Hi everyone, and thank you for tuning in to another episode of the We Make Books Podcast - A podcast about writing, publishing, and everything in between!
This week, we are joined by Antoine Bandele, author, publisher, and a lot-of-other-stuff-er. He's a busy guy who knew what he wanted out of the fantasy maps for his series world of Esowon, and found help on Fiverr to see it realized.
You'll want to start out, if possible, with his page of maps open in a browser: https://www.antoinebandele.com/esowon-maps
We Make Books is hosted by Rekka Jay and Kaelyn Considine; Rekka is a published author and Kaelyn is an editor and together they are going to take you through what goes into getting a book out of your head, on to paper, in to the hands of a publisher, and finally on to book store shelves.
We Make Books is a podcast for writers and publishers, by writers and publishers and we want to hear from our listeners! Hit us up on our social media, linked below, and send us your questions, comments, concerns, and tell us your favorite novel covers!
We hope you enjoy We Make Books!
Episode 43: The Maps of Esowon, Cartography with Antoine Bandele
transcribed by Sara Rose (@saraeleanorrose)
K: Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of We Make Books, a show about writing, publishing, and everything in between. My name’s Kaelyn Considine and I am the acquisition editor for Parvus Press.
R: And I’m Rekka, I write science fiction and fantasy as R.J. Theodore and today we have a very, very awesome guest. This is Antoine Bandele. He happened to write a book that I happened to read recently and when Kaelyn suggested that we do a whole series on artwork, I said,” Ooh! We should talk about cartography, and I have the book and the author for this episode.”
K: Yeah, we said Artwork August, it became more “Artwork Series.” But cartography is a really important and, I think frequently underappreciated, certainly, part of a book. You know, as Antoine mentions in the episode, fantasy books especially, it’s almost expected that you have some kind of a map or something in there.
R: It might be overlooked as far as the work that goes into it, but if it’s not there, it will not be overlooked.
R: Your fans will be talking to you about, “Excuse me?! You invented a world?!”
K: Visual representation of this world.
R: Yeah. So this was a series of maps at the beginning of the book that I read, which was By Sea and Sky, an Esowon story, and there were a series of maps at the beginning, including a diagram of one of the vessels in, as the title kind of gives it away by sea and sky, so there’s an airship and there’s a great, even just a layout of the airship. Almost plan-like, ship...plans.
K: A schematic.
R: Schematic! That works. I took interior design for a year, I don’t know what to call the drawings. Hey! Drawings! That’s what we called them.
K: Pictures. Pictures of boats.
R: Yes. So, almost like a draftperson’s drawing of an airship concept. So those are all in the beginning of the book and, when I opened them, I was just like—I don’t know if they loaded. Because you know an eBook will load to a certain page when you open it and, like, you have to go back to see the preceding pages.
I always go back to the cover because I always wanna see how the cover looks on an eReader because this is just a minor point of mine. And I happened to see the artwork, the cartography. Whether it was loaded after the automatic page one , or before. I was like, “Oh! These are nice! These are really nice,” because Kaelyn and I have talked about maps before for books. Colin and I have talked about maps before for books. I did my map for my books and that was a whole heck of a project and I wish I had somebody else to do the work for me because it’s not easy.
K: I think we think, like, “Oh, whatever. You just sit down and you draw some borders, some boundaries, some oceans. Throw some mountains in there, I guess, and you’re done. It’s not that. It’s not easy at all. It’s certainly not that easy. There’s a lot of considerations that go into building a world and then putting it on a piece of paper. You can be an excellent artist, are you that good a cartographer, though?
R: Cartographer’s a big word and it’s a big responsibility.
K: So, anyway, we had an absolutely fantastic time talking to Antoine. Hopefully we’ll have him back at another date because oh my god does that guy do a lot of stuff.
R: Yep, yep.
K: So, anyway, take a listen and we hope you enjoy.
[intro music plays]
R: I just wanted to double check the pronunciation.
A: Bandele. Kind of like ándale, with a B.
A: It’s actually a mistranslation. [laughs] It really should be Bamidele, but I guess somewhere, the naming coming over to America, it got—
R: A syllable fell off?
A: Yeah. So now it’s Bandele.
K: So, Antoine, do you wanna take a moment and introduce yourself to our listeners?
A: Yeah, so my name’s Antoine. I do many-a-things but the thing that’s most relevant to today is that I am a publisher and writer and I do fantasy works, particularly fantasy works that are inspired by pre-colonial African myth and folklore, anything of that nature.
K: And we brought you on today, specifically to talk about a certain special kind of artwork that pops up in especially fantasy books sometimes.
A: Yeah,especially fantasy.
K: Yeah! Maps and cartography. Rekka and I wanted to do a series on artwork in books. We’ve been threatening to do an episode about cover art for a long time. And as we were working through this, we were kind of like, “You know, there’s so much art that goes into a book that you don’t think about or that we take for granted and I think one of those, definitely, are the maps that you find in the books. Because they add so much to the stories and they give the reader a great sense of the world that they’re about to explore and just helps set the stage.
