanding!! I love maps in books too... well heck i just love maps in general. I did my own map for a fantasy world I created and it was a lot of fun, but I'm so glad to learn of this guild for a more professional piece of work. Thanks for sharing!
    And congrats on Sanctum!!

  14. Wow! Thanks so much for the map info, Sarah. Yours sounds amazing--can't wait to see it someday in Sanctum. I've been attempting to make one for my novel but it's...erm...looking like a kid drew it. Which I suppose is true. Anyways. :-) Thanks for the links. I'll definitely be checking out the Guild.

  15. ooo! Ooo!!! Pick me! Pick me!

    No, that is WAY cool. I'm just going to go hang out at the cartographer's guild b/c it sounds groovy. :D I've got a book that *could* use a map, but it's through the woods. I don't know. Maybe a map would help ME! :D good stuff~ <3

  16. What an awesome concept!! YES I would totally commission a map if it fit with the piece I'd been working on. I would LOVE to win SANCTUM but plan on reading it either way. ;D

  17. holy macaroni! the thing can be 3x3!?!?!?! that is FAN-tastic!!!
    maps... they are just... wow! so beautiful!
    i'm with mr. Lukc, in that i love hand-drawn, atmospheric maps best. the HOBBIT had my first map love as well. i also love real aged maps, where the paper has turned colors and the borders have shifted and places go by names alien to me.
    i also love nautical maps and schematics and all sorts of things like that... just to study the structure of the lines as they overlap and spread and twist and guide...
    my only problem with maps is that... well... i STILL get lost even with them. i don't know why! i'm just ALWAYS getting lost!
    sarah, your map sounds absolutely phenomenal.
    and lukc, i really respect your perspective on making the map specifically appropriate for the story. i'm so glad sarah found you to help make her book that much more astounding! :)

  18. Big map lover here. Being a county historian, I use old maps all the time. Found a 1822 survey that helped me pinpoint an allegedly "moved" cemetery in our village with no visible signs it was ever there where our library intended to put in a parking lot. Ekk! I'm using some maps from 1790-1850 on Native American land in western NY state for a book I'm self-publishing. They are awesome to look at as far as the hand drawn detail and to see what little was there back then. Every time you look at them with fresh eyes, you pick up something you missed the last time around.

    Being a map person, I love when maps are included with a book, especially if it is a complex fictional world. It helps me as a reader to keep things straight. So the fact that a REAL mapmaker was used for SANCTUM, rather than a random sketch, just shows the attention given to the details to totally immerse the reader. Impressive!

  19. Maps are definitely a big help! It gives more of a feel of the book and for me, maps make it easier to imagine the world of the book I am reading because it enhances the experience. It helps expand the reader's imagination, and makes one feel like he/she is really navigating that world.

    This interview is so fun to read! I think I'm in awe of cartographers now. It takes an exceptionally skilled person (and highly imaginative too!) to make a map!

  20. What a great post. So informative and no, I had not heard of the Cartographers' Guild. I love knowing about that! Antique maps are a favorite of mine, and I have some that I've framed and use as artwork in my house. I think it would be very cool to have the map from your first published book as wallpaper in your office!

  21. I always love having a map included with a story.

    I like being able to go back and see where a character is and where he is going and the whole spacial content of where everything is located. Michael Grant and Steven King are two authors I've read recently that had a map for their book and I loved going back an forth locating the different places characters were at during different times and the proximity of the other characters at times too. And Matt, the map in the Hobbit is great. There's actually a couple of stories I've read that I really wish had a map, so maybe I should create my own for my own enjoyment.

    My oldest came home with a map project two years ago and I was the one that was excited about the homework(!). lol

    Tx Highlife

  22. YES. I love, love, love maps in novels. Can't seem to make one myself, though :) The fact that SANCTUM has a map just makes it THAT MUCH MORE AWESOME to me! And thanks for the shout-out to the Cartographers Guild, Sarah--I am most definitely checking it out!

  23. I ate up every inch of this post. So. COOL! I can't believe you know a real cartographer!

  24. oh wow, this is such an amazing post and I can't wait to see the final map! the little sneak peeks are sweet! it looks like it has a lot of detail!

