Keira Gillett (Author): I am absolutely, positively thrilled to share with you all a sneak peek of the Enchanting Lands of Norway Map that’s going to appear in future books of the Zaria Fierce series. Kaitlin Statz is the artist, illustrator, and fantasy cartographer behind the map and she’s done the most outstanding job. After the map was completed I asked her if I could interview her and she graciously agreed. Let’s get started! Kaitlin, I heard you are a self-taught artist. How did you get started? What was your first medium?
Kaitlin Statz (Artist): I have been drawing since I was a child, though not all my childhood pieces could be considered art. I moved around a lot as a child and I enjoyed being able to take my hobbies with me wherever I went. As a kid pencils were my primary medium and I could sneak sketches and illustrations into my school notes or the backs of notebooks. As for starting on real works later in life, I had standard art classes in High School but I took them really seriously. I would sign myself out of study hour to go to the art room, stay after school for hours working on pieces, and take pieces home for extra time. It was during High School that I placed some pieces into a local art show or two and after I won some ribbons I was hooked. I didn’t take art classes in college, in fact my college would not let me, but I created art in my spare time and crafted my own course to study archaeological illustration with my archaeology professor. I was never going to let art go, and it took until after my Master’s degree to actually embrace art as my career.
Keira: What got you interested in cartography? How does that differ from other art that you do? How is it the same?
Kaitlin: I became actively interested in cartography in college. During my archaeological illustration course I had an assignment; taking an archaeological site map drawn topographically and interpreting it into a Maler map. This was published in a Spanish-language archaeological journal I believe, but the experience sparked my enthusiasm for cartography.
While my first map was for more certain scientific purposes, the fantasy maps I create differ from most art I make through the application of more specific knowledge. Topography, geography, weather patterns; I like to attempt to include logical assumptions and interpretations in every map I create.
Keira: That is ridiculously cool. It’s no wonder your fantasy maps are so beautiful and detailed. How did you come to start drawing fantasy maps?
Kaitlin: Dungeons and Dragons! My first fantasy map was a quick D&D sketch that went nowhere, but soon enough I had friends who wanted maps for their ever-growing games. From there, my fantasy cartography skills spread to people outside my social circles and to realms outside D&D.
Keira: That’s fabulous! Who knew that a favorite pastime could lead to what you do today. What’s the hardest part about drawing maps? The most fun?
Kaitlin: The most difficult aspect of drawing a map can be interpreting an author or creator’s ideas into a full illustration. When I work with people to create their worlds, I must take extreme caution and care build the world they have been dreaming of. This is something that I can help solidify for the creator, but that I can never fully understand myself.
As for fun, personal maps, it feels most fun to create mountain ranges. I know that sounds like a tiny part of the job, and it is, but something about mapping out mountains and inking them in feels the most like bringing a world to life.
Keira: You did take good care of Zaria Fierce’s world. The map is stunning and I too love your mountain ranges. They pop! What are some of the differences between a city map and an overview land map? Does your style change from one map type to another?
Kaitlin: The major difference between city maps and landmass maps is detail. In a landmass map, I draw whole mountains, but in the city map I have to draw in small windows, or the tiles of a roof. A city map drawn in a 4-inch square will take up to six times longer than a landmass drawn in that same tiny square. I’ve drawn several city maps and due to the amount of detail and planning required they are the most difficult fantasy cartography projects I have ever undertaken. While I don’t believe my style changes between the two types of maps, there can be little to no overlap in the types of symbols used. A city map may never show a tree, while a continent may be covered in them.
Keira: I love all the trees on the Enchanted Lands of Norway map, it’s amazing how a few trees can shape a landmass map. What does the process look like for creating maps? How do you go from concept to actualization?
Kaitlin: My fantasy cartography process has several steps, starting with consultation. Every client has his or her own imagined world. Some have it down on paper, others only in their minds. The consultation process is a step-by-step interpretation where I take their words and ideas and begin to form the shapes and symbolism needed for their world. After I believe I have an interpretable understanding, I begin sketching. Everything is drawn in light graphite and is easily editable, able to change to fit what the world should be through the minds of the original creator. After several stages of edits, when I finally receive the perfect ‘okay’, I will ink the map, adding the smaller details and definition needed to make a striking piece that people enjoy getting lost in.
Keira: You did a great job interpreting my doodle maps and breathing life into the world. It’s so much fun to see everything all perfectly laid out. I absolutely love it. What was your favorite part about illustrating the Enchanted Lands of Norway map for the Zaria Fierce series? What were some of the challenges?
Kaitlin: There were two major challenges I faced when creating the Enchanted Lands of Norway map for the Zaria Fierce series. First, creating an accurate representation of the complex and island-populated shoreline of Norway. The second, getting a feel for the books’ atmosphere and world so that I could incorporate the fantasy elements into the real-world map. This also turned out to be my favorite part. I enjoyed drawing in the tiny illustrations to denote areas of the map and tie the map more directly into the books. The inclusion of such illustrations in a map was a new endeavor for me, and one that I am proud of.