I think that they’re—well, everything’s relative in terms of difficulty, but designing a map is very different than designing cover art.
A: I would suspect. I don’t even know. I just hire people to do it, so I dunno.
R: Well that’s one of the smart things, right? Is making sure that you stick to the areas that your expertise is heavier in, and don’t try to be Master of Everything. So when we were talking about this Artwork August, I had just finished reading your book By Sea and Sky. So, I just served up these maps into my face and enjoyed them and then we started talking about doing artwork.
I instantly said, “Oh! You know what great maps I’ve seen? And they’re not like in an old, 60-year-old Lord of the Rings edition. Let’s talk about some current stuff.”
R: These are really great maps and I didn’t even know at the time, and it blew me away, but you found these on Fiverr?
A: Yes, so a woman named Maria Gondolfo, who actually is from Italy, which is awesome about working remote or online, is that you can work with people all across the world. Like, my first book, I think my editor was from Texas and then one of my beta readers was from the East Coast. I think York was one of them. And my cover artist is from Bangkok and then I have my cartographer, she’s from Italy. So it’s a lot of people all over the world who get to work with me.
She is renflowergrapx on Fiverr. And I got really lucky because I think she was maybe the first person I found on Fiverr.
K: Oh, wow. Okay.
A: Just by searching up “fantasy maps.” I think my brother had directed me there because he usually goes there for Dungeons and Dragons maps, and that’s what she usually does. She does Dungeons and Dragons campaign maps for people.
K: Very cool. Yeah.
A: And I was like, “Oh! Do you also do it for books? Or have you done it?” She’s like, “Yeah, I’ve done a few books before. Just give me what—” Oh! I should show you guys this! I actually have drawings. So, I usually would do a sketch-up of the map itself and then she goes and does her amazing work. I should find that.
K: Getting a map together—as you’re grabbing these sketching that you did—it’s no small thing. It’s a commitment. It’s a very difficult—I think a lot of people underestimate how difficult it is, even as the writer, to sit down and plan out the map in your head. What made you decide, “Yes, this is the book that I wanna take this on.”
A: So the reason I need maps is that, yes, it’s a fantasy fable. It’s actually expected from the fantasy reader to have a map and it helps, as you were saying before, contextualize the world. Especially when people start talking about locations in the world. It’s like, “What? What are you referring to? I don’t know this world.” But you can refer to the map and be like, “Oh! He’s talking about that little corner in the north!”
So the way I do my maps, is I really just take from real world landscapes and basically just do copy-pasting. So I’ll take a sheet of clean paper and then I’ll have a section, like, I think some of the islands are based on some SOutheast Asian islands. Not the big ones you would recognize, but the little ones that are off to the size. And then I just blow them up to be bigger. I’m like, alright cool, and then I do that. And the benefit of that is that you’re getting a natural land formation versus it just being completely out of your mind, in which case sometimes that can come out with mistakes and that sort of a thing. So I just do that, mostly as a way to help the reader figure out what this world is and what it’s about.
K: And so you’re starting—rather than starting from scratch, you’re drawing inspiration from existing geography—
K: But this is a fantasy world, things are gonna exist there that don’t quite exist in South Asian islands.
A: Right, exactly. Well, ‘cause I don’t have a full world map right now because I’m building out the world section by section and then connecting it later.
K: I was gonna ask, did you sit down and figure this out all at once or are you kind of adding a new land as you need to?
A: Yeah, I add new land until the world map is filled out. So, for looking at the Esowon Esterlands map. If you turn it clockwise, you might notice that landscape, possibly. It’s a little scrunched up, but if you look at it, it is basically Panama.
R: Okay. Yeah.
K: Yep, yep.
A: The space between South America and Central America.
K: Alright, yes, I can see it.
A: But flipped the other way so it looks a little more reminiscent of Northeast Africa and Arabia.
A: And then, also, the middle islands are based on the Carribean, so it’s inserting the West Indies in the Red Sea, basically. But, again, making a fantasy of it because that stuff doesn’t necessarily exist. Even that, you know, the indication of Octa, that’s supposed to be Egypt and the Delta Nile, that’s supposed to look like the Nile, but it’s obviously not.
Victoria Falls is kind of in that bottom section. So it’s very much inspired, and this one in particular I did that because I, specifically was going the Song of Ice and Fire route—And that’s actually what George R. R. Martin did. Westeros is basically just the UK turned upside down.
K: Yep, and stacked on top of each other a little bit.
A: Exactly, and there are some differences to meet the standards of Westeros, but that’s essentially the basis for what I did for this, you know, making it somewhat familiar but then still being its own thing in a fantasy realm.
K: Yeah, and for reference, if you’re wondering what we’re talking about, we’re on Antoine’s website where he has all of the maps from the books displayed on there. And a link to find the cartographer who did them. They’re very impressive.
