Creating a Setting for Your Characters
Thanks so much for inviting me back to your blog, Urban Fantasy Investigations. I appreciate the support for my books.
I’d love to say I use the same process for every book I write, but I don’t. Many of my books begin with an image, or series of images, that form the basis for the book. I occasionally begin with an empty world, and it tells me what kind of characters it needs. I’ve only rarely begun with a character and formed a world around them.
In the Earth Reclaimed Series, the world came first. It’s a dystopian landscape on an Earth that’s become a battlefield for alien gods and other dark creatures. I needed gutsy, self-contained characters to survive in such a challenging environment, and they came to me. Snort. More than came to me. They battered their way into my head and refused to leave until I told their story.
Aishlinn is a twenty-two year old woman, who’s lost so much she scarcely cares what happens to her next. Rune is a wolf, whose last human bondmate was killed by the enemy. Fionn MacCumhaill is a Celtic god. Like many of his kind, he withdrew from the world, waiting to see if the current mess would blow over. Bella, his raven bondmate could pass for a sharp-tongued harridan. She cares about Fionn, but not much else. The story arc reunites the characters with their basic humanity, but it’s a long, tough journey.
As an aside, this series required some serious research into the Celtic deities, many of whom I’d forgotten. And dragons. I researched them too!
One of the things I love about urban fantasy, as opposed to high fantasy, is it’s set in the “real” world. No odd names for things. No triple moons transiting the sky. My favorite urban fantasies feel so real, they could actually happen. That hunk living next door could be a closet Celtic god, who’s been alive for millennia.
I’m also wretchedly old-fashioned. I think we lost something when our lives got very easy. There’s not much challenge left anymore, unless we create it. That’s likely why I’ve had a lifelong love affair with traveling the backcountry with a pack, where I have to rely on my wits. I’ve been cold, lost, and out of food, but I feel ever so much more alive when I get back to civilization.
I give my characters similar challenges. They need wits, creativity, and courage to survive to the next chapter. That their worlds hold deadly surprises, ups the ante. Characters change and grow over the course of their story. Hell, so does the author, for that fact. I was pleased by how this series grew over the months I spent writing it and even more pleased I’m now the mistress of its fate as its publisher as well as its author.
How about the rest of you writers out there. Do you create characters first, or worlds? Or do they come to you as a unit that refuses to be separated? And for you readers. What draws you into a book, hooks you, and doesn’t let you go?
A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.
Find Ann and her books
Earth Reclaimed #1
Earth Reclaimed #2
Earth Reclaimed #1
Resilient, kickass, and determined, Aislinn's walled herself off from anything that might make her feel again. Until a wolf picks her for a bond mate and a Celtic god rises out of legend to claim her for his own.
Aislinn Lenear lost her anthropologist father high in the Bolivian Andes. Her mother, crazy with grief that muted her magic, was marched into a radioactive vortex by dark creatures and killed. Three years later, stripped of every illusion that ever comforted her, twenty-two year old Aislinn is one resilient, kickass woman with a take no prisoners attitude. In a world turned upside down, where virtually nothing familiar is left, she’s conscripted to fight the dark gods responsible for her father’s death. Battling evil on her own terms, Aislinn walls herself off from anything that might make her feel again in this compelling dystopian urban fantasy.
Fionn MacCumhaill, Celtic god of wisdom, protection, and divination has been laying low since the dark gods stormed Earth. He and his fellow Celts decided to wait them out. After all, three years is nothing compared to their long lives. On a clear winter day, Aislinn walks into his life and suddenly all bets are off. Awed by her courage, he stakes his claim to her and to an Earth he's willing to fight for.
Aislinn’s not so easily convinced. Fionn’s one gorgeous man, but she has a world to save. Emotional entanglements will only get in her way. Letting a wolf into her life was hard. Letting love in may well prove impossible.
Earth Reclaimed #2
Clinging to their courage in a crumbling world, Aislinn and Fionn vow to save Earth, no matter what it takes.
In a post-apocalyptic world where most people have been slaughtered, the Celtic gods and a few humans with magic are all that stand between survival and Earth falling into chaos. The combination of dark sorcery leveraged by the enemy is daunting. Destruction is all but certain if the small enclaves of humans who are left can’t get past their distrust of the Celts.
Captured by the enemy, Aislinn Lenear wonders if she’ll ever see her bond wolf or Fionn, a Celtic god, again. She’s had nothing but her wits to rely on for years. They haven’t failed her yet, but escape from her current predicament seems remote.
An enticing blend of dystopian urban fantasy and romance, this second volume of the Earth Reclaimed Series provides fertile ground for Aislinn and Fionn’s relationship to deepen. Headstrong and independent, the pair run up against each other’s demands time and time again. Fireworks spark. In the end, they learn to savor every moment in a bittersweet world where each day may well be the last.
Earth Reclaimed #3
Power so old, deep, and chilling it hurts to think about it will overrun Earth if nothing changes. Targeted, furious, and fighting back, Aislinn runs wide open, gathering allies and putting her life on the line.__________________________________
Aislinn Lenear has traveled a long road since the dark gods invaded Earth better than three years ago. After seeing her father slaughtered in front of her, and her mother sink into madness, Aislinn built strong walls around her heart. First her bond wolf, and then Fionn MacCumhaill, changed all that, but she and Fionn are far from home free.
Four of the six dark gods are still sowing destruction, and they’ve joined forces with Lemurians, a desperate lot, running just ahead of the tide of their own mortality. In a bold move, they try to coopt a group of young dragons, and very nearly succeed. Dewi, the Celtic dragon god, and Nidhogg, the Norse dragon god, banish their brood to the dragons’ home world, but they refuse to stay put.
In a fast-paced, tension-riddled closure to this dystopian, urban fantasy series, Earth's Hope sweeps from Ireland to the Greek Islands to the Pacific Northwest to borderworlds where the dark gods live. Fionn’s and Aislinn’s relationship is strained to the breaking point as they struggle to work together without tearing one another to bits. Fionn is used to being obeyed without question, but Aislinn won’t dance to his tune. If they can find their way, there may be hope for a ravaged Earth.