Ok, that was a lame pun, but I am super thrilled to be involved in this tour to celebrate the release of the newest instalment of the Red Abbey Chronicles, Maresi: Red Mantle by Maria Turtschaninoff and translated into English by Anne Primer.
In a world ruled by brutal and ruthless men, the Red Abbey has been a safe haven for women and girls. Maresi has grown into a young, strong woman thanks to Red Abbey. But now it is time for her to leave. Time to return to her childhood home and share what she has learned.
But her village isn't the same place it was when she left. People are struggling under the rule of an oppressive Earl and people are so desperate to survive that they don't see the value in Maresi's teaching. Maresi must use everything she has learn to protect her people, but can she find the strength to do so when she is experiencing love for the first time...?
Doesn't this sound dark, messed-up and feminist as heck!?
To celebrate this release, author Maria Turtschaninoff has written this some guest post which I am thrilled and honoured to share with you guys!
Now, before I hand it over to Maria, I want to thank her for finding time to write this and for the lovely Vicki at Pushkin for asking if I wanted to be involved in this tour! If you want to say hi to Maria, you can check out her website at mariaturtschaninoff.com or check her out on Twitter at @turtschaninoff. And if you want more info about Maresi: Red Mantle or any of the books within the series, you can check out Pushkin Press and Book Depository for more info.
NOW, OVER TO MARIA!!!
Finding the World of Maresi: Red Mantle
Writing with a strong sense of place is my forte. I never really see the faces of the people in my books, but I can still walk on the steps of the Abbey in MARESI and feel the wind from the sea on my cheek and hear the slapping of the sandals of the novices on the stone slabs, even though it’s five years since I finished the novel. Place is incredibly important to me when I write, maybe especially since I write fantasy: I have to make the readers believe these places exist. It’s also always been the easiest and most enjoyable part of writing for me.
Until I began working on Maresi Red Mantle.
I often look to history and other countries when I start sketching a new world or place. When I wrote Naondel, a novel mostly set in a harem, I read a lot about harems in Persia, China and Japan and took inspiration from both historical and present-day descriptions of harems and harem-like institutions. When I began the work on MARESI RED MANTLE I knew very little about the home Maresi was returning to after eight years in the Abbey – I knew that it was poor, and a hard land to farm, and that there had been famines. I chose to look to medieval Hungary for inspiration – it’s a region with an interesting history, it’s experienced famines and invasions and has traditions and crafts I was fascinated by. I read a lot, and I started picking out details I wanted to use, I took inspiration from the best bits and twisted and re-worked them to suit my worldbuilding needs.
And it didn’t work. At all. The people I tried to populate this place with couldn’t interact with their surroundings, they remained two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. They refused to come alive, to live and breathe and act like real people. And I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. The problem was, even though I couldn’t see it at the time, that *I* couldn’t see the land, the houses, the forests and fields. I couldn’t imagine them properly, I couldn’t walk the paths and smell the earth. And so the people in my story couldn’t either. The land around them wasn’t real, it didn’t shape their lives and customs and habits. Everything they did was forced and artificial. I was at my wit’s end.
Then about half a year into the writing process I was sitting on a train from Helsinki to northwestern Finland, looking out at the window at the autumn-coloured trees whizzing by. “This country really is beautiful”, I thought, and then another thought appeared: “Maybe I needn’t search so far for inspiration.”
I think it’s quite natural that I have cast my net wide when it comes to finding inspiration for the locations in my fantasy novels. After all, we who love fantasy do partially read in order to discover new, exotic and exciting places. In my writing I have travelled to Mongolia, the Greek archipelago, China, Persia, Istanbul… That which is close rarely feels special and magical enough.
What freed me in the end is the fact that I knew this book would travel far outside of Finland’s borders. The trilogy has been picked up by over 20 countries. What is mundane to us Finns is rare and exotic almost everywhere else in the world. That enabled me to look much closer to home. In the end I used Ostrobothnia, an area of Finland on the northwestern coast, my ancestral home, as the inspiration for much of the milieu of MARESI: RED MANTLE. But it did not only colour the physical world of the novel: it shaped the people in it, too. Their steadfastness. Their kindness. Their solidarity. It shaped what they ate, how they worked and lived, their closeness to nature. Most of the world and the people in it stem from my imagination and not from the real world at all. But having a place I know and love dearly as a model when I wrote made it solid and real in my mind.
Sometimes you have to get lost before you can find the path that was right in front of you all along.