R: And that link to this page will be in the show notes. We should’ve said that at the top so that people could bring him up while they listen, if they’re not driving. Because who commutes anymore?
[A and K laugh]
R: Yeah. So you went to Fiverr. Was that your first stop looking for a cartographer?
A: Yeah, that was definitely my first. I think I was first flirting with the idea of doing it myself and then I was like, “Nah, I’m not gonna do it myself.” Because I realized very quickly, as you were saying, it’s actually more complex than you would actually expect.
R: Oh yeah.
A: And there’s actually a lot of rules to cartography that people don’t think of. Like, the way the rivers flow, they have to come off mountains. Stuff like that. The way port cities usually are. There’s a lot of little nuances that people don’t really recognize. I definitely just went to Fiverr and I just got really lucky. I honestly, my first search—I might’ve looked at a few people, but then Renflower was a standout for me, for sure. She had an option for standard black and white and she had a full color and and I saw her examples and I was like, “I don’t think I have to look anymore! Lemme just, like, reach out to her and see if she’ll do it.”
K: This is it!
R: Nailed it.
A: And then what’s really awesome, and she surprised me on this because By Sea and Sky, it features airships. And I was looking and I was like, “Aww, I’m probably gonna have to find a new person, because she only does maps,” right? But that’s my thinking. I was like, “Well, hey, I need like an airship. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that before…” and she’s like, “Yeah! I love doing them!” She says it gets kind of old to just do her maps, you know, week in and week out. And she was really excited. She, actually I think uses it as an example or whatever now.
K: Oh, awesome.
A: I needed that in particular because I was writing the third act of By Sea and Sky which takes place, there’s like a battle sequence at the end. I was like, “Oh, man. I need to know, solidly, what the landscape of the—” Basically I had to know which level everybody’s on, how are they getting trapped—
R: What room’s above them and under them, yeah.
A: Yeah! Exactly! So I got her to do that and, again, I got references, something like that. I was like, “Is this kinda like the—” I describe it as looking like a ship, but it flies and has like the sails on the sides so it can fly and that kinda stuff. And the different rooms and where the captain’s quarters is and the mess hall and all that kinda stuff. So that was a lot of fun for her and for me.
R: So this sort of comes from her experience doing D&D maps, I assume—
A: Right, exactly.
R: This was kind of laid out where, you actually could, if you printed it out big enough you could do a campaign through the ship, reenacting the battle from the third act.
A: You definitely could.
R: Yeah. Yeah, and it’s great. There’s a kind of isometric view of the ship, where you get the wow factor of what the ship looks like with the lateral sails and the more traditional sails, and then you get the deck structure. And then you get the breakdown, floor by floor, almost like architectural drawings.
A: Right. And that’s because she wanted to feel like it was in the world, so some of the names you see on the bottom right are actually characters in the world, the engineers who built out—
R: Oh, yes!
A: Very, very small in the bottom right corner—
K: Very cool!
R: I didn’t even try reading it because it was so small.
A: Janaan Malouf, Ismad al-Kindi, who some of them actually show up in the book, like Ismad al-Kindi is the engineer that we know in the story itself. Janaan is someone we meet in book two. But these are actual, in the year of The Viper, the year of 3582. So she made it feel like it was in-universe, except for the typeface with the navigation and whatever that looks very much like it’s us typing that in, versus it being written.
But, otherwise, it’s supposed to be like an in-universe kind of blueprint.
R: And there’s something to be said for legibility, too, if you want someone to read that.
A: Exactly. You gotta be able to read it, though.
R: I mean, we all assume it’s translated into English and maybe it’s also translated into a serif font—
R: So. Yeah.
K: So, you got on Fiverr, you found Maria. What is this first conversation like, while you’re trying to explain and describe this.
A: Oh my god. Well, she—so most Fiverr professionals do this, where they’ll ask you to provide an explanation, for what you want, so there’ll be boxes of, “Do you have fantasy examples that you want your maps to look like?” Because she does several different kinds of styles. “Please tell me a little bit about your story, what is it about? What’s the landscape like? What’s some of the history behind the landscape.” So you explain all this, you fill out the boxes and then you have a conversation.
Well, first, she has to accept it. So when you send it off, you’d be like, “Okay, well, is it cool? Would you wanna work with me?” She says yes or no. Yes. Then you continue forward and then she takes, however long, I’m not sure how long her thing is on her website right now, but I think when I did it, it was like five to ten days, or something like that? I’m not sure. She’s like really popular now. I think she even has a Level 2 badge or something like that.
K: OH, great!
A: Or something to that. I can’t remember, but… So we do that and we talk together, and she’ll send me a rough and I’ll maybe have adjustments. We’ll go back and forth until we both are happy with our final product, and it just goes on like that.
K: Yeah, and actually, as a call back to the previous episode we did with Colin Coyle, who does most of the art direction for Parvus Press, you guys have to have a contract or an agreement in place. When you say you’re talking to Maria, you have to check all of these boxes, there’s gotta be something set up. You don’t just, you know, hand someone something and say, “Hey, I want it to vaguely look like this,” and then you send them some money and you get back you—
A, laughing: Yeah, no.
