Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Switching Gears by Jana Oliver

Jana Oliver
As a huge big fan of Jana Oliver's I jumped at the chance to host her on her blog-tour for the release of her new novel: Demon Trappers: Forbidden.  Her previous novel, the first in her Demon Trappers series, received much love from reviewers and bloggers alike.  And it is after visiting Jana's site that I realised that Jana doesn't just write YA fiction with a kick-ass heroine.  She also writes fiction urban fantasy set in Victorian England.  How does an author shift one hundred and thirty years of mental gears from Late Victorian England to a future Atlanta, Georgia? Jana Oliver gives us insights as to just how that gear shifting works.

Because I love a challenge, I chose to write about two entirely different time periods: 1888 London and 2018 Atlanta. Each comes with their own perils.

As to Victorian London, there are a significant number of people who are knowledgeable about that time period and those folks aren’t shy about letting you know when you mess something up. Also, I’m a Yank. Where we might have invented baseball, the culture in which you live teaches you certain basics without you even realizing it. Like the fact that folks in Britain drive on the left side and add milk to their tea rather than cream.

In the case of the Victorian London in the Time Rovers Series, I needed to think like someone from 1888 so I immersed myself in the time period, read books, newspapers, court transcripts, wandered through Whitechapel back alleys and trolled through libraries’ archives. I’ve worn period-authentic gowns and visited gunpowder factories. I learned how Victorians lived: how they thought, what they ate and how they buried their dead.

But with that comes one bitter fact: No matter how hard I tried, I am a child of the twenty-first century. I will always view 1888 through the lens of someone from my era. A sad fact, but true.

In the end I grew very fond of the Victorians. They never saw a challenge they couldn’t conquer, a feat of engineering that they wouldn’t attempt. They were the masters of the universe in 1888. By the end of WWI that indomitable spirit had begun to grow thin, worn down by forces out of their control. But in 1888 they ruled the world.

Switching to Atlanta in the year 2018 for the Demon Trappers Series wasn’t quite as dramatic a mental adjustment because it’s closer to my own time period. The biggest issue was trying to see into the future. Just how bad would it be? Instead of depicting a city at rock bottom, I decided my Atlanta would be on the downhill slide. That way I could explore how the average person coped with an increasingly dysfunctional metropolis.

It wasn’t until I started writing the novels that I began to see the similarities between my “future” Atlanta and 1888 London. Where there might not be hansom cabs rolling through the streets or London-style “particulars”, there are wagons and carriages because of the high cost of fuel. As my future Atlanta’s economy falters, citizens are adapting Victorian survival tactics without knowing it. They’re recycling everything they can and secondhand markets have sprung up, along with little one-owner shops.

But from that point on my future Atlanta is its own creature. My heroine is schooled in a shuttered coffee shop, Holy Water is vital commodity and Heaven and Hell have decided to make the city its battleground. Luckily the Victorians never had to face those sorts of dangers.

At the heart of word building is research. You need to determine the various elements of your new world: agriculture, religion, politics, legal and educational systems, science and magic. Sometimes you will know these elements before you write your first world. Often you learn them by discovery as the story takes shape. You can base your new world on an existing one, on a society from the past or create one from whole cloth. Just ensure that the characters remain the most important part of your story. The world should add to the tale, not detract.

Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that my vivid imagination can easily switch from the backstreets of London to the gritty streets of Atlanta. Once I can “see” my characters inside the world I’ve created, the gears mesh seamlessly. All I have to do is feed research into that marvelous engine of imagination and stories are created. For me, that’s magical.



Macmillan Children's Books (U.K. Editions)

Demon Trappers: Forsaken - Jan. 2011

Demon Trappers: Forbidden - Aug. 2011

Demon Trappers: Forgiven - Mar. 2012


Shelley said...

As a writer and a Dickens lover, I applaud the choice of the Victorian Age! Such a rich time.

And congratulations on being selected for the Wikio Top Blogs list....

Nikki-ann said...

I've got the 1st book of the series in my TBR pile, I really need to get around to reading it. :)