Even the most arcane fantasy world most likely has some real life inspiration. George RR Martin turned to the medieval societies of Europe for details of life (and death, lots of death) in the Seven Kingdoms of Game of Thrones. China Mieville turns to grubby Industrial Revolution-era England for Perdido Street Station and other books. In the urban fantasy world, the connections are even clearer, with the action firmly set in the universe we know, albeit with some magical tweaks. Think of Charlaine Harris’ Bon Temps, Lousiana, setting for the vampire novels that inspired the TV series True Blood – or the Minneapolis setting of Emma Bull’s famous War for the Oaks.
My novels and stories of the Moon Road are similarly anchored in the “real world” of today’s desert Southwest – a place of big horizons, hot summer days and a mix of Anglo, Latino and Native cultures, somewhere between the Pacific Ocean and the Rio Grande. The City, Soledad, harbors the usual collection of regular citizens, street people and fringe dwellers, but with a twist: Soledad City sits on a nexus of earth power, carried in the veins of metal that run deep beneath its surface.
Because of this, the City attracts all sorts of individuals who live outside the bounds of everyday reality. And because of this, it also attracts something much bigger: the Moon Road, that strange semi sentient being that wanders like a living spiderweb through the Universe, linking worlds and peoples from places distant and near. The Road visits “watering holes” like Soledad from time to time, and those with certain gifts can see it come. Some lucky folk can walk its cool white surface and end up – elsewhere. (Others are not so lucky. As Mama Silva says, there are Cleaners on the Road, who clear away the blood.)
A loose alliance of witchy folk look after the City’s magic, keeping it from spinning out of control. Mama Silva in the Barrio, Nettie Chubai on the Rez, Cage the voodoo priest downtown and pretty Nina Balova on the tony, New Age-y East Side make sure things stay in balance. Mama Silva talks about this in A Patch of Cool, my forthcoming Soledad novel.
Catty corner from the mission
Next to the barred up liquor store
She’s open all the time.
Crack heads and knife fights
And sirens in the night:
Mama Silva just goes on.
To create Soledad I’ve drawn from my own years of growing up in the border country of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, and many visits to Mexican border cities such as Ciudad Juarez, Nogales, Naco, and Tijuana.
The stories and novels of Soledad’s magic are largely inspired by the people and events I’ve encountered in my time in the borderlands. And at night I’ve looked up at a brilliant full moon and a sky full of renegade stars and wished to see a wonder or two.
Music forms the backdrop of every story I write – and the musical group Calexico is one of the best inspirations for this gritty, sunburned fantasy landscape. Based in Tucson, the duo of Joey Burns and John Convertino (along wtih various other talented folk) did a music video for their song “Two Silver Trees” that perfectly captures the essence of Soledad.
Want a free flash fantasy from the Moon Road series (or a bit of original art)? Subscribe to my newsletter, Dark Star, to get news, updates and freebies right to your inbox every month