R: And Fiverr’s got that kinda built in, don’t they?
A: Yes, they do. Fiverr, Upwork, any of those other freelancer websites, that’s kinda the benefit of it because you don’t have to do all the legal stuff because it’s already all done in the background for you. That’s the reason why it costs an extra fee to use those platforms because they’re basically managing all of that paperwork, kind of a thing.
K: But worth it, if that’s something you don’t want to worry about.
K: Because we—there’s a lot of really talented, awesome artists on Fiverr, obviously, but they’re—you don’t always know you’re running into and what their work ethic’s gonna be like. Sometimes more so than the work that they’re producing. So if you’re looking to have something like this done, and you’re considering, “Do I go out in the world and find someone, or do I go to somewhere like Fiverr?” There is that, at least to consider as the built-in protection that comes with Fiverr. They have all these policies in place already, so you don’t have to think or worry about that.
R: And there’s some motivation for the artists to maintain their reputation on the side, too.
A: Right, exactly.
R: So these are color maps. What made you choose color? I mean, they’re very colorful, too. So, obviously, digital Kindles and eReaders and on your website, they look fantastic. But, traditionally in books, you’d have like a black and white interior print—
A: Just black and white, yeah.
R: Yeah, exactly. On the ink-readers you won’t see color. So was it a price difference and you just decided you wanted to see that color? Or, what was the decision as you’re art directing her? Even though she’s applying her know-how and all her experience creating these things, but at a certain point certain aesthetics are up to you. So, what were the decisions you made as you went through this?
A: So, that was just her having that option available. Because I was just expecting to go into it black and white, like it was. I mean, that’s just how it is. But then she had like a premium version that wasn’t that much more expensive and I saw her examples and I was like, “Oh, yeah! If color’s an option then let’s do color! Why not?”
A: But, of course, you can only see it if you’re looking at it on the Kindle app or if you’re looking at it on an eReader that has full color available to it. If you’re looking on a Paperwhite or anything like that, or on a printed page, you’re not gonna have that. But that’s all a thing, too, that she factors in is that she makes sure that the greyscale, once you put it in greyscale, does it still function? So when we do our passes between each other, she actually factors that in. Every time she sends me a color, it also shows up in black and white as well, to make sure that it functions in both formats.
R: Oh, excellent.
K: Very nice, yeah. More like lineart, kind of.
A: Yeah, ‘cause a lot of times amateur cartographers or amateur artists don’t consider that you can’t just flip a switch, necessarily—
A: It’s a separate skillset to have black and white versus color.
R: That’s like all the Mad Max and Logan and other movies. They’re starting to release editions that are in black and white. And it’s not just that they desaturate the film, they actually go through and adjust it, just like they were producing a whole new movie, to really play with the tone and the volume and the color and stuff like that. It does take a lot of work to remove all that color and still have something that’s lovely to look at.
K: This is a far more complicated project that requires a different skillset than just: Well, I’m going to draw some mountains on a nebulous looking piece of land. Right? And, you mentioned before, there are rules. You can’t just have a river that just starts in the middle of a continent and also ends in the middle of a continent.
K: It’s gotta be, you know, flowing from somewhere. Presumably, even in your fantasy world, some laws of physics and geography do still apply.
K: But Maria obviously has a lot of experience dealing with this and designing things. Was there anything that, you know, you said, “Okay, I want it to look like this,” and she went, “Oh no, that’s not how this works. It’s gotta look like this instead,”?
A, chuckles: Um, I don’t know if we ever had those conversations because I think we both came in, both knowing what had to go into it. I’m sure she—because she actually liked me as a client, I guess, because I communicate well or whatever. Because I guess who she usually deals with are people who don’t know that kind of thing? And for me to come in and already have all that set up—Like I said, I do my sketches before she does anything. I’m sure that’s a benefit to her. It’s just easier.
R: Yeah, I can tell you, as a graphic designer, most of the clients you get are, “Oh, I’ll know it’s right when I see it!” And then seventy iterations later, they still don’t like anything.
A, sympathetically: Yeah…
R: And you just want to walk away from the situation. But, yeah, if you know what you want to begin with and you have sketches, I mean that must be so much easier for her. And then she can apply what she knows, to take those sketches. So, your sketches were land shapes and continents, islands, and that sort of thing? Coastlines that you already had an idea of? Or was it mostly an orientation of: these cities are kind of grouped over here and they’re on a continent and this one’s on an island, and this one’s on a straight.
What level of understanding the actual geography of your world did you bring to begin with? Or was it mostly like, “I need a map. I only know that these two things are separated by water and are seventy miles apart.”
