Today, we are privileged to have an interview with the author & mapmaker Vanessa Garland. She has written the book Howl, and draws fantasy maps for clients, including for my debut fantasy novella, The Sultan’s Daughter.
After she drew my map (and I must say that she did a fantastic job), Vanessa agreed to do an interview with me.
Where do you come from and has this place influenced you as an artist?
I’m Australian, born to a British/First Generation Aussie father and a Filipino mother. In the beginning, I don’t think I was greatly influenced by the terrain around me. But as I’ve grown in the industry, I’ve begun to look at things in a different light. There are definitely parts of Australia I would take inspiration from if a map called for it.
When did you first realise you are a talented artist?
I still don’t consider myself a ‘talented artist.’ I feel that I fell into this work accidentally and, perhaps, I just put things together well. But I can’t even draw a decent stick figure! Terrain is definitely more of my strong point.
This blogger: You are very humble. I think you are talented in your area of expertise.
You are an excellent cartographer and you have drawn a superb map for me, for my upcoming women’s fantasy novella The Sultan’s Daughter, which stories inspired you to draw a map?
I’ve been writing my next book and in my head things were getting jumbled, in terms of locations. I needed to find a better way to navigate the plot. So, I asked my fiancé to draw me a map as he has done all my cover art in the past for books.
Unfortunately, his work schedule was too busy and I was too impatient. So, I drew it myself. I drew the map at least 5 times before I was truly happy with it, and then I went one step further and added half a world more to it. That’s really where it all began.
What made you start drawing maps for people?
At the time, I was posting a lot of progress videos and photos to my Instagram account. Subsequently, I had several authors DM me and ask for work to be done for them. It occurred to me that I wasn’t the only one with a frazzled mind and an imaginary world that needed to be penned. So, I took on some clients, the stars aligned, and I began drawing maps for authors who needed them.
This blogger: Good on you for taking the initiative. I, for one, am very happy that you did this. (*Smiles broadly.*)
What gives depth to a map in your opinion?
I prefer a map with a slightly more realistic detail. Shadowing is a big highlight for me, and things like chasms and cliffs look magnificent when put on a map. However, these things rarely come up on the maps I do for clients, so I took this into consideration when drawing my own map. In fact, I gave it a vast range of details and terrains which worked well for my story.
This blogger: That’s really cool. I look forward to seeing the map for your story when it’s ready.
Which maps in books do you like to look at the most, and why?
I love all of Tolkien’s maps! The highlight of that of course if the popularised Middle Earth map, which is very heavy in detail but still reads as a map.
I appreciate so much of what Christopher Tolkien has done there. It would take a great deal of time to pen all those mountains and trees the way he did. I have a copy on my wall above my desk of it, actually. That’s how much I adore it!
What, in your opinion does not work when creating a map?
Nothing, so far! The most difficult challenge would be shading, which can be edited out on the computer in the later stages, and also title placements. These things can be rather tricky if you have a tree populated area that already has a lot of ink going on.
Have you ever drawn a fantasy map of your own i.e. one for a story that you are writing?
Yes! And I think drawing a map in the future would be my first step before actually writing a book. If you have a fair idea of what your world will look like e.g. artic or pine forests, etc… it would be easier to have a map drawn and follow it as you write and add names along the way.
This blogger: I completely agree. As it happens, I said something very similar in one of my first writing tips blog posts.
If you could go back in time and speak to a young Vanessa Garland, what advice would you give her about map drawing and artistry in general?
Pay more attention to all the art museum trips you went on with school! Although, back then, I really didn’t have much confidence in my own artistic abilities and would consider myself to be in the lower 10% of the class. That’s how awful I was. But, with anything, practice is key! Don’t expect it to be perfect straight away.
Has drawing maps made you understand our own world better?
Not understand, but appreciate. Constantly, I marvel by the beauty of the Earth. There are so many places I want to visit and see with my own eyes; so many things that don’t make sense, yet they still exist! It’s a reminder that we have no limits and should strive to achieve greatness in everything we do.
This blogger: I like what you say a lot and I completely agree with you.
What other things do you like to draw, other than maps?
I don’t actually draw anything other than maps. When I’m not working on a client’s map, I’m likely to play around with a mock map and try out different ideas and new things that I haven’t done before; especially trees, as I do enjoy practicing my trees. (*Laughs*.)
Pine trees are very simple and they have an impactful look on a map. So, I try out many different looks for them, but I’m currently settled on my particular style.
Lastly, outside of drawing maps, what do you like to do?
Outside of mapping, I’m an Author. Also, I sew a lot of my kids’ clothing and am very fond of cooking good food.
If I can sneak in a trip to the theatre, I’m highly devout to musicals! I can’t wait to get to London one day and spend my days jumping between Phantom and Les Mis.
This blogger: I totally get that. I am from London, and the theatre scene in the West End is extraordinary. It’s well worth travelling across the world just to see a play there.
End of Interview
That brings our interview with author & mapmaker Vanessa Garland to a close. I would like to thank Vanessa for taking the time out to speak with me, and to say that it has been delightful working with her and getting to know her. I wish her all the best with books and mapmaking, and I hope that one day she does fulfil her dream to see musical plays in London.
Check out Vanessa’s book on Amazon. Plus, if you are looking for someone to draw you a map for your world, look no further. Vanessa is one of the best in the business, and you get hold of her by emailing her via her e-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Otherwise, follow her on Instagram. That way you can see the maps she creates for others (including my own), and know precisely when her next book is coming out.
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