Barbara G.Tarn is a writer, sometimes an artist, mostly a world-creator and storyteller. She's been building her world of Silvery Earth for a number of years - stories comprise shorts, novels and graphic novels, published under the Unicorn Productions imprint.
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Volume 1: The Sect, or how a religious minority became the powerful Sect using a Pond of Dark Magic. The Slave, or the story of the last real king of Arquon. The Orphans, or a youth gang finding trouble with the Sect. Yash, or how the prince of Akkora was sacrificed to the Bloodthirsty Goddess. The High Priestess, or how Keiko became Ramesh's successor in the temple of the Sect. Tarun, or another southern prince abducted and used by the Sect. Then Books of the Immortals - Air happens.
Volume 2: The Last King of Akkora (two parts) or the fall of the biggest southern kingdom through a spoiled prince heir. The Prince Heir or how Prince Anjaan didn't make it to king status. The Dancer, or an epilogue to Air, to be avoided if you believe in the happily ever after. The Lords of War, or the continued destruction of Akkora and the end of Kumar's life. The Courtesan's Son, or what's left of the southern kingdoms after all of the above.
I've had the pleasure to read many of your works this year, and have loved them all. I find them so rich and complex, full of characters that all play such pivotal roles in the ongoing storyline. What adds even more complexity to the stories is that you've created your own world--Silvery Earth--to situate your characters. When did the idea to develop your own stories' world develop?
The name of Silver Earth dates back from when I was a child – I had Silvery Earth, my sister had Golden Earth (and my little brother supposedly had Fire Earth, but he’s 6 years younger than me, while my sister is 2 years younger, so we didn’t really involve him much! ;-)). But, like my sister noticed when she read the first novel, Silvery Earth has changed a lot in the past 30+ years. My first official story (1978) is a fantasy, but I didn’t set it on Silvery Earth, nor did I do it for the fantasy sagas I started writing in the 1990s. By the new millennium I decided a needed to create a world with rules (thanks also to “How to Write Sci-Fi and Fantasy” by Orson Scot Card), thus the new Silvery Earth was born. Maybe one day I’ll rewrite the one and only story set in the Original Silvery Earth… maybe!
How detailed were you initially in setting up Silvery Earth before you wrote your first story?
I’m an improviser. I write stories. Then I get attached to my characters and write their life, then their children’s and so on. So I end up with calendars and maps and family trees. My first fantasy saga (the Moren Empire cycle) was very “traditional”, with elves, dwarves and dragons – I will rewrite it to set it on Silvery Earth around 2014. The first story of the Varian Empire (now vol.3 of the Chronicles, coming out next year) had only the Genn (elf-like beings, tied to Ether now) and the winged people (later called Sila).
I’m in awe of authors who can do the world-building first and write the stories after! But then, I’m a “contrary” writer – I write the bones first, then flesh it out. So that’s how I work in general, whether it’s a story or a world… So my world-building is more a puzzle of stories than anything else. I now have a “bible” to keep track of the rules, but it’s something I started doing some five years ago, with dozen of stories already written that had to fit in the frame.
How are you able keep track of who is who and what their importance is in an individual book and in a series of works overall?
I have a visual imagination and a “virtual cast” – had that from the very beginning. So I don’t mix up physical looks because I see them very well in my head. I see those “movies” and write them down, that’s why I’m heavy on dialog and sparse on descriptions. And then I have calendars and family trees to keep track of who’s who, of course!
What have been some of your inspirations in developing Silvery Earth and your stories?
Children adventure books available in Italy and France (that’s where I grew up) made me love fantasy in general, although I read my first fantasy (The Sword of Shannara) in the late 1970s then forgot about that for years until I picked up the Dragonlance saga – hence the Moren Empire cycle, inspired by that role-playing game and its books by Weiss&Hickman (with those wonderful covers by Larry Elmore – eventually I’ll be able to hire him to do my covers!). After I read some of those “traditional” fantasy (David Eddings, mostly), I started getting away from the traditional Quest or Good vs. Evil battle. I’m very character oriented, and even if some old stories have cardboard villains, now I tend to paint all shades of gray instead. And it’s not really epic, even if sometimes the story spans years (like Books of the Immortals – Ether).
What advice would you offer to writers looking to construct their own worlds for storytelling?
Oh, boy… I’m bad at giving advice. I’ve been doing it for so long, I don’t remember what it was like! I have so much written down, that all is left to do is rewrite and make that puzzle. I can say I was lucky I started writing long before the internet, as I didn’t have that many distractions and conflicting advice. So for world-building I’ll refer to Uncle Orson’s book (How to Write Sci-Fi and Fantasy mentioned above), it was an eye opener for me, as I didn’t think to set up rules before!
What can we expect next for the inhabitants of Silvery Earth?
This year the Books of the Immortals covered quite a lot of history… Approximately 500 years! Next year you’ll be able to read the Chronicles of the Varian Empire, then in 2013 we’ll move to the Queendom of Maadre (or Amazons Country), 2014 the Moren Empire (which is before any of the previous ones), then I plan on writing two trilogies set later in the history of Silvery Earth, one after the fall of the Varian Empire, the other after Books of the Immortals – Earth, when the Magical Races are gone, print has been invented and the world will look a lot more like ours during Renaissance – but I still have to research and plan on that one! Yeah, I’m all set for life! Oh, and I always have a graphic novel on the side: at the moment it’s SKYBAND (that will become part 3 of the first trilogy – Axelle ap Kiaran - in the future), and I hope to finish it next year. Then I’ll have another one “The Merchant and the Scholar”, which will be set in the past, probably before Books of the Immortals – Air, so before the fall of the southern kingdoms and the birth of the desert of the south (I’ll have to research Indian and Persian architecture and clothes for that).
I envy people who can write fantasy. It is SO involved.
Oh...big Eddings fan here when I was a kid too. Then everyone tried to be Eddings lol. Glad there is some different stuff coming out these days.
The world building element in fantasy is so daunting. I admire people who can do it! Great interview, ladies!
I'm not so good at world-building from scratch. Mine start out familiar and edge away from reality a little at a time.
I don't recommend improvising and tying the knots 20 years later like I did... Better check Uncle Orson's advice! ;-)
I was awed in 1994 to meet a world creator who was only 19 and had already decided everything of his fantasy world... I was never able to duplicate his way of thinking and am still in awe of those writers who plan the world first and write the stories after...
I envy fantasy writers, too. It's hard enough just getting a real-world feel to a story, but to actually work to develop an entirely different world...yeah...well, not sure I have the guts to do it myself!
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