The World of The Frozen Crown

You want the fantasy author to talk worldbuilding?? Welp, you all are in for it now! I could probably write a short book on the nuts and bolts of my worldbuilding process… don’t worry. I won’t do that here. Instead I’d like to focus on the all the things that inspired the world of The Frozen Crown.

I knew from page one, that I wanted The Frozen Crown to feel like a fully-fully fleshed world in it’s own right. I didn’t want it to be solely populated by sword-wielding white dudes or set in an isolationist medieval England. I wanted the world around my characters to live and breath– acting and reacting to both external and internal forces, the same as our world does. All that was left was the how of it all.

I learned a lot by reading. Truly, consuming other books and media is one of the most vital resources a writer has at their disposal. Read a lot, and read widely.

Equally important as having my nose in a book, was dragging said nose out of a book. I wrote the first drafts of The Frozen Crown in 2016, but the first seeds of inspiration for the book were sewn long before then– in 2008 while I was attending the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

For a university that erupts out of a farm field, it had an amazing study abroad program. And thanks to the requirements of both my international’s studies and German majors, plus the encouragement of two amazing professors (shout out to Herr Lange and Dr. Hamilton– you two rock!!) I went abroad twice. First in 2008 to study in Germany and then again in 2009 for a summer internship in Japan.

Living in Germany allowed me to travel through Europe in a way that I never would have been able to. Being exposed to different cultures, different ways of thinking and the simple weight of history has left an indelible mark on me. And I hope that it shows through in my writing.

So much of my main character’s homeland, Seravesh, was inspired by traveling through Germany, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The winding mountains and the impenetrable forests with castles that rise from their mists were things that only lived in my imagination… until they didn’t.

Traveling to Morocco, seeing the souks of Marrakesh, driving through the fog covered peaks of the Atlas Mountains and camping in the Sahara widened my lens further. The city of Bet Naqar, where much of The Frozen Crown occurs, is very much a love letter to Morocco. I come from the frozen tundra of the U.S. Nothing about my previous experiences could have prepared me for the beauty of Morocco. Not only in the mind-bending expanse of the Sahara, but the warmth and welcome I experienced in everyone I met. I left part of my heart there, and sincerely hope I can one day return.

Japan captivated me in other ways. Spending an extended time in a place where no one looks like you isn’t an experience that all white writers have– but it was so, so necessary. Because as much as we in the west feel like we occupy the center of the world, we don’t. History doesn’t belong only to us– it belongs to all of us. It was that weight, and that breadth that I wanted to bring to The Frozen Crown.

When I created the world, I did my best to create a whole world. And while readers don’t get to see all of it on the page, I hope that they can feel it breathing in the margins and know that a hundred other adventures await.

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Greta Kelly is (probably) not a witch, death or otherwise, but she can still be summoned with offerings of too-beautiful-to-use journals and Butterfingers candy. Though she has travelled across the world, including brief stints living in Germany and Japan, life always kept bringing her back home to the Midwest. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her husband EJ, daughter Lorelei and a cat who may, or may not, control the weather. Her debut novel, The Frozen Crown, is forthcoming from Harper Voyager.

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