A: I was very specific on the land masses and how they looked. The main thing I didn’t really know was the in-between stuff like the mountain placement and forest placement and stuff like that. I knew I would say, like, I would have a drawing of this is greenish, this should be forest-y, this should be desert-y, but then she would go in with the details. So I was very, very—my notes were very specific about shapes and also what was forest, what was desert, and even the spacing.
Like, the spacing, in particular, was important for By Sea and Sky because the main island, Kidogom and Al Anim were a specific, plot-wise, not so much in book one, but in book three, there was a specific plot on the distance between the two, because there’s some travelling that goes on. So I was very, very specific about it. I think, at some point, she had it really close and I was like, “Oh no! They’re not that close together.” And that’s the reason, actually, we made the second version of it, the one that’s called Al Anim and Kidogo map, which shows a little bit better the distance between the two, versus the wider shot. So you can understand when that particular plot happens how much time and distance happens between those two.
R: I’m observing that you know things about book three that have to have bearing—
K: That’s exactly what I was gonna say! How do you deal with this with potential spoilers, because what you’re putting on a map are things that are significant to the story. Did you have any concerns with that, where you’re like, “I’ve gotta put this on here because it exists in the world, but I am then—”
A: Ohh, I see what you’re saying!
A: So, yes. Specifically, there are—The map that I have on the website now, those locations are only locations that are spoken in that particular book.
A: So, in oncoming books, like in the second book I mention a newer location, the map gets updated with that little point of interest. So the particular thing with the whole distance between Kidogo and Al Anim, not really a spoiler so much. It just gives context for when that plot point comes up because it’s really just about how long it takes to get back to Kidogo because there’s a plotline of, “Hey, we gotta get back there! And how long is it gonna take for them to catch up to us?” kinda thing, that’s why that was very specific, those two locations in particular.
R: Yeah, and those two are mentioned throughout the book. It’s not like a—
A: Correct, correct. There are places on the map that should be mentioned, but aren’t specifically for that reason that you guys mentioned about it being spoilery. So each map is different.
K: So you just go the method where, “I’m leaving this stuff off and when I need you to know about it, I’ll let you know about it.”
A: Yes. And that’s exactly the same way I write, too. I don’t present every piece of worldbuilding. I was just talking to another author because I work with a lot of authors within the same space of this world that I’m building out, and they’re like, “Whoa! You know so much about this, this, and that!” And I’m like, “Yeah, there’s just no point of putting it in that story because it wasn’t relevant to the story.” But there’s all these pieces of worldbuilding.
I think George R. R. Martin said your worldbuilding should just be like a tip of an iceberg and then, you know, the reader should see the impressions of the iceberg underneath, but that’s not part of the story. So you don’t need to see the entire iceberg, you just need to see the little tip of it.
R: I think Kaelyn would appreciate that, as an editor.
K: It’s funny because Rekka and I talk about this all the time, that I’m a planner.
A: Me too.
K: I want to—and this comes from being an editor is that, especially if I’m working with somebody who’s working on a series, I need to know where this ends up. I need to know how it ends, but also geographically where it ends because I need to make sure that there isn’t something coming completely out of left field here. And what I was gonna ask is if you, along the George R. R. Martin lines, like to pepper little people and name places into your book for you to go back and reference and make relevant later—
K: —I’ve used that trick with authors where it’s like, “Okay, listen, if you’re not sure how you’re getting yourself out of this hole yet, that’s fine. But you gotta lay some groundwork along the way. So if you wanna make it a throwaway line that could or could not mean anything, that’s fine. But you have to do something.” So that it’s not like: oh! It turns out there’s this entire lost continent that nobody knew about and it’s super-secret and special. That’s how you annoy people.
A: Mhm, yeah.
R: You wanna create a Chekov’s Island and you can put it in the map, but not in the book.
K: Yes, yes exactly.
R: So, it was that planning ahead which was more my question for you. You have a series that is in the works.
R: You already have how many of them written?
A: Yeah, there’s a few. Demons...1984… I think at least six right now, across the entire series.
K: Well, yeah, because you have some prequels and things like that.
A: Yeah! There’s prequels, there’s novellas, there’s a graphic novel as well. There’s a lot of—audiobooks as well. But yeah.
R: And they all share this map.
A: And they all share… portions of the map. Like, I said before. So the portion that we’re looking at now is the northeast version of it, the other one that I have which is for my first book, The Kishi, which is called the Southern Reaches of the Golah Empire, that’s like the southwest portion of it, and then this one here, Southern Eshiya, that’s like far east. So these are, like, pieces of it and I haven’t puzzled them all together yet because I am building out the world bit by bit.
Oh! Perfect! You guys already know about Game of Thrones. So basically what I’m doing right now is I’m writing about Robert’s Rebellion before A Game of Thrones happens. So basically, I”m writing all that stuff leading up to the saga, the big epic books.
