Just in time for a peak summer read, Megan Cutler is back on the blog tour circuit to share information about her novel Island of Lost Forevers and its journey to print. Once again, I had the pleasure of working with her in creating wraparound covers for the paperback edition of the books, though just the base artwork, this time! One staple inclusion of each cover was the island itself. Keep reading, and Megan will give you a glimpse at the island and what makes it so important…
One characteristic of epic fantasy is the scale of its setting. Epic tales take place in vast worlds, full of interesting cities, cultures and landmarks. Somehow, the characters become aware of these details throughout their adventure and it becomes clear that the world is active even when the characters aren’t present.
Building any world, no matter how small, takes a great deal of time and effort. There are a lot of considerations, from the physical makeup of the landscape, to the customs of the people who populate it. James and I were lucky that we only needed to create a chunk of a world, a remnant, and that allowed us to focus our efforts on a small geographic area. The primary landmarks of the island are its tall mountain, its majestic waterfall and its tropical climate. But the heart of the island is the bathhouse, carved out of the slope of the mountain at the base of the waterfall.
The bathhouse was our first creation and we built the island around it. All together, they form a cosmic five-star resort. It needed breath-taking views, stunning beaches, and a fancy dining room. But we wanted to preserve the soul of the bathhouse concept. We carefully drew attention to the zen-like aspects of the building; the public bathing rooms, the hot springs, and the extensive garden. From there we grew outward, developing the people associated with the bathhouse. Of course the workers had to come from somewhere, and thus was born the village which shares the renown bathhouse’s island.
Though the island has obvious Asian (and thus Earthly) overtones, we also wanted it to possess an otherworldly feel. While the island ruler and most of his subjects may have easily come from Earth, the bulk of the bathhouse’s guests obviously come from other worlds. One of the most entertaining aspects of writing the book was coming up with fantastic characters to make cameo appearances. And while these encounters are delightfully exciting for our protagonists, they’re mundane occurrences for the people who live and work on our island.
From the beginning, the island played an important role in our story. Its appearance is the catalyst for our adventure. As our two protagonists search for the secrets the island brought with it, they paint a tapestry of the island’s characteristics. Is it sinister? Is it sentient? As the characters search for the answers to these questions, we were able to take the concept of setting as a character one step further. It’s obvious the island possesses some kind of awareness. It influences the people who inhabit it. As time goes on, it even seems to form opinions about the characters and their actions.
The way various characters interact with the island becomes central to the plot. At first they want to explore it, but eventually they want to escape it. Overall, it was fun to allow our setting to grow a mind of its own. It added extra emotional and philosophical levels to the plot, all while keeping us on our toes. We tried to give the island a prominent place in the story, to make it clear from the beginning our setting also served the role of character. To that end, we re-wrote the beginning to give the island pride of place. After all, what better way to start an epic adventure than with the appearance of a mysterious island out of nowhere?
Is the island paradise or does a nightmare lurk beneath the surface?
When a mysterious island appears off the coast of San Francisco, two intrepid academics risk everything to discover its secrets. Catilen Taylor has struggled all her life with the ability to sense others’ emotions. Damian Cooke studies an ancient art he calls ‘magic.’
The island boasts an idyllic retreat, ruled by the enigmatic Sentomoru, who invites them to share the wonders of his bathhouse. But as the travelers strive to unravel the island’s secrets, Catilen senses danger stalking their steps.
Neither Catilen nor Damian know how long the island will remain on Earth. If they can’t solve its riddles quickly, they may be trapped wherever it goes when it vanishes.
Megan grew up in a small town in central Pennsylvania where books offered an easy escape from the mundane life of a rural highway town. In 2003 she married the love of her life and moved to Canada. Megan started writing full-time in 2011 and has since published four novels and several short stories, including the Mystical Island Trilogy. Her characters keep her up late and wake her up early, but she loves them anyway. Learn more at megancutler.net, or connect to Megan via Facebook and Twitter.