This post first appeared at Smash Attack Reads back in January. When Ash, the blog host there, asked me to write about my world-building process, I wanted to provide a serious, thoughtful answer. And I tried. Really I did. Remember that as you read this, okay?
Because the truth is, most of the world-building for the Grigori Legacy was done at the behest of my agent (bless her heart!), who saw the seeds of a good story and believed in it enough to keep handing it back to me with repeated requests for “more.”
“Readers,” she told me, “want to know details. They want to see Heaven and Hell. They want to know what your angels can do—or what they can’t do, and why.”
All good, you might think (being readers and all), but the truth is? I had no freaking idea…about any of it!
So in keeping with how I tend to accomplish most of my projects (if you don’t believe me, read this post about my bookmark saga!), I set aside the book I had already written and dived into the research I should have done to begin with. Lo and behold, I discovered a whole host (no pun intended) of world-building possibilities: names, hierarchies, obscure stories…a veritable wealth of creative fodder. I tossed all of it into my subconscious brewing pot, and then, slowly, I began to eke out details surrounding my Heaven and Hell, the angels and Fallen Ones who inhabited those realms, and what their impact would be on the mortals who encountered them.
I knew I wanted the novels to feel as “real” as possible, and so I decided to keep as much of the familiar, well-established mythology surrounding angels as I could. Because that mythology is also inextricably entwined with one of the world’s major religions, however, I wanted to tread lightly. As you can imagine, significant mulling and tweaking ensued. 😉
Revision by revision, layer by layer, I built the Grigori Legacy world around our own, taking the time to decide whether my version of God, a female One, would be omnipotent or not (sorry, no spoilers!), and setting rules about what the angels could and couldn’t do. (Turns out they can do pretty much anything and they’re impervious to mortal attack of any kind…so yeah, without at least some of them on our side, we’re screwed.)
On the purely physical end of things, I gave each of the angel choirs, or hierarchies, different wings and its own color of robe. Heaven became a place of knowledge, history, and natural beauty; Hell…well, didn’t.
When it came to character-building (an essential part of world-building, in my opinion), I imbued the angel characters with human traits that make them more relatable…more “real” in their own right. By drawing the fantastical elements into our world (where mortal characters would react to them) and putting recognizable motivations and characteristics into my supernatural beings, I hope to pull readers so deeply into the story that they truly believe in angels—even if just for a moment.
The One herself became a mother figure rather than a father one, which made sense to me from a creation perspective (tying in with the whole “Mother” Nature idea). I also took the idea of humans being created in God’s image beyond the purely physical by asking the question: if we’re this imperfect, what does that say about God? These questions and others like them allowed me to deepen my deity’s character and make her motivations more believable.
So there you have it: my rather backward approach to world-building for the Grigori Legacy—fully in line with my approach to most of life. I hope you have as much fun reading the series as I’m having writing it!
Find out more about the books here.
P.S. If you happen to be going to FanExpo Canada later this month, I’ll be there — and participating in an author panel on Epic Worldbuilding & Magic…come join me!
P.P.S. Remember to be social and share this link! 😉