The Speculative Salon is pleased to host Robin D. Owens as our guest today. She's talking about worldbuilding in fantasy and in her new book, Heart Secret. Please join us in welcoming her.
Worldbuilding. Everyone has a unique world within us. After
all, we are all the center of our own universes (if no one elses), and
everything we are is processed through our own experiences and
But enough of philosophy. Writers have individual worlds, too, that
they make up, whether it's historical London or contemporary urban
fantasy with elves and dwarves...or a pagan society founded by Earth
people with psi powers (and with telepathic animal companions) on a
planet named Celta. Like my "Heart" fantasy romance series. :)
Most writers I know put a lot of thought into the worlds they build,
whether it's how to name their characters, or how a shapeshifter
actually DOES change shape, or whether vampires can walk in the daylight
or not. There is an underlying magical system that the author knows,
but might not ever lay out in depth because it could be deadly boring.
And once you craft that basic world and spend time in it, it's
extremely difficult to walk away from stories set there...and you add a
little bit (or reveal a little bit more) with every book.
Celta, I have fated mates and it's always a challenge to think of
conflict that will keep my hero and heroine apart even though they are
made for each other: class structure, reverse snobbery, people with a
lot of magic vs. people with none, prophetic dreams that they will die
in the future and take their mate with them...I've used all of those,
and manage to keep coming up with ways for men and women to complicate
Heart Secret, out August 7, is my eleventh book set on Celta, though
each couple has their own story. The hero is Garrett Primross, a
private investigator that life has scarred. He's the sole survivor of
the most virulent case of the plague and the Healers want to study him.
The heroine is Artemisia Mugwort, the Healer assigned to observe him
while they introduce the sickness back into his body. And after Garrett
and Artemisia both manage to survive that, there's the murdered victim
they find, who has ties to the heroine.
So, a little bit of everything...world building, fated mates,
sidekick cats with attitude (redundant), and a lot of romance, goes into
writing a story set on Celta. I hope you enjoy it.
Barnes and Noble:
Old website in the midst of being redone, but with a great many excerpts, maps and general information on my past books: http://www.robindowens.com
Blog: On Writing & Publishing http://robindowens.blogspot.com
Find me at facebook and twitter under robindowens.
Excerpt of Heart Secret:
and a sense of foreboding woke him, so Garrett Primross walked to work
as dawn broke . . . hoping that the rare uneasy feeling of doom was
wrong for the first time in his life. In his career as a private
investigator he felt in control. He knew what he was doing. And at
work he might be able to avoid or mitigate any disaster that might be
looming that day.
As he approached the back entrance of his shabby office building
located in a lower middle-class neighborhood, he heard a cat hiss.
group of seven intelligent feral cats slipped from the shadows within
the alley. Animals that Garrett used as observers and informants. They
were able to become Familiar companions to people if they'd wanted.
Most didn't. They preferred the wild and free life – with regular meals
and occasional petting.
Garrett had contacts within the fox dens and with the rare wild dog.
Gar-rett! the current leader of the rag-tag band of ferals shouted loudly in Garrett's mind.
I hear you, he broadcast to the group. Their milling around slightly decreased.
You promised first thing at office We get FOOD! Black-and-White tom insisted.
I haven't broken that promise, Garrett said.
is a MAN on OUR front stoop. He has big magic-Flair. He looks like he
belongs around here, but he wears clothes that don't smell of him. He
wants to talk to YOU.
At a little after dawn, septhours before Workbell? Not a good sign. How do you know? Garret asked telepathically.
said your name to the door, but the door was quiet. Then he looked at
Us and told Us, but We ignored him. You can talk to him, but We get Our
That's the deal, Garrett agreed, though his curiosity was ruffled. But so were the hairs on the nape of his neck that warned of trouble.
The young and slinky short-furred black cat slipped around the corner of the building at the end of the alley. I got close. He did not see Me.
Maybe not, but if the man had great psi power – Flair – Garrett would have bet that the guy had sensed the intelligent animal.
He did NOT sense Me with any of his Flair, the cat, also a tom, insisted. He smells like rich.
Garrett grunted, probably a nobleman. A spot between his
shoulder-blades twitched and the damn foreboding increased. Sounded
like a man with a problem. A high-class client usually meant a tough
problem. The last one had included theft, kidnapping and murder.
And he smells like a long-eared, ball-tailed housefluff Familiar companion, the black cat that Garrett called Sleek Tom continued.
More interesting, but still not enough data for Garrett to figure out who the guy might be.
And he smells like RESIDENCE.
Only the greatest nobles
on the planet lived in Residences – houses as intelligent as these
animals, and a lot longer lived. Interested, Garrett asked What do Residences smell like?
Cats would sometimes answer, but usually not unless they wanted
something from him. He made it a point to always be in the credit
column with intelligent cats, giving them information without expecting
payment. It had irked him at first, then he'd shrugged and accepted it
as a cost of doing business.
This time, again, there were many replies.
Special housekeeping spells for pee, said the brindled tom.
And for puke, said the fat brown tabby female.
Thick, rich, nose-stop smoke smells for rituals, said the leader. Sniffing lustily as if proving he could.
Expensive incense, Garrett translated. The twenty-five
FirstFamilies – descendants of the colonists who had funded the trip
from Earth – all resided in sentient houses. Garrett ran through the
lords mentally, but didn't come up with any reason why a person so
powerful would want to hire him.
A yowl went up, followed by more. We get Our FOOD!
Garrett winced. FINE! he yelled back at them telepathically. Stop that caterwauling, NOW.
did, having learned by experience that when he gave such an order the
consequences of disobedience could be major. Like a delay in being fed.
Now they ringed his feet, staring up at him narrow-eyed.
RITA® Award Winning novelist Robin D. Owens credits the
telepathic cat with attitude in selling her first futuristic/fantasy
romance, HeartMate, published in December 2001. Since then she has
written eleven books in the series. Her five book Luna series included
average American women Summoned into another dimension to save a world.
Her new Mystic Circle series is a mixture of contemporary urban and
romantic fantasy set in Denver. She is profoundly thankful to be
recipient of the 2004 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year
award as well as the 2011 Writer of the Year Award, the Colorado
Romance Writers Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2010 Best Paranormal
and Best of the Best Daphne Du Maurier Award.