In this guest post fantasy author Martha Wells tells about the different settings and cultures of The Cloud Roads.

Here's information about Martha Wells:

Martha Wells is the author of five Ile-Rien novels (The Element of Fire, The Death of the Necromancer, The Wizard Hunters, The Ships of Air and The Gate of Gods), City of Bones, Wheel of the Infinite, The Cloud Roads and two Stargate Atlantis novels (Stargate Atlantis: Reliquary and Stargate Atlantis: Entanglement). Her next book, The Serpent Sea (a sequel to The Cloud Roads), will be published next year. She has also written short stories and non-fiction articles.

Martha Wells' official website can be found here and her blog can be found here.

And here's the guest post:

GUEST POST: Martha Wells tells about the different settings and cultures of The Cloud Roads

My Ile-Rien books (The Element of Fire, The Death of the Necromancer, The Wizard Hunters, The Ships of Air, and The Gate of Gods) all had settings that drew their inspiration from real-world cities, countries, and time periods. For The Cloud Roads, I wanted to do something different, and create a world that was strange and unfamiliar to the reader, where none of the cultures had templates.

What I basically did was to come up with unusual settings, like the flying islands over the shallow sea (the Golden Isles) and the city on the giant rotating platform in the mountains (which Moon calls the Turning City, and is actually named Keres-gedin), and then think about what the people living there would look like, how they would build their cities and what materials they would use, what their trade or industry would be, how they would get food, and what their lives would be like.

I also wanted to write about characters who were shapeshifters, but who were not humans who took on the shape of Something Else. I wanted to write Something Elses who took on human shape, and who had their own culture.

In the course of the book, Moon finds out that the modern Raksura were actually descended from two different races of shapeshifters, the Arbora and the Aeriat, who at some point in the distant past joined forces and interbred. When queens and consorts, the only fertile Aeriat, bred with the Arbora, this resulted in the birth of Arbora mentors, who have some magical abilities. The Aeriat queens and female warriors aren't dominant because of political skill, or because that's the way the culture is. They're dominant because they are physically stronger.

I thought about how a species like this would live, what their social interactions would be like, how they would raise their children, how they would divide up the work. In The Cloud Roads, the eastern colony of the Indigo Cloud court is in a ruin left behind by another species. For the second book, The Serpent Sea, I wanted to show the place that the Raksura considered to be their home environment.

At the beginning of the book, the Indigo Cloud court returns to their old colony home in the mountain-tree forest of the western Reaches, the area where the Raksura believe the ancient Aeriat and Arbora first encountered each other. The various Raksuran colonies that the characters visit in The Serpent Sea and the next untitled book are all very different, but are all centered in the different types of mountain-trees that make up the forest.

I had a lot of fun writing these books, and coming up with new settings for the characters to explore. And I hope others enjoy them too!

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