I read a good deal of high fantasy, typically works containing elements similar to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and such. One of the fun parts of any fantasy novel is the map. Usually found just after the title pages, the map gives the reader context. It provides a framework to orient the story within. Usually the author and designer can incorporate some good artwork and make them visually appealing as well!
The sailor and former submariner in me likes charts. I have them on my walls at home. I can look and immediately recall the adventure of sailing my live-aboard sailboat down the East Coast of the U.S., or crossing parts of the Pacific in 2009. In the same way, every time I see the pen-stroked beauty of Tolkien’s map of Middle Earth, my mind recalls Frodo’s adventure out of Bag End and into the dangers of the wild.
Chronicles of Outremer is no different.
However, I did not include the map in the digital copies. Yet. I started with a hand-drawn image that is kept tacked near my desk. This map gives me, the author, context. If tells me where the major locations of my world are. If tells me the orientation to keep things in their right places. It helps me keep track of what’s between Wolford and Westfield, Ardglass and Athylford. It’s also fictitious.
When I started the basic idea for this series, way way back in the 2012 timeframe, I was unsure what setting the story would take place in. I did not set out to write historical fiction. I knew I wanted to write about a company of knights. The initial locations were developed almost independent of any historical map of the time, meaning I would not be tied to local geography, town names, or features. References to the Crusader States were pretty accurate, but my interpretation of England was unique and fictional, drawing only on elements of the place.
The challenge of that approach is missing out on the beauty that is history, and the rich timeline of changes that occurred in the real Broads. Places like Ipswich. Norfolk. What’s an author to do?
Well, this author decided to blend. There are great reasons not to do so. There are many folks who want to see top-notch historical accuracy, and will be turned off by my muddling with the location. Who knows how far I’ll be read, but there are real people who live in the real Broads who will wince at fictitious and fantastical towns and geography. After all, if I read a book about Cochranton, PA, that said the school mascot was a walrus, I’d be up in arms. For those readers, I apologize for any unmet expectations, and hope you understand this viewpoint.
What I have done is “sprinkle” some fact with my fiction. I do this on purpose. There is a real place called the Broads. There is a real Ipswich. There were real knights and retainers who journeyed to the Holy Land, who fought in places like Ascalon, Aleppo, Acre, and more. The Crusader States were real. My hope is that readers will take these seeds and water them as much (or as little) as they desire, doing their own research, learning about the reality behind the fiction.
I had little idea when I first watched it, but Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven is actually based on a true story. Not just the Crusade and Templars, but the fall of Jerusalem and the characters themselves. There really was a Guy d’Lusignan and Sibylla, his wife. If it weren’t for Scott’s telling of the tale, I’d have never dug further in to learn that.
My hope is to get some better graphics for the books going forward and include a map with each one. In the mean time, for you, dear reader, please find my working copy.
Travis Chapman, Chronicles of Outremer