R: So, planning ahead this much, is it just because you’re going section by section that you have the confidence to say, “Okay, yes, this is where all the cities are, I don’t need to move them because I’m not gonna run myself into any trouble later.” You could get to book eight and say, “Oh shoot! It would really help if Kidogo was actually a little bit further north because then I could squeeze in another island that isn’t here right now!” Like, do you worry about that or are you just like, “Okay, I can commit to this and I can figure it out later.” Or are you really, really planned out to the point of, you have outlines for enough to pretty much flesh out the entire world. And you know what you need.
A: A bit of both. I actually know how the big saga books end. I know how those began. I know where the locations of all these stories will be. So I know what to keep not spoken about.
A: That’s why I have only a few points of interest. Like, I don’t go and like, “I’m gonna go and name every single piece of land here!” That would just put me into a corner if I do that. So that’s why my rule is, whatever I’m talking about in the story is what will be mentioned on the map, and nothing more. Because yeah, if I wanna add something in there, what? Never was mentioned before! It’s not canon, so it’s okay. I can insert that in there. But if you do, do that, if you do over explain it too much then, yeah. You can run yourself into a corner of being like, “Whoops! I kind of established that that place is like this and I can’t, you know, add that in there so.”
R: And I put the picture on my site, people are gonna point at it and say I was wrong!
A: Yeah, exactly.
K: And, conversely, though, this is getting more into the actual creating the maps. As you said, you only, if you’re not talking about it, do you keep a list as you’re going through the book of kind of like, “Okay, I need to like—”
A: Oh, yes! I have a story bible. I have a huge story bible.
K: Okay, so like, “We went here, we went here, we went here. These are the places we need to talk about. Or this is mentioned.”
A: Mhm, yeah. There’s timelines, locations, like terms and language phrases. Yeah, that’s very important, too, for creators out there. Writers, make sure you’re having a story bible. For, especially, epic fantasy.
K: Oh, yeah.
A: You really should have it for anything. Like, even The Office, which is just a sitcom, has a story bible.
A: Fantasy, it’s a must. It’s not even like an optional thing. You must have a story bible.
K: Yeah, otherwise you’re gonna run into some bizarre continuity errors. But, there are certainly some famous ones out there. But I have actually read a book, I can’t remember which one it was, where they had a map in there and there were two places just missing off of it. And they weren’t particularly relevant to the story or anything, but they were mentioned and there were characters from there and I’m a hundred percent sure they were meant to be on the map. And they just left them off it. But, yeah, you know if you’ve got a lot of cities and places and stuff, I’m sure it can happen.
A: And the benefit of me being indie published is that I can rectify that very easily. ‘Cause I’m like, “Oh, that’s not on there? Alright, photoshop, put it in there, reupload,” and then that e-file gets updated so that person is like, “Alright cool. Sweet. Never happened. What.”
K: What are you—what are you talking about? That was always like that. You’re imagining things. Stop hallucinating cities that weren’t there.
R: So, I’m noticing that as we run through these maps and you’re talking about them in different ways, and you’re mentioning that they’re different regions of the planet, I am noticing that they—or the worlds, planet is for sci-fi—that these maps are kind of in different styles. Is that intentional, that they would be a regional style for each story?
A: Yes! Yeah, so they’re slightly different depending on which region we’re in. And it’s supposed to kind of be like a—what Maria always wanted to do was make sure that, as much as she could, make it like it was an in-world map and not so much a map made by 21st Century people—
R: A digital file, yeah.
A: Yeah, exactly. So yeah, yeah that’s the reason for the differences. That’s why we have the airship layout looking like it’s like a blueprint and then you have Kidogo and stuff looking, as it does.
R: And creases! Creases in your maps and discolored areas and…
A: Yes, yes! Oh, and she—which is funny because when I first started, I use a program called Vellum which is a formatter, and it didn’t—at first, it didn’t support full-page leaved images, so when I had showed her the book the first time, she’s like, “Oh… I designed it to be full page…”
I was like, “I know, but it doesn’t support it! I had to make it a little tiny thing on one page. And then I showed her, “THEY DO IT NOW! THEY DO FULL PAGE IMAGES!!!!!” So the crease that she does there actually creases with the spine of the book, like it actually exists. Like “OOOH!”
And she’s so happy that it has that now, and I was like, “Yeah, I know you wanted that,” because they only put that in seven months ago or something like that.
R: Yeah, it was not that long ago. When I went in and I found it, I was equally happy.
A: I use it all the time. My title pages look so awesome now!
K: That is, that’s very cool.
R: And I noticed it also, like you said, lay a single image across two pages, if you have your print layout done through them, too. So yeah. Very good update. Vellum is constantly improving. I’m a huge fan.
A: Yeah, they’re awesome.
K: You work on these books with an editor. Do you include the editor in the designing process of these maps at all? Do you get any input or run anything by the editor, or do you just handle all of this yourself?
A: More or less. I mean, it depends on how important that location is to the story. I definitely have an editor—I have one of my editors, she’s more developmental, she’s more about the characters, and then I have one who’s more into the worldbuilding aspect of it? Fiona’s the one I’m mentioning who is like, more the character-based one and then Callan, Callan Brown, is the more worldbuildy.
