I have a guest post over at Jimbo’s Awesome SFF Book Reviews. I delve into the research behind The East Witch, and indeed, all of my fantasy. You should go check it out!
With all of my fiction, though, whichever world, I start out by reading fairy tales and folklore and mythology, to use as jumping-off points. Since I prefer to use the older versions, and avoid the modern wussified stories, this has the handy side effect of being public domain, and my favorite research material price: free. I highly recommend all the color fairy books by Andrew Lang, to begin with. They range around the world and have some tales you will never have heard of before. For my purposes, though, I wanted something a little more specific.
Which, it turned out, wasn’t easy to find. I wanted folklore and mythology of the native Siberian tribes. See, I was writing The East Witch about Baba Yaga. I grew up reading Russian Fairy Tales, and a beautifully illustrated collection of those was the first book I ever owned, a Christmas gift when I was only a few months old. I’ve wanted to weave the old witch into a story for many years. With the main character in the book being based loosely on one of my cousins – well, ok, more than one – who lives in Alaska, I decided the middle ground was Siberia. Setting the location of my tale there was a momentous decision that is part of why it took me three years to finish this book.
Also, The East Witch has a lovely in-depth review over at Becky Jones’ blog. I’m tickled by her take on my story!
Since politics is my bailiwick, I enjoyed seeing the story play out over a layer of politics and plotting occurring in Underhill that also affect Anna and Ivan’s abilities to help each other. Anna and Ivan must use all their wits and everything at their disposal to safely negotiate the rules of Underhill and the all-too-familiar political machinations of those, human and fae, who control competing poles of power.
Sanderson has woven Siberian fairy tales together with what might be called “traditional” fairy tales into a story that makes you want to keep reading. A good book is one that makes you sad that it ended…and The East Witch does just that.