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  • Writer's pictureLeslie W

Commissioning A Map Illustration For The Light of Stars, Book 2 of The Night of Legends Trilogy

When I read high fantasy series, I tend to pore over the maps included at the beginning of the book and marvel at the world-building. But it never occurred to me that a map was required for The Night of Legends, because I thought that since everything happened in a single place—Atros—and the cityscape would be familiar to anyone who lived in an urban area.

However, after The Night of Legends was launched, I read a number of reviews that said that the setup was confusing (possibly because of the different Sectors) and that a map would have helped with grounding the readers. So, I started thinking about getting a map for the sequel. I followed a few hashtags and map illustrators on Instagram, but I didn't really take the next step to contact these illustrators.

Fast-forward to early this year, when I began to consider more seriously about commissioning a map, because I was already more than halfway through writing The Light of Stars, and the world has expanded. By a stroke of fate, a colleague forwarded a map that an illustrator, Tammy Chew (@teechewpaper) did for Eatbook, and another colleague chimed in with a shoutout that Tammy was her friend.

So on impulse, I messaged the latter colleague to ask for Tammy's contact to see if she was interested in drawing a map for a fantasy world. Initially, I wanted to commission two maps—one of Atros and another for this new town called Tilsor that was the main setting for The Light of Stars—but due to budget constraints, I ended up going with one map that included three locations that the trilogy spans. And all I can say is that I was blown away by Tammy's professionalism and her creation.

To cut a long story short, Tammy and I communicated over email to sort out the details and brief of the project. Then, Tammy even requested for The Night of Legends to read so she could get a better sense of the world. And after my rather convoluted explanations and horrible sketches that I had of Atros in my notebook (I sent Tammy three versions and told her that I couldn't even remember which was the final version 😅), Tammy came back with a sketch of the map that had me awestruck.

From left: Tammy's first sketch, my revisions to the map, and the final sketch of the map.

I had very minor changes to the sketch because I couldn't really visualise what I wanted the map to look like. After all, I'm no expert in illustration. But seeing the sketches, I realised how much depth it actually added to the story because the locations and settings that I had in my head finally felt concrete now that I could literally see them.

After we finalised the sketch, Tammy asked me if I had any colour preferences and I literally told her, "I personally love pastel colours, but i think the whole 'save the world' vibe of the book calls for deeper and darker colours? What do you think?" And turns out, we saw eye-to-eye on this and Tammy suggested an overall tone of grey/navy with orange as an accent colour.

Once again, when I saw the first coloured version of the map, I was just wowed. I thought "colouring" the map meant adding colours to the sketch (yes, I was that ignorant) and that the final map would literally be a coloured version of the sketch. But boy was I wrong. The final version of the map turned out looking so polished, I couldn't stop gawping at it.

Later, when I shared the final version of the map with my colleague (aforementioned as Tammy's friend), who's coincidentally, also my workshop buddy and one of two of the first people to read The Light of Stars as I was writing and revising it, she told me that she actually saw the WIP and told Tammy about all the whimsical-looking buildings in Tilsor that she read in my drafts. I'm supposing that that then led Tammy to including these cute little illustrations in the map. 😆 Talk about things coming together beautifully.

From left: The final full-colour version of the map, and the greyscale version that will be printed in The Light of Stars.

After Tammy sent the first coloured and greyscale versions over, she also checked with me if there were any printing restrictions, as there's some paper that cannot take large patches of ink. I checked with my publisher, but received no response. So, I looked at some of the maps on the recent fantasy releases that I had, and I also saw that the greyscale versions also had large areas of grey, so I assumed that the current version would be fine. (Now, about a month or so to the publication of The Light of Stars, I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that there will be no issues with the printing of the map in the book. 🌚)

Anyway, in the end, I used the last revision I had in the package to add a building to the map, and you should be able to recognise the building after you've read The Light of Stars.

And by now, if you're wondering about the last location on the map, Yurkordu, here are some answers. Yes, it's where the Kulcans live, and parts of the last book in the trilogy (current working title, The Dawn of Reckoning) will take place here.

So, here you go. Three books, three main locations, a very talented and professional illustrator. And the beginning of it all, a love for writing that somehow morphed into a passion project, then subsequently, the beginning of my journey as an author and the realisation of a dream that I've had since I was ~10 years old. I can't believe how far I've come, and I know I still have a long way to go, but to see everything come together in these illustrations (all thanks to the very talented Tammy), all I can say is, it's beyond surreal. 🥹

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