So, with Callan, I moreso do that kind of stuff with, where I’m like, hey this location—or, when we get to Al-Anim, because Al-Anim’s the main thing of book two, we were talking about the design of that city, the idea of the spine that goes through the entire city where everybody congregates and stuff like that. Or the idea, like I came up with a tavern, I’m like, “Okay, this tavern, what’s the history of this tavern? Why is it central? Why is it so important for everybody? Like, why is it popular? Why does it do so well?” We have those kinds of conversations, for sure, with an editor.
K: Gotcha. ‘Cause we spend a lot of time talking about how, especially in self- and indie publishing, there’s this drive to just want to do everything yourself. I can take this, I can handle this, I don’t want people coming in and messing up my thing, but an outside voice, an outside set of eyes, is certainly, I think, helpful, even when it is something as microcosmic as building a map.
A: I think it’s a complete necessity, actually. I don’t think it should ever be a one-mind person. Like, it’s very similar to filmmaking, where it’s a really collaborative effort when you really look at what goes into a book. Like, there’s not too many people out there who are gonna be doing everything on their book. From audiobook production or your cover design or your cartographers or your editors. Like, it’s definitely a collaborative thing.
And I’m very huge about that. Like, I use the heck out of beta readers. I really, really—several iterations I’ll have a draft go, have the beta readers say something, send the other one out, have the beta readers say something. Alright, now my editor’s going through it, now my critique partner’s going through it. I’m very, very into the feedback and that feedback loop of making sure that everything makes sense and things track. I think that’s super important.
K: Yeah, I completely agree. So, along those lines, we always ask when we have guests on, advice,s suggestions, red flags, things you would pass along to somebody who’s thinking, “Hey, you know, I’m gonna include a map in my book.” What would you tell them? To either watch out for or to make sure you do.
A: I would send them to Brandon Sanderson’s, he has a bunch of YouTube videos. It’s his classes, literally his classes for free. One of those episodes that he has on YouTube is about him talking about maps. Literally, the whole session of that class was about maps. And he really, really goes into—Also him, and there’s also other people on YouTube who talk about it. D&D people, I would say look up D&D channels.
A: They also have really good insights about map design. Because yeah, it’s not as simple as putting a mountain, and like you were saying, having a river in the middle of a continent, sort of situation. Even port cities. Port cities are done incorrectly because they aren’t typically right on the coast, they’re usually a little bit more inland, whether it’s a bay or on a river, deeper in. Whatever it might be. So, I would say, I usually suggest Brandon Sanderson’s works, his lectures that are free on YouTube.
You don’t have to take a college course about geography or geology or anything like that, but it does help to have some knowledge about what tectonic plates are, how they work, how they form continents, why continents look the way they do. Why those mountain ranges look different from a different kind of mountain range. A little bit, just a little bit, if you’re gonna be making maps, to know that.
K: Yeah, I would even take it a step further and say, you know, think about the terrain that you’re putting in here and how it fits into your story. Will this kill the characters, based on the length of time it’s supposed to take them to cross it?
K: I’ve seen a lot of traditionally published books where you look at the maps and you’re like, “That’s not how long it should have taken them to get from that place to the other, compared to these two cities which are much closer together and somehow took a longer amount of time.” But I’m sure that’s a factor you have to consider as well. If I say these two cities are this far apart and it took these two characters six days to get between them, and these two are twice as far apart, in theory it should take at least twelve.
R: And one’s in an airship and another one’s sailing on the water.
A: That is literally the reason why I was talking about the whole book three thing between the Kidogo and Al-Anim thing because it was very important ‘cause both of those things factor in. It was like, “Okay, how long will the sea ship take to get there? How long will the airship take to get there?” So I had to factor it and I’m like measuring it out. I’m like, “Okay, so, if I’m taking this or something like that, I’m gonna measure out each piece of it. Okay, this little prong is probably gonna be a quarter of a day, so if I do four of these, this distance takes a day— Yeah, I totally had to do all of that and adjust things based on plot reasons.
K: Plot reasons. Yes. No, we could do an entire episode on geography versus plot. And how they work for and against each other.
K: The airship, you know, what if it’s crossing mountains that frequently have storms over it. What if the sea ship is going through a channel that’s known to be very rocky, so you really have to slow down and navigate through there.
A: And sometimes you add that, specifically, because you’re like, “I need them to slow down! Lemme put a typhoon here!”
R, laughing: Excellent.
K: These people are gonna get there two days before they left the last…
A: Yup, yup, yup.
R: I did see that there’s a sea serpent on the map. Occasionally it might just pop up and grab the airship or something, right?
K: Here there be monsters.
R: You do so much else.
K: Like, a lot.
R: A lot, a lot. What do you want our listeners to know about you before we let you go and, definitely include where they can find you. Talk about your publishing your house, talk about your various business—
A: Ventures and endeavours. Yeah.
