To Map or Not To Map by Jacey Bedford

I’ve never yet had a map in any of my books, though I came close with The Amber Crown. Does it need a map? To be honest I didn’t think to ask the question until fairly late in the publishing process. Sheila, my editor, said she didn’t really think it needed one, but if I wanted to draw one they would include it. (She obviously hadn’t seen my drawing skills.)

The Amber Crown is set in an analogue of the Baltic States. It’s not a real historical novel, but a fantasy. I wanted a flavour of history, a dollop of verisimilitude, without real history getting in the way of my story. My country of Zavonia, has unruly neighbours, and the new king is playing politics and risking a war on two fronts. So just for my own sanity, I drew a rough working map on paper as well as in my head. It’s vaguely Baltic-shaped, but I’ve either changed the name of each country or used an older name. The Baltic itself has become the Narrow Sea – and yes, if you look at my map, the Narrow Sea is narrower than the actual Baltic. That’s deliberate, it’s not just that I’m a bad cartographer, though let’s be honest, I’m no Pauline Baynes.

My invented kingdom of Zavonia occupies the space where Latvia and Lithuania are today. Vironia is Estonia. Sverija is Sweden, Suomija is Finland. Posenja is Prussia, Kassubia is Poland. Zavonia’s powerful neighbour, Ruthenia (Russia) has recently annexed Bieloria (Belarus). I should be careful what I write because the news is currently full of Russian troops massing on the border of Ukraine. And like the rest of the world, I’m sitting here hoping that no one does anything silly. If Ukraine was on this map it would be just south east of Bieloria. The political situation is complicated, now as then..

I love maps. When I was thirteen my dad bought a Readers Digest World Atlas. I quickly laid claim to it and would sit for hours studying the shapes of countries, how they nestled next to each other, where their high ground was, and their lowlands. I still have it, of course, though at some time our first dog, Shamus, a white German Shepherd with eclectic taste and strong jaws, decided the leather binding looked tasty, and nibbled a bit of the spine before I remonstrated with him. Odd because he’d never been a dog that chewed things. I guess he just loved that atlas as much as I did.

Maybe I’ll think about a map to go in the next book.

About Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford maintains this blog. She is a writer of science fiction and fantasy (, the secretary of Milford SF Writers (, a singer ( and a music agent booking UK tours and concerts for folk performers (
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