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Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Spotlight: Kelly McCrady

As a reader spending time in my favorite fantasy realms through my favorite authors’ works, I sometimes wondered where those fantastical ideas came from. In case anyone wonders about The Empire’s Edge, here’s a peek inside my brain.

My imaginary continent is something like Mongolia (Cochet Empire) set on the northern end of middle-Europe if it were actually 1800s U.S. turned 90 degrees to the right (Rilliand), which sits on top of the African Congo (Trearu). The wonder of a fantasy world is that having northern icy tundra separated from steamy jungle by a few hundred miles makes sense. Willing suspension of disbelief is a must.

I split my geography further into what could be farmed or manufactured where, by province. Seafaring, grain crops, wool, cloth, orchard fruit, wine grapes, cattle. Then I added in mining, glassmaking, timber. In six years much of this can become overthought; yet with the details in place in my mind and on my maps I was able to incorporate the details needed to bring a culture to life.

Quick: how far can a singe horse travel in a day vs. a four-horse team pulling a coach? I had to look it up then translate this into distances and keep track of how far apart my imaginary cities were. In spite of being a professional editor in my other life, I still wonder if I got this consistent throughout the story.

Music helped me separate the cultures in the story as well. For the northern Cochet Empire I played CDs of Korean and Chinese classical music as well as Taiko drums. For scenes set in the kingdom of Rilliand I relied on European classical orchestrations, especially Baroque.

When you create your own worlds or read a made-up setting, what do you picture and hear in your mind?

As a sci-fi/fantasy fan and author, Kelly believes the best stories contain the human element of romance. Scribbling pieces of stories into spiral notebooks since first grade, she became serious about the craft of writing in 2001. Her dream is to see her work on the bookstore shelf next to Anne McCaffrey's. In her free time, this former zookeeper crochets, knits, quilts and gardens – badly. "I'm better with words than with plants," she says. Kelly lives in Oregon with her husband and daughter. Visit her on the web at


Nancy J. Cohen said...

I use tropical settings a lot since I live in one. That makes it easy to research! For the arid planet that opens my SFR story in Silver Serenade, I pictured the dry desert regions I've seen. Stacktown, a mysterious mist enshrouded planet, is totally imaginary and so is my space station. Some things I make up, some are based on real locations.

Kelly McCrady said...

Thanks for sharing, Nancy. Making up settings is one of the fun parts of fantasy, for me :-)