R: You just keep switching hats! And go, “Today, I am an audio producer. Tomorrow, I’m editing video.” I’ll let you do it.
A: You can find everything about me, if you just wanna see every single thing that I’m doing, on my website. That is antoinebandele.com [spells it], so I do a bunch of stuff. So I do, primarily right now, the main income generator for me is my YouTube channel. I am a YouTuber. Right now, I’m focused mostly on Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra because those have come back to Netflix and my channel is like, “Hey! Lots of people are watching those videos! You should make more of those videos!” And I’m like, “Oh my god, yes I will!” And so I… that’s the main focus right now.
K: Fine, I’ll talk about Avatar: The Last Airbender more.
A: Oh, fine. Jeez, Louise! So I’ve been doing that, as of late. But I do other things, too. I’ve covered Harry Potter, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, as we’ve been talking about. Samurai Champloo, some anime, stuff like that.
A: So I have my YouTube, and that’s my main thing. I also work freelance for other YouTube channels. I used to work for a company called JustKidding films, where they do a news channel, they have a party channel for board games. I also work for a blog channel, their name is Tip and Kace. Basically it’s just a family blog, just their day-to-day and stuff like that. So I have those services, and I also do services for indie authors who are trying to produce audiobooks.
So I have a bunch of—I live in L.A., I think as I mentioned already in the podcast, so I have a lot of friends who are actors, or up and coming actors, who would love to have work. I was doing audio just for myself, right? Just for my own books, because I’m already an editor I’m like, “I’ll just do it myself.” And then one of my friends, after we had collaborated on the prequel to By Sea and Sky, Stoneskin, and when we did that prequel and I did the audiobook, he’s like, “Dude, this is like really good. You should be doing this as a service.”
I was like, “I don’t know about that, that sounds like a lot of work.” He’s like, “It’s not! You obviously know how to do it.” And I was like, “Fine,” and I did it and I have a bunch of clients now who work with me on their audiobooks, whether it’s urban fantasy or sci-fi and all these other genres—romance, I’ve never done romance before. That was interesting to experience.
K: Oh! How was that?
A: It’s definitely a different genre. It’s definitely different from what I’m used to.
R: In audiobooks, no one can see you blush.
A, laughing: Exactly, exactly! So I started doing that. So I have that going on as well. But then, you know, my main thing, the thing I’m wanting to be my main thing, is my own publishing. Of my books and other works. So, of course, I write these Esowon books, as we’ve been talking about. That’s the sky pirate stuff, the African fantasy inspired stuff, but I’ve also produced a children’s book for another friend of mine, who had a children’s book that he published, I think, in 2012, and he’s like, “Hey, I’ve seen that you have really good quality of your books. Could you re-do my old book?” And I was like, “Yeah, sure! Why not?” And then he actually profited within the first two months, before I even profited on my own works.
K: Oh, wow. Great.
A: I was like, “Oh my god! Children’s books is where it’s at, apparently!” So I do that, as well. I’ve published… five authors, at this point? Besides myself. Underneath my imprint of Bandele Books. So, yeah, I think that’s everything that I do. My YouTube channel, my editing, publishing, audiobook production, writing. Think that’s everything.
K: Jeez, that is an incredibly… full and talented.
R: Full plate.
K: Full plate, and incredible brand of talents. That’s really, really awesome. Thank you so, so much for taking the time to talk with us about this. This is, you know, like we said, a really cool thing in books that I think are taken for granted by both, well, especially readers, but even sometimes by authors, with how much work and effort and time goes into this.
R: Excellent! Well make sure you go and follow Antoine, check out his work on his website. Check out the books, they’re really great! I happen to be biased toward airships. But everyone should be.
K: A little bit.
R: And I’m looking forward to reading the next one and seeing what you add to these maps! Now I’ve got this little piece of candy that I can follow. What’s new? What’s new on the map? I’m gonna be looking at them real closely. Thank you so much, Antoine, and maybe we’ll have to have you back someday to talk about audio production.
A: For sure, yeah! That’d be fun.
R: Awesome, thank you so much.
R: Thanks, everyone, for joining us for another episode of We Make Books. If you have any questions that you want answered in future episodes, or just have questions in general, remember you can find us on Twitter @wmbcast, same for Instagram, or wmbcast.com. If you find value in the content that we provide, we would really appreciate your support at Patreon.com/wmbcast.
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Thank you so much for listening, and we will talk to you soon!
[outro music plays]
The team Antoine gathered to work on his Esowon books:
Cartography - RenFlowerGrapx (Maria Gondolfo): https://www.fiverr.com/renflowergrapx
Fiona McLaren - Developmental
Callan Brown - Continuity
Josiah Davis - Line/Copyedit
Sutthiwat Dekachamphu - Cover Art
Sarayu Ruangvesh - Character Art
Brandon Sanderson Creative Writing Lessons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6HOdHEeosc&list=PLSH_xM-KC3Zv-79sVZTTj-YA6IAqh8qeQ