Reading a story with a map is not the main thing, but its probably the most helpful thing

As I read The Songs of Fire and Ice I spent way too much time looking at where stuff is

Maps were one of the main reasons I even started The Gates of Vienna. I had ploughed through Songs of Fire and Ice and was sometimes spending more time on various wikis and maps on my phone seeing just how close The Trident was to The Twins. The thought right after that was of course why can’t this just be in the same damn thing. Most of this reading and thinking by the way was done with a sleeping baby on my chest but that’s a different story. But maybe not, because it was done one handed, and jumping about in a story and trying to reference things with one hand on 640 × 960 pixels, otherwise not that easy.

I did the same thing when I was a kid

The thing is, I did the same thing with the Hobbit as a kid. It came with a map which I thought was the most amazing thing. So firstly it had swords, and then monsters and that, (#winning) and then a map. This was the first time I’d ever seen this. Then again I was 11.

You spend a lot of time just thinking to yourself how places relate

Whether you’re actually going from the Reach to the Trident, or from what is now Slovenia to Vienna, or just reading about it, you, the reader, spend an awful lot of time thinking about how you relate to those places. So it could be you, as in the point of view that you’ve somehow taken over as a being whilst reading, or it could be just imagining distance and what it might have been like to go all that way. One time a friend of mine said that her grandfather at the end of WWII walked from Thessaloniki, Greece to southern Slovenia. It just sounded insanely far. It didn’t even sound walkable, lets say with just one other person, much less at the end of a war and revolutions and all that. But the number of kilometres or days didn’t matter, the map did. Mountains! There’s rivers! How many countries again?

Just how do places relate? You try to make sense of space by thinking of this

But more than anything, places relate to one another. You go from one to there other, there’s the bit in between but there’s always a relationship, whether it be imagined antipathy of Cleveland to Pittsburgh or the cultural, military and grilled meat journey from Vienna to what is now called Istanbul.

The words should work on their own though

The words should just work on their own. I mean, it is writing right? You should just be able to read something and then just get it. You should be able to understand what’s going on, how things relate and who did what to who where just through the words. This should be true, but some of us need all the help we can get.

Just even looking at a map and knowing or reading what is happening where really sparks the imagination

Maps are very cool things. They tell stories in of themselves. They show where things are and they show where things used to be. They show levels of understanding, of political boundaries and geographical features. For instance, I guess Hungary does have a lot of rivers, and yes, it would be slightly difficult to get 130,000 people across all of them, especially when they are complaining all the time. This I understood from reading the text, but this you understand a hell of a lot better when you see the maps of Hungary and see that the Danube goes all the way down there and that. Basically it just take a lot longer to do in your head.

The idea of having the narrative crossed and built into the reference

The hard thing with The Gates of Vienna is that you have to work on the map and the words at the same time. One of the mishaps that’s slightly developed is how do you make the map look interesting by itself. Or even the question of does it have to look interesting by itself. I found through the writing and putting it all together that most of what I’ve done takes place around Vienna. Fair enough, you know, the title and all. So it got me thinking about the other places a lot more. But looking at the map you see a bunch of stuff in Vienna and a couple things in Constantinople/Istanbul. I started to think of what was in between and sure enough I see my tiny other country Slovenia in there and start thinking about doing a Balkan character, one that could imbue every stereotype and miscalculation that misbegotten place could muster.