Keira: Well I for one think you did a fabulous job. The shoreline is wonderful. It’s fun to get lost in the little islands, and the illustrations to highlight the magical places on the map are some of my very favorite things too. I love your whales for instance by Seiland Island and Trolgar and the Glade of the Golden Kings, to name just a few. If you were a magical creature or being from the books what would you like to be? Your choices are sorceress, elf, fairy, giant, dwarf, river-troll, mountain-troll, brownie, ogre, hulder, mare, dragon, witch, wyvern, and banshee.
Kaitlin: Dwarf. Though, I may be biased from years of playing D&D. I always envied how hard dwarves can work and the idea of living in one of the grand underground cities such as Jerndor or Malmdor is breathtaking, certainly if adorned with gems! So, either a dwarf, or something that can fly. It’s contradictory, I know, but I either want to live beneath the ground or fly above it!
Keira: Oh yeah, Jerndor has a ton of gems. They’re everywhere, decorating shop signs, on jewelry, clothes, shoes, you name it, gems probably decorate it. Which magical kingdom in the Zaria Fierce world would you most like to visit and why?
Kaitlin: Does the Glade of the Golden Kings count as a magical kingdom? I am specifically interested in seeing some amazing talking gold trees, but if I had to live somewhere, I would probably choose the land of the dwarves.
Keira: The Glade does count, it’s part of the ellefolken kingdom. In fact you and I talked about their roving camp, Elleken, which has yet to be introduced into the series, and made sure it was on the map. With which character in the series do you most identify? Who would you want to meet in person?
Kaitlin: I identify most with Zaria. As a child I struggled with self-doubt and with understanding things about my path in life, or if I was strong enough to ‘defeat’ something, and Zaria faces many problems in relatable (and fantastic) ways throughout the books. She also has some wonderful, reliable friends, and I feel like I can rely on the people in my life just as much!
As for someone to meet… any of the dragons! I know they are frightening, but who would not want to meet a dragon!
Keira: Which dragon is the scariest to you: Koll, Fritjof, or Egil?
Kaitlin: I would have to choose Koll. A tricky sly dragon that aspires to raise a whole army of dragons, that’s some frightening initiative!
Keira: Indeed! Good choice. What does a typical day look like for you?
Kaitlin: Sadly, a typical day is just that, typical. I wake up and work out before breakfast and tea. Starting my actual work changes time depending on what I need to do that day. Sometimes, being an artist puts me on my computer answering emails or sending out notifications for hours before I can actually get a pen in my hand. I work until 5, and I work from home so lunch sometimes takes only ten minutes to eat. After that I make dinner! I love to cook and I am vegan so I cook a lot of my own means at home. It’s one of my hobbies. After dinner my partner Travis and I will walk our dog, Eezo, around the neighborhood. Afterwards we’ll watch a movie, play D&D or another game, write, or read most days. Overall, I live a rather normal life, just with more art and fantasy elements thrown in along the way.
Keira: Sounds like a great day to me! What are some things that you love to do outside of art?
Kaitlin: When I’m not working on art I enjoy many things! I am currently running a D&D campaign, but that only happens once every two weeks or so. I play with and walk my wonderful 10-month-old 80lb puppy, Eezo. I write scripts for the Parsec Award finalist podcast Liberty: Critical Research as well as short horror tales. Also, I spend time with my partner, Travis, watching movies, reading, and playing video and board games. We love to travel, but great adventurous trips are reserved for special vacations.
Keira: Who are your favorite classical, contemporary, and fantasy artists?
Kaitlin: I am inspired by the works of the contemporary traditional fantasy artist, Charles Vess, as well as the collections of fantastical art found in the annual Spectrum art books. More classical fantasy artists that I draw inspiration from include the fairytale works of Arthur Rackham and the original artworks of author J.R.R Tolkien.
Keira: If kids wanted to make their own maps what tips would you give them?
Kaitlin: It’s fun, so give it a try! You can even trick your parents into thinking it is educational by asking them questions like, “Where would a swamp form on a river?” or “What kinds of places surround a desert?”. Think about cities; if one city is on a coast, they are probably fishermen, so draw some boats out in the water! Maps are a great opportunity to be artistic and pick up some knowledge along the way.
Keira: Thank you, Kaitlin for joining me today! I had so much fun working with you on the world map for Zaria Fierce. I loved getting to know more about you, too. This was such fun and I hope everyone else will agree.
Readers, I hope you loved this sneak peek at the map. The full version will appear in Aleks Mickelsen and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well which releases next March. If you’re feeling creative, I’d love to see your Zaria inspired maps! If you make one be sure to e-mail it to me or tag me on social media. I bet Kaitlin would love to see them too. You can find her on the web using the links below.
Artist Bio: Kaitlin Statz grew up in a many of different places but currently lives in Sarasota, FL with her partner Travis and their young dog, Eezo. She attended New College of Florida and the University of Oxford for a life in the sciences before returning to her true love, art. She started her work as Statz Ink in 2015 and has been creating art ever since.