Places and Settings in Casto
Writing a novel can be a complicated process and sometimes one will stumble over problems that seem insignificant at first until you trip over them every time you write a new chapter. In my case, it was places and settings. Although I do have an overactive imagination and am able to come up with various types of story twists, I’m really bad at imagining and describing landscapes or houses. And don’t even get me started on realistic measurements for distances. I was never meant to be a girl scout and my way of using a map is holding it folded in my hands while looking for somebody who can point me in the right direction. Preferably with instructions like ‘If you turn left after the big church with the goat shed in front, then…’. Something along the lines of ‘In 300 meters you turn right and after 2 kilometers you will…’ is guaranteed to get me lost. So how could somebody like me go about inventing an entire world and map it out?
Getting single places into my head map wasn’t that difficult. The Valley as one of the major locations was quite easily built although I had to revisit my description more than once. The rest of the continent where the story takes place wasn’t that easy since the places had to serve the story, not the other way round. I’m a ‘messy’ writer, I do single scenes when they pop into my head and then build the story arch around those scenes. Of course I do have a major arch in the back of my head, but where I set out and how I ultimately get there are two very different things indeed. So thinking about the places before I knew where the story would go was useless. I had to build my world as I went along.
As I already mentioned, the Valley was more or less easy. I live close to the mountains, so all I had to do was take a look outside, allow my imagination to run wild for a bit and then describe what I see. I also like the idea that the home I truly love is part of the books and in a good way.
The housing situation in the Valley posed more problems to me and I quickly realized that my initial idea of having some kind of village situation wouldn’t work. So I decided to have something akin to a center with the main building where Renaldo, Canubis and the Emeris live, the Great Hall, where all the important meetings are (I went a little Viking there) and a cluster with the stables and the smithy. The other houses are scattered loosely around to reflect the feral aspect of the Pack.
I wanted the interior design of the chambers to reflect directly on the characters who live in them and concerning the bathrooms I do admit to stealing ideas from Spas I have visited and mixing them together.
Renaldo’s rooms are exquisite but not overbearing. They enhance his physical beauty, give an insight as to how he perceives and treats beauty himself and they provide a perfect background for the explosive relationship Casto and Renaldo share.
Aegid’s and Kalad’s rooms are ‘louder’, they reflect the colorful life the two warriors have had so far. Especially Kalad’s character is very outgoing and open to the point of being intimidating and overwhelming which is exactly what the room itself does to Daran when he first sets foot in it. As the story goes on, other rooms are displayed as well and they usually serve the purpose of highlighting either a character or a certain part of the plot.
Elam, the gold-digger city I created after I had seen a documentary about rich companies exploiting nature’s resources with poison and chemicals, not giving a damn how their actions ruin entire countries, not to mention the poor people whose services they buy for a few cents a day. To me, Elam is a symbol for what we do to our own planet and it shows in the way I describe the city. After a first reading, I thought I had been too hard on a place that only exists in my head, but as I tweaked the story again and again, I made Elam look even worse. It is definitely meant as something to abhor the reader, to make them despise the place as much as I do.
Of course there are also cities I created for the sheer fun of it and they are, in some ways, the utopian images we were encouraged to come up with in school. As the story progresses, I find myself inventing new places and I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do.
About the author
Xenia Melzer is a mother of two who enjoys riding and running when she’s not writing stories. She doesn’t like beer but is easily tempted by a Virgin Mojito. Or chocolate. Truffles are especially cherished, even though she doesn’t discriminate. As a true chocoholic, she welcomes any kind of cocoa-based delight.
All is fair in love and war. Renaldo has lived happily by that proverb his entire life. But he has finally met his match, and he’s about to discover how unfair love and war can be.
When demigod and warlord Lord Renaldo takes a beautiful stranger captive during an ambush, he is delighted to have found a distraction that will keep him entertained during the upcoming siege. Little does he know, Casto is keeping more than just one secret from him. Slowly, Renaldo gets sucked into a turbulent roller-coaster relationship with his mysterious prisoner, one that begins with hatred and soon spirals into a whirlwind of conflicting emotions. And when it seems that things can get no worse, an old enemy stirs right in the heart of his home.
Determined to keep Casto by his side, Renaldo has to find a balance between the capricious young man and his own destiny as a ruler and god to his people.