Reliving a Setting

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This is the fabulous map DM Cornish created for Tales of Jahani. In the books it is in black & white so he kindly sent me a colour one for this blog.

The setting is where we used to live when we were aid workers in Pakistan in the 1980s and early 1990s. We lived in Abbottabad which is a name coined during the Raj not in 1662, so I’ve imagined Sherwan as the village where Jahani has been raised. Those beautiful alpine lakes with paries (fairies) in them, rushing rivers, dangerous bridges, fairy fields are all places the children loved to visit. I even saw the Himalayas and Karakorum Mountains from the air when I and my children had to take a small plane from Chitral to Peshawar to escape being snowed in as the mountain pass out was blocked.

At first I wrote the journey from memory. It felt wonderful putting Balakot back on the map after it was destroyed by the 2005 earthquake. Over fifty thousand people died in this town alone. I drew up a mud map for DM Cornish to create the maps for The Tales of Jahani, but kept writing. I should have had the map in front of me because when his map came through I could see I had missed scenes. There were places where Jahani would be stranded on one side of a river if I didn’t produce a bridge or a boat to get her across.

Writing Jahani’s journey was like revisiting a much loved real life setting. Of course the books are fantasy so details have been changed, especially the history, but I hope the celebration of those beautiful places can be seen.

I visited DM Cornish as he worked on the second draft of the map. He used a tablet so all his artwork is digital. He has no ‘original copies’. It looked like magic, watching rivers change course and motifs appear on the screen as he made marks on what looks like a digital slate.

DM kindly said he jumped at the chance to work with me on the rich new duo and found it a real treat to delve into Jahani’s & Azhar’s world. In his words: ‘May I just say how good your world-building is, how rich and real-seeming the setting is, I really feel the delicious otherness of Jahani & Azhar’s world.’

DM Cornish is the author of the award-winning Monster-Blood Tattoo series and many picture books. He is an illustrator by training & profession, a lover of maps and well-made fictional worlds. His work can be found online.

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