  25. Okay, I had never heard of the Cartographer's Guild, but I'm pretty sure it's one of the coolest things EVER! I write fantasy--well, I used to, and I hope I go back someday--and have always wanted a lovely fantasy map to go along with my someday-published books...but was always VERY disappointed in my own attempts at map-drawing. So glad that there are people in the world who like making story-maps! :)

  26. Vic - thanks for the kind words. :)

    History Sleuth - well, the attempt was to integrate the kind of work Malachi could do with a work that would translate to the novel. I think we succeeded, to an extent - I won't say I couldn't have done better, I probably could have. But that's just how art goes, once you do something, you always feel like there's some niggling detail you could have polished more!

    Lydia - well, "real cartographer" no - at the CG we're real _fantasy_ cartographers* ;) I'm actually an illustrator and graphic designer (and almost an anthropologist - yeah, kinda weird I know).

    *though quite a few guys are the real modern deal, with GIS programmes and the whole shebang. Really, have a look - it's a fun place!

  27. I adore maps that go along with books. :) Funnily enough, The Hobbit is the book that drew me into mapmaking, as well! I've created a number of maps for my WIPs. I'm not the best artist, but I have enough skill that I usually end up quite happy with the result. If (when) my novels are published, I'll definitely hope to have someone more professional create the final copy, though! The Cartographer's Guild sounds fabulous!

  28. Great to stumble upon this secret cabal of cartography lovers! I'll await instructions about the secret handshake, guys.

    Maps are coolissimo, and the lack thereof can be frustrating. I kept wishing the maps in the Game of Thrones gave me a more complete sense of the entire globe, rather than bits and pieces of the places.

    Hope that maps don't become a casualty of GPS systems...

  29. Who wouldn't want a good map! They usually lead to something awesome like gold!! Just think of all the books you could buy with a big pile of gold! :D

    I think my imagination got a little crazy just there lol!

  30. I'm totally obsessed with maps in general (I have two up on my walls at the moment on of Europe one of Victorian London) but especially in books (I mean have you SEEN the Monster/Machine Map of europe in Leviathan?). Pretty sure it started with the Hobbit for me too actually, which I have such vivid memories of reading as a child with my Dad. And I think the opening theme of Game of Thrones with the Moving map is just about the greatest thing ever at the moment. I actually once opened a book, and got insanely excited that there was a map because I had not expected one (it wasn't fantasy) it took me a couple of beats to realize it was a map of London, e.g where I live and walk around ALL THE TIME. I did a similar thing with Historial book that had a map of France that only showed the eastern portion of Brittany. I was all "Fantasy Kingdom...wait, I thought this was set in...Oh!" Again, I grew up in France, you would think I would be able to recognize it. *facepalm* Needless to say I was never great at Geography (and I'm still in my group of friends the person no one believes when I say "I know this place to eat that's close" because apparently I have NO sense of distance) but Maps I completely adore!

  31. We're all fans of maps (and especially books with maps)in this house. When I was a kid, I hoarded maps. National Geographic, Paris metro, fold out city maps from vacations, anything. A couple of them survived to find a place on my son's wall.

    Just the little glimpse of Luka's drawing is enticing.

  32. I love maps in books--I'm a really visual person, so they're both helpful and enjoyable :). And the older, more hand-drawn and illustrated looking, the better!

  33. This was so informative and cool! I love maps in books, especially if there's a lot of running around or traveling in the story. It helps me orient myself in the world, and I just like seeing where these are placed. Plus, the maps themselves are often so beautiful. For example, I love Keith Thompson's maps for Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy, which takes place in an alternate version of our world. So I don't really need the maps to know where Russia is located in reference to Britain, but I love all the illustrative details in the maps that related to the books' storylines and politics.

    Can't wait to see your map in full! The teasers are so teasery!

  34. I think maps in books are great. Especially fantasy books! It really helps to visualize the world the author has created. I cannot wait to see the map in Sanctum. :)

  35. My husband makes maps for a living but not these kind. Oh, how he wishes!

  36. This. Is. SO. Awesome!!!! I love maps.

  37. In my opinion maps should be required for any fantasy or sci-fi novel involving world building. I refer to them constantly when I'm reading, and I love it when the details in the map perfectly match the writing! :)

  38. I don't particularly like or dislike maps in books. Authors tend to tell you where the character is even if you have been keeping track of the left turns. It's how the author makes you feel about any given location that counts.

    That said, I do like maps. I like them a lot. I just never refer to them while I'm reading.

  39. I love, love, LOVE maps. Especially beautiful & detailed ones, like this one seems to be. I can't wait to see the whole thing!

  40. This is SO amazing! I love looking at maps. What a fantastic idea to have with your book. This one looks incredible!


  41. I LOVE Maps, so winning this would just about make my day. The interview was also excellent, so thank you! :D