Have you ever read Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones? Watched the Studio Ghibli adaption and loved it? This post and the ones that follow will definitely be for you. Never read or watched either? I highly recommend you do it; they're both very different, but to sum up: if you've got a dry humour and you'd like a laugh, try the book, if you're after something a little more artsy, you definitely want the film.
For those who want a shortened version of what I'm on about: Ingary is the fantastical land in this trilogy of novels (which begins with Howl's Moving Castle, continues with Castle in the Air and finishes with House of Many Ways) where
"such things as seven league boots and cloaks of invisibility exist".
I re-read the books recently, in order to enter a competition, and was struck by how many clues Diana Wynne Jones gave as to the whereabouts of the towns, cities, ports, mountains, etc. that make up Ingary. Well, it goes to say, that as I'm a map lover, and a mapmaker, an idea began to form: could I possibly create a map of Ingary from the clues in the books?
Unfortunately - and very sadly - Wynne Jones died of cancer at age 76 a number of years ago, so information other than what was in the books would be very hard to come by. My first stop was to email my old boss, who works in publishing and who knew Wynne Jones, to ask if she knew of anything that would help. She did not, after which I conducted numerous searches online to see if I could locate any evidence of something like this having been done while she was alive. Again, this came up in a dead end.
So, I re-read the books for the third time, this time making notes of absolutely everything that would help. I learned that Kingsbury was south of Market Chipping, that the Waste was South East, that the House of Many Ways sat in High Norland, beyond the mountains north of Ingary, and that Montalbino lay between. I guessed that Strangia, having been invaded by the king of Ingary, was a neighbouring country, put Porthaven on the coast down south with the Porthaven Marshes behind it, and blocked off North Ingary from the coast by adding in Albania (as Sophie has never seen the sea, I assumed that there weren't many coastlines in Ingary, and that the one that was there was quite far from her). And I learned so much more - Wynne Jones has managed to pack so much description and imagination into her land, using only the smallest hints and tips, that I found it was incredibly easy to build up a pretty exact picture of this world she had created. There's even an interview with her at the end of the book, where she says that a couple of places in the UK inspired the book, some towns in Essex and the Downs, so I'll be using those too as I move ahead.
So, if you want to come on the journey with me as I create the map of Ingary - my first map of a fantasy land - keep an eye out on this blog and the newsletter, because I'll be updating it as I go so that you can become an #illustrationinsider and gain an inside look at how I create my maps.
'Til next time,