Welcome to the blog tour of Read My Mind, the first book of the Under the Empire series! I hope you’ll check out all the stops, where I explore the craft that goes into creating a fantasy series set in a contemporary era.
Long ago, a pantheon of ten gods gifted magic to the people of our world, changing the course of history as we know it. The Flavian Empire now reigns over what would have been America, led by a royalty of fire weavers. Frannesburg, the city by the bay, is a haven from the empire’s encroaching dictatorship, and its university is bustling with people of all magics, sexualities, genders, and races. As students study toward their degrees, they hope to find friendships across majors, and maybe even love under the fog and city lights.
Read My Mind follows two freshmen, Scott and Nick, who have just started at the University of Frannesburg. Magic, attraction, and too much homework await them on their journey to figure out who they are now that they are on their own, and how they fit into this magical world.
Building a Whole New World
Almost ten years ago I had a character who didn’t want to leave my head. I wrote him into short stories and into the background of early novels, I imagined what role he could play in various fan fiction worlds. But I was anxious to figure out his world. Where he was from. What his past was.
So I started daydreaming.
A few years later I had a finished draft of a contemporary world full of gods and magic, but when I tried to revise, I noticed plot holes galore—a magic I had mentioned early on disappeared for the rest of the MS, the religion was incomplete, the world felt hollow and plain. It was missing a lot of depth, and now I was in for the long haul of figuring out what shape that depth would take.
Guys, this is how world building usually starts. You throw the pieces that light your passion at the page and when you’re done you gotta figure out what you’re missing. When I became too overwhelmed and frustrated to continue tinkering with that draft, I moved on to other stories (as one should do). But that world kept creeping back. After finishing Y Negative, I dove back into this magical world, but this time I was armed with a plan.
I had to figure out this world before diving into the drafting.
World building is going to be a completely unique process for every world you create, but I think it has a lot of the same backbones. You can ask yourself some questions:
-Am I writing about our world or a different one? If this world, is it our history or alternate? If another, what makes that world different to ours in geography, weather, flora and fauna?
-What country does the story take place in? What is the government? What are the religions? What type of people are there?
Figuring out the basics of these questions gives you a nice base to set your characters in. Which then leads to the character-specific questions that I think we are even more familiar with, like what do they do for a living, and for fun, who do they keep as friends, what do they like to eat, etc. And the great thing is, all of these questions can enhance the world building. Your character likes sushi? Okay, so that suggests that either there is Japanese culture in the region where your character lives, or there is a colonialist or immigrant element to your character’s area that has brought Japanese food to them. Even if you are writing a non-earth narrative, deciding what types of food your characters are eating is going to signal to the reader what sort of cultural influences, trade, and resources you intend the characters to have.
As I worked through a new draft in this world, questions kept popping up. How many gods were there? Could I finally decide how many types of magic existed? How did they all interact? How did they influence technology for the gods’ sakes?
For me, world building is like building a Lego play set while I’m playing with it. I figure out what I need as I go, and hopefully by the end I have a half-completed set, and hopefully—and this is key—if I keep playing with it and bringing new characters into the mix the set will become more and more complete.
There are a million world building exercises out there for you to find and play with, and I definitely encourage that. But the best way to see if any of that actually works and fits together into a working world is to put it to action and draft it out.
About Read My Mind
Scott Kensington lives happily without magic; prayer is all he needs to worship the gods. Then he starts his studies at the University of Frannesburg, and not only is he suddenly surrounded by eccentrics—those gifted with magic—but his own latent ability begins to surface, with consequences that could tear his soul and family apart.
Nick Barns is grieving for his lost mother and desperate for distraction—usually in the form of limited-edition action figures. As a telekinetic, he’s no stranger to magic, so he offers to help Scott adjust to his new powers. They quickly learn how their magics interact, their shared passions soon growing beyond superheroes and immortals. But Nick’s not taking his studies seriously, and his father threatens to pull him from the university. Overwhelmed by his own crumbling family, Scott’s convinced he can’t handle a relationship, but he doesn’t want to let Nick go.
With grief, guilt, and magic complicating everything between Nick and Scott, it seems that not even the gods—or a new comic book—can save their relationship now. Sometimes, even reading someone’s mind won’t help you understand what they want.
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About Kelly Haworth
Kelly Haworth grew up in San Francisco and has been reading science fiction and fantasy classics since she was a kid. She has way too active an imagination, thus she channels it into writing. Kelly is genderfluid and pansexual, and loves to write LGBTQIA characters into her work. In fact, she doesn’t know if she’s ever going to be able to write an allo-cishet couple again. Kelly has degrees in both genetics and psychology, and works as a project manager at a genetics lab. When not working or writing, she can be found wrangling her two toddlers, working on cosplay, or curled up on the couch with a good TV show or book.
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To celebrate the release of Read My Mind, one lucky winner will receive a $20 Riptide gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on October 7, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!