Thursday, November 9

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, November 09, 2017 5 comments
by guest author Annie Douglass Lima

I’ve always thought that it’s especially helpful for writers of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, alternative reality, etc.) to travel outside their home country. If you’re going to be creating new worlds and cultures, it’s valuable to be able to experience different cultures in our own world and draw inspiration from them, after all.

I was raised in Kenya, where I lived for almost my whole childhood. As an adult, I spent a year in Indonesia, as well as living in the United States for a while. At the moment, my husband and I live in Taiwan, where we’ve been for over ten years now. In between, I have visited a total of twenty-one countries so far (with plenty more still on my bucket list!). These international experiences have definitely impacted my writing.

Although Kenyan culture has not made it directly into any of my books so far, spending time as a foreigner in an unfamiliar world inspired some of the interpersonal and intercultural struggles the characters in my Annals of Alasia fantasy series have had to face.  (And by “foreigner” I mean the way I thought of myself when my family visited America.  As a child, I considered myself Kenyan and was much more at home there than in the U.S.) In Book 3 of the series, Prince of Malorn, my character Prince Korram has to travel into the Impassable Mountains to seek the help of a nomadic tribe called the Mountain Folk.  In the kingdom of Malorn, Mountain Folk and Lowlanders tend to distrust each other and avoid contact whenever possible, and both sides claim that the other mistreats them.  I wanted to show that, often, it just takes better understanding to lead to acceptance and appreciation of another culture. That, and the willingness to learn new ways of doing things and respect others’ customs even when they’re different. That concept reflects my love of getting to know other cultures and appreciating the differences between them.

I’ve enjoyed bringing several elements of Taiwan’s culture – both good and bad – into my Krillonian Chronicles alternate reality series. Here are a few examples:

  • In Taiwan, gifts or awards involving money are always given in red envelopes. When my martial artist character, Bensin, wins prize money in a cavvara shil tournament, the officials hand it to him in a red envelope. 
  • Betel nut, a mild narcotic, is very popular in Taiwan. In the city of Jarreon, it’s also common and is sold legally in shops decorated with flashing colored lights, just like here. (In another province of the Krillonian Empire, betel nut is illegal, and a certain character with an addiction goes to great lengths to find a black market supplier.) 
  • In Taiwan, cheap boxed meals available at “hole-in-the-wall” eateries are a common and convenient lunch or dinner for laborers or anyone in a hurry or short on cash. In the city of Jarreon in my series, they’re common too – for big business owners to order in bulk for their slaves’ lunches, or for City Watch officers to pick up to feed prisoners in the Watch Station cells. 
  • New Year is the most important holiday of the year in Taiwan. People celebrate it by putting up decorations, giving gifts of money to children (yes, in red envelopes, often decorated with special designs), and by sharing special meals involving traditional foods with family. I actually combined ideas from that with Christmas in creating the Krillonian Empire’s New Year holiday. Characters there celebrate with seasonal music and decorations, sharing a feast involving traditional foods with family and friends, and exchanging gifts with family members. Slave owners sometimes give their slaves gifts as well, though those usually consist of practical items (one enslaved character receives a toothbrush, toothpaste, and extra socks).

I’ve had a number of readers comment that the cultures in my novels are both interesting and believable, and I know that’s because I’ve drawn on real ones to create them. If you write speculative fiction and have had the privilege of experiencing multiple cultures (even second hand), I would encourage you to use bits and pieces of them to shape the worlds you create. It’s fun to write that way, and it will be all the more fun for readers to explore those worlds!

Q4U: Have you drawn from actual cultures to enrich your writing? Please share in the comments!

About the Author

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published fifteen books (three YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, six anthologies of her students’ poetry, and a Bible verse coloring and activity book). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

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About the series

Take a look at this exciting new young adult action and adventure novel, The Student and the Slave, now available for purchase! This is the third book in the Krillonian Chronicles, after The Collar and the Cavvarach and The Gladiator and the Guard.

The series is set in an alternate world that is very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone. Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with "have a rack"), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

First, a Little Information about Books 1 and 2:

Book 1: The Collar and the Cavvarach

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

Click here to read chapter 1 of The Collar and the Cavvarach.

Click here to read about life in the Krillonian Empire, where the series is set.

Book 2: The Gladiator and the Guard

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to read about life in the arena where Bensin and other gladiators are forced to live and train.

And now, The Student and the Slave, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

Book 3: The Student and the Slave

Is this what freedom is supposed to be like? Desperate to provide for himself and his sister Ellie, Bensin searches fruitlessly for work like all the other former slaves in Tarnestra. He needs the money for an even more important purpose, though: to rescue Coach Steene, who sacrificed himself for Bensin’s freedom. When members of two rival street gangs express interest in Bensin’s martial arts skills, he realizes he may have a chance to save his father figure after all … at a cost.

Meanwhile, Steene struggles with his new life of slavery in far-away Neliria. Raymond, his young owner, seizes any opportunity to make his life miserable. But while Steene longs to escape and rejoin Bensin and Ellie, he starts to realize that Raymond needs him too. His choices will affect not only his own future, but that of everyone he cares about. Can he make the right ones … and live with the consequences?

Click here to order The Student and the Slave from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through November 31st!


Enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of the first two books in the series!

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  1. What rich experiences Annie Lima has had. I can see how experiencing and kind of "foreignness" personally would help create texture in a fantasy world. You see things through different eyes. Best wishes for book success.

  2. Thank you, Laurel, for the opportunity to visit your blog! I hope the post is helpful to your readers, and that they enjoy the Krillonian Chronicles as well!

    1. My pleasure. Thanks for the food for though here. Makes me want to pack my bags right now! :-)