The Shifted World Series (Hunter & Fox, and Kindred & Wings) was the first project high fantasy project I wrote for a long time—in fact since I was thirteen—and it is steeped in my life as a child of New Zealand.
I have a warm place in my heart for its cast of characters, and the world of chaos they inhabit.
I grew up being a voracious reader, and soon enough I ran out of books to read. With no other choice I began to write, and my first ‘novel’ was high fantasy. (My Mum still has the green hardback book I wrote it in.) For many years I was certain my dream of being a writer was a silly one. In pre-internet days getting anything to New York, let alone published there was a herculean task. I knew of only one New Zealand fantasy writer. (Now there is a whole plethora of them!)
When I dared to get back into writing, it was history that proved my inspiration for my first few books, but epic fantasy still had a hold on me. I’d grown up with Andre Norton, CJ Cherryh, David Gemmell, and Tad Williams. I wanted to go big.
The Shifted World’s genesis was from an everyday occurrence in New Zealand; and earthquake. I’d been subject to the shifting earth under my feet, just like the rest of my fellow New Zealanders. Some of my most vivid memories were hiding under my Nana’s solid oak table, while the earth shook.
We were taught to take shelter and be prepared. When I studied history I learned about the changes in the landscape. The land could fall away, but just as easily the earth could make new opportunities when it raised itself from the sea.
The attitude adjustment that was required to live on the Ring of Fire, means coping with the threat of danger, and the possibility of everything changing. People who live in San Francisco and Japan would also understand the mindset.
Writers are however full of the ‘what-ifs’. So I started thinking about what if the world moved faster? What if you could stay still for a month and see mountains rise, or lakes be born?
What would sort of people would inhabit such a place? How would it come to be?
Conhaero ended up being a place where chaos was born, and just like New Zealand a place of native people interacting with many different peoples. It is a place on the edge, like my homeland, and that is where some of the most interesting stories are to be had, in the lives of people struggling.
Conhaero is not just about the people though. I took the chance to use the different legendary animals and creatures that make epic fantasy such fun to write. This world is where legends are born, and so I drew heavily from creatures from all over our world. In the end that meant I wanted to tackle dragons.
Ever since Anne McCaffrey’s Pern stories, I have loved dragons, but I have never included them in my novels for one good reason; I wanted to do them my way. I wanted my dragons to be different, special, and part of the mythos of Conhaero in a unique way. When I finally created my first dragon, Wahirangi I tried to make him impressive, inscrutable, but also a watchful guardian of his human. Who wouldn’t want a dragon looking out for them after all?
I like to imagine that I am bringing just a little bit of New Zealand to the fantasy genre, and I hope people enjoy that.
New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author with her husband Tee Morris of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, the Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice, and a Sir Julius Vogel. She currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a furry clowder of cats.
She can be found online at http://www.pjballantine.com/
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