Inspiration for OF GOLD AND FIRE: Setting and Slavery – Olive

As I know we will talk about in other posts, much of our inspiration comes from the places we’ve visited and the people we’ve met. I know we’re not unique in that; most writers/authors find inspiration from the world around them. There are even memes that support it…


Central Asia

There has been collectively a fair amount of complaining about inclusiveness in fantasy. Rightfully so–not all fantasy should be about a European-esque setting. The world’s cultures are filled with myth and superstition that makes wonderful inspiration for fantasy, while the world’s societies make for wonderful inspiration for a fictional society. Unfortunately, unless you’re lucky like me (and Aristen) and have traveled much of the world (or studied it from afar), you’re unlikely to come across much.

Settings – DiRel and the Mountain

When we first started writing the story, I was in a place of introspection. As is mentioned in other places on this blog, I served in the U.S. Army. I deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 and stayed over a year until 2009, days short of 2010. While most people who have never been could not appreciate the beauty of the war-torn country, I found it to be spectacular … Once you got past the landmines and so on, obviously.

When we first started writing OF GOLD AND FIRE, I wanted to write about a place that looked like Afghanistan. The mountains there are a lot different than any I’d seen in the past. My FOB (“Forward Operating Base”) in Wardak province sat 7200 feet above sea level, yet much of the year, the insanely tall mountains of the Hindu Kush weren’t even covered with snow. It was such a rugged, somewhat ragged setting, but incredibly raw. I think that part of the reason why I felt that it was raw was because of our wartime operations; people were killed, often, and I was always terrified that I’d be next.

If you’re wondering what goes through our minds with our settings, you can also look at Olive’s Pinterest Boards. 

One of the main protagonists in the story/series is from the Mountains like those in Afghanistan. Everything from the small white goats she hunts to the craggy landscape were from images scorched into my brain by Afghanistan.

System of Slavery in Rykon, the setting for OF GOLD AND FIRE (“The Old Empire”)

While in law school, I had a wonderful professor who wrote about some fascinating, eye-opening subjects that most Americans would never read about. One of those subjects was historical slavery in the Indian Ocean and Central Asia regions.

While many of us here in the U.S. have some understanding of the system of slavery that existed in this country (and in some ways persists here) and in the Atlantic Ocean slave trade, I hardly know any one that knows anything about the systems of slavery that existed in Central Asia. Hell, I knew nothing of it before I started studying it while in law school.

Specifically, I speak of the system of Islamic slavery that existed during the Mamluk period (1250 to about 1517) and in medieval India (the link provides basic information). The slave Sultanates existed in the 13th century A.D. and were actually Turkic imperial conquerors from North in Central Asia (related to both Turkish and Turkmen peoples since the Great Seljuk Empire) (sorry I could go on and on about the history, trying to keep it brief!).

What’s different about the systems that existed in Central Asia is that slaves weren’t owned by plantation owners like they were here in the United States. Some slaves, owned by kings, were generals in their armies. Some married into their families. Some became kings themselves and had specific jobs like “dancer” or “soldier” for example.

Studying these systems gave us ideas and inspiration to create something just a little bit different. There is more, but I’ll leave it at this for now. Hopefully our readers will appreciate the time and research that went into OF GOLD AND FIRE. (And the series for that matter.) And maybe an agent/publisher will snap us up! HEY, WE’RE DIFFERENT! 🙂

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