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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Interview with Soraya Corcoran (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author & Cartographer Website

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Soraya Corcoran, upcoming fantasy writer, mapmaker extraordinaire and an ex-navy person who's traveled a lot in the Pacific rim region. I came to know of her when she drew the awesome map for M. D. Presley's Sol's Harvest saga. I was intrigued by her background and wowed by her maps. She was super kind enough to answer a few questions of mine and reveals what she's currently writing, the authors and series for which she would love to draw maps for as well as much more....

Q] Hi Soraya! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. To begin with, could you tell us a bit about yourself and explain what attracted you towards drawing maps?

SC: Thank you for having me! I have loved drawing, reading, and writing as long as I can remember, and I’ve lived an adventurous life. Was born and raised in Western Montana. I’ve lived in the mountains, the desert, on the coast, in the Midwest. I was active duty Navy for a 4-yr term, got to travel from Australia to Hong Kong, Singapore to Thailand, even lived in Japan for two years. Maps usually represent a journey, and that’s mine so far. As a book-loving artist, I’m surprised I didn’t get into mapmaking sooner.

Q] Can you talk about how you got started as a professional artist?

SC: It was frequent queries about my personal work. I’d posted my first map on social media. People would see it and ask if I do commissions. I didn’t think it was THAT good either, so I practiced, even reached out to some close writer friends, and offered to make a map for them. After a while, I started taking commissions as more people asked.

(Enhover map in Quill by AC Cobble)

Q] Could you give us a rundown of the process behind designing a book map from start to finish?

SC: It starts with a blob, in a way, whether it’s a map of my own imagination, or a client’s project. Sometimes the blob is more defined than others. It’s a shape (or many shapes), a starting point. I build from there with an idea of where tectonic plates might be, starting with mountain ranges and elevated areas. Rivers flow down from the high points, and everything else finds a place around that. From there, I give it detail and style until it’s done.

(Newfield map in Sol's Harvest Saga by MD Presley)

Q] My introduction to your cartography was through the maps you had designed for MD Presley’s Sol Harvest series. Could you talk a bit more about these maps?

SC: For Presley’s map, we took part of the US and rotated it 90 degrees. The map was unique in that way, since every other map I’ve done was a complete fantasy. We had to crisscross a lot of lines to represent magical paths from place to place and ended up with a rather large numbered key. It’s easy to end up with TOO much information, so it was a challenge to include as much as possible while making it legible! Every map comes with its own little challenges.

Q] Who and what are some of your influences?

SC: The maps of Skyrim and Middle Earth were some of my favorites and my work probably resembles those styles more. I absolutely love the work of Francesca Baerald. She does most of her cartography and art traditional with watercolor, whereas I color my work digitally. I’ve been practicing though! Always trying to expand my craft and improve! 😊

Q] There’s a segment of writers and fans who don’t care about maps in fantasy books. As a cartophile, I think that’s plain bonkers. In your opinion, why are maps important?

SC: I’d say it is subjective and it depends on the story. Not every journey needs a map, even in the fantasy world. Though I always love to see one! I have read, and written, plenty of stories that involve multiple locations and traveling, and a map gives a visual representation of that from the author’s eye. Even if the reader doesn’t memorize every single location, glancing at the map will give them a general idea of where they are.

Q] Is there a particular book or author that you would love to design a map for?

SC: This is a great question, though this list could go on and on! My impulsive answer: it would be so cool to make a map, somehow, of V.E. Scwhab’s SHADES OF MAGIC series, and the different dimensions of London. Or even just Red London with alternate street names and locations.

(Lantha map for Soraya's Captain Of Fortune)

Q] Out of all the maps you have designed, which one(s) is/are your favorite and why?

SC: The ‘Who’s your favorite child?’ question. Haha, let’s see… My mind tends to change from time to time, but I think I always go back to my map of Lantha for CAPTAIN OF FORTUNE. Even though certain aspects of it are becoming outdated and I see areas where I could go back and improve on my own drawing, I love the layout of the land, the shapes, all the little islands off the coast, the intricate border. All of it holds a special place in my heart.

Q] You are also a writer (The Cursed Ashtian, Captain of Fortune & a couple of short stories). Can you tell us more about them as well as what sort of stories you like to write?

SC: I write in a broad range of fantasy. THE CURSED ASHTIAN was my high fantasy, swords and magic, all that good stuff. CAPTAIN OF FORTUNE is a nautical adventure/heist with fantasy elements, where a pirate captain and a prince team up to kidnap a princess to stop a coup. Lately I’ve been dipping into the steampunk side, while keeping bits and pieces of fantasy in there.

Q] What drew you to writing? Who are your favorite authors and books?

SC: I started writing stories in middle school to go along with my reading and drawing obsessions. My favorite books were the Redwall series back then. Now my favorites include V.E. Scwhab, Scott Lynch, and Leigh Bardugo, including indie authors K.A. Dowling and J. Leigh Bralick.


Q] What projects are you currently working on?

SC: I just finished two maps (for a total of four so far) for a client working on a big series. Until I dive into my next map project, I’ll be revising and editing my steampunk fantasy novel, which of course I made a map for.

Q] In conclusion, what challenges are you looking forward to and what is your biggest goal for the future?

SC: I’m always looking forward to what the next map brings. You never know. There’s always room for improvement somewhere. My biggest goal would be to land an awesome agent to further my writing career. As far as maps go, I would love to expand more outside of books, into boardgames, videogames or film!

NOTE: Author picture and all maps courtesy of Soraya.

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