I am very very excited to be part of a blog tour today!! I was very excited to be asked to host a blog post for the amazing Tim Lebbon!!
Landscape has always been an important part of my writing, never more so than in my new novel Eden. Eden itself is almost … sentient. It steers the action. It influences the characters and their decisions and is the backdrop against every part of this novel. For such a wide-open landscape, I hope it provides for a claustrophobic feel. My characters are out in the primeval wild, but from very early on in the novel the sense that they’re under siege begins to grow.
Whilst building the landscape of Eden I wanted it to feel real and familiar to many readers, and for that I had to make it familiar to me. So there are deep forests, rolling hills, roaring rivers, treacherous ravines … basically an amalgamation of the wilder parts of the UK where I live, and where I love running, biking and swimming in the countryside. It felt important to test my adventure-racing characters while not making the landscape too alien and unbelievable. Although there are some weird, surreal moments.
As for the location of Eden on our planet … there’s a challenge for anyone who reads the novel. All the other Virgin Zones in the novel I place quite accurately, but the location of Eden isn’t quite so pinned down. That was a conscious decision on my part, but it’s also a challenge to the reader. Where do you think Eden would be?
I did a lot of research whilst writing the novel that pertained to the geography of Eden, and the effects that climate change might have had upon it. This includes effects on flora and fauna as well as landscape, especially to areas our teams sees (briefly) early on in the novel, on their approach into Eden. As for the zone itself, I was able to be more creative. It was fascinating to see and imagine how the world might move on and fix itself without human influence, and a book that was especially useful whilst researching this was The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman. Scary, yet uplifting. The chapter on how New York will change without human occupancy or influence will stay with me for a long time.
In my research I also ‘built’ a good portion of Eden in my mind’s eye, so much so that there are part of the place I didn’t even use in the novel. The snowcapped mountains were always there, but my characters didn’t quite reach them. It’s world-building in the same manner as researching … always know more than you use, so that what you do use feels part of a greater whole.
And I was also shocked to discover that the Virgin Zones from this novel aren’t as far-fetched as I believed! In 1927, Tsar Nicholas II officially set aside land for Russia’s first zapovednik, or ‘strict nature reserve’. I was delighted to read about this, and to discover that my fictional Eden actually mirrored reality.
Not so much running and screaming and blood, though.
I hope you enjoy the novel. Eden awaits.
If you haven’t read anything by Tim Lebbon you need to correct that. He uses landscape as another character. His books are a study in how landscape can be used as horror element.