Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Birthday, Heroines of Fantasy!

This month we are celebrating one year of being on line.  It's been an exciting twelve months for us, with great posts, interesting debates and a wonderful contributions by many guest authors.  Thank you so much to everyone who has participated by visiting our site, writing guest posts, and joining in the conversation through your comments and insights.

A new year always brings changes.  One of the changes we are most excited about is the addition of a fourth regular contributing author, Mark Nelson.  Mark's debut novel, Poets of Pevana, was released this year by Hadley Rille Books.  The book is an engaging journey into a complex world where poets -- and poetry -- lead the way in the resistance against a brutal and insidiously repressive regime.  We are all very excited to welcome Mark to Heroines of Fantasy.  Look for his first regular post, and a chance to win a free signed copy of his novel, later this month. 

Speaking of Hadley Rille Books, our beloved small press has decided to celebrate HoF's birthday with a $0.99 sale on all electronic editions (Kindle and Nook) of our novels.  Check out the right-hand bar for purchase links to each title.  This sale is for a limited time only, so take advantage of it now.

Those are my birthday announcements.  Now on to my post...

For the coming 12-month cycle, we've set up a calendar of topics by month.  Not everyone will be posting all the time on the monthly topic, but you will start seeing some continuity within months, and hopefully more variety between months, in terms of what we decide to write about.

September's theme comes courtesy of Terri-Lynne DeFino, who has asked that this month we all write about place in fantasy, and how certain areas of the world inspired the landscapes in which we have set our stories.

Moisehén -- the kingdom in which Eolyn lives -- is actually a strange amalgamation of places.  Most people who read the novel would place it, correctly, in medieval Europe. 
The seeds of Moisehén were Germanic, planted by trips I made to visit family in Frankfurt, Bavaria, and I think most importantly, the regions of North Rhine-Westphalia and Hessen.  I have both maternal and paternal roots in Germany, and so from a very young age was enamored of this land of medieval castles and rolling hills, fertile fields and dense forests. 
Castles like this one in Marburg, Germany, provided fertile
ground for my childhood imagination.
By the time I got around to writing Eolyn however, I had been to a few more places.   Most importantly, I'd spent about ten years living and working in Costa Rica, getting to know its people and its history. 

The colonial era of Central America, in particular, held a special fascination for me.  Costa Rica developed in a way that was very distinct from other provinces.  The elite Spaniards that colonized the Central Valley were wealthy in land, but had very little capital.  This set up a very different social dynamic compared to what happened in other colonial provinces such as Nicaragua and Guatemala. 

When I began to shape the different provinces of Moisehén, I modeled the province of Moehn -- where Eolyn is from -- after the Central Valley of Costa Rica, as I imagined it during the colonial era.  Both Moehn and the Central Valley are higher in elevation compared to the rest of the country. They are surrounded by mountains with access through a limited number of passes.  They both have very fertile land fed by copious rainfall and volcanic ash. 

Of course, there are many important differences between the Central Valley and Moehn.  One of these is that the Central Valley eventually became the center of power in Costa Rica.  Moehn is and will always be a marginal province with limited power in the grand scheme of things. 

One of the gateways to the oak-dominated
forests of Talamanca in Costa Rica.
The forest that inspired the South Woods, where Eolyn grows up, was not a European forest but a tropical one.  The higher elevations of Talamanca, the mountain range that runs from Costa Rica to Panama, are cloaked in a magnificent forest dominated by oak trees and inhabited by many marvelous creatures, including -- according to local legend -- the magical and elusive duendes.  In many ways, Talamanca took the seeds planted by my childhood trips to Germany and gave them life, allowing me to weave the many threads of inspiration into the single story that would become Eolyn. 

I could go on about this for a while -- and have in other places and other posts -- but I think I will leave my reflections on the landscape of Moisehén at that for now. 

I would like to finish by mentioning that while Moisehén has provided an important context for my stories, it is not the only landscape in which I write.  It just happens to be the only landscape in which I have crafted a novel.  But my short stories have taken me other places.  Turning Point, for example, is set in the contemporary world of High Talamanca.  When Sally Met Ben could be interpreted as a Midwest 1970s suburban setting.  Creatures of Light, which I will begin weaving into a full-length novel in the not-so-distant future, is set in a Mediterranean-like world of the 17th/18th century. 

This is one of the great things about writing and reading fantasy -- the possibilities of landscape are endless, especially if you give yourself the freedom to combine more than one period and location into a single world. 

 ~ posted by Karin Rita Gastreich


Anonymous said...

Happy online one year anniversary, looking forward to following your second year.

Terri-Lynne said...

Happy Birthday, Heroines of Fantasy! And welcome, Mark Nelson. We're all really excited to have him on board. As editor on his debut novel, I'm a little biased about things, but I think you'll find him entertaining at the very least.

Karin--I didn't know the duendes were borrowed! I love, love, love when a little of "our" world folklore shows up intact within fantasy worlds. I may have a real nit with idiom! But--yeah, folklore is universal. TRANSuniversal!

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Thank you, vikz! We really appreciate your support.

Terri, I did a fun post not too long ago on the duendes in Eolyn, which generated some great comments on duendes in Spain and -- get this -- Guam! You can check it out at

I'm reading Poets of Pevana right now & really enjoying it. It's so great to have Mark on board.

Terri-Lynne said...

Karin--I'm reading a pretty spectacular HRB novel right now, myself. :)

Going over to Eolyn now!