An Interview with Amanda Foody

Amanda Foody is the New York Times and indie bestselling author of All of Us Villains, the Wilderlore series, the Shadow Game series, and more. Her work has appeared in publications including Buzzfeed, Popsugar, Culturess, and Amazon selected All of Us Villains as the Best Young Adult Book of 2021. Originally from Pennsylvania, she lives in Boston, MA with her partner and their orange tabby, Jelly Bean. When not writing, she unironically loves to cook. All of Our Demise, the sequel to All of Us Villains, will release on August 30, 2022. The third book in the Wilderlore series will follow in Spring 2023.

The first two volumes in Amanda’s delightful middle-grade series of Beasts, exploration and magic are out now. I illustrated the maps (the covers are by Petur Antonsson), and also got to ask Amanda questions about maps in her books!

(Illustration process post is up, and interviews with editor and art director to come!)

KJ: What do maps do for you as a reader? Do you have a favourite map (literary or otherwise)?

Amanda Foody: I love opening up a fresh fantastical book and being immediately greeted by a map. It’s such an exciting peek into the world even before you read the first words. And though I might be terribly biased, the Wilderlore maps truly are my favorite! I love how much they burst with detail—you could spend ten minutes admiring them and still catch new words or Beasts you hadn’t noticed before.

KJ: Why did you want maps in these books? (Or, if you didn’t — which is potentially funnier — how did you feel when maps were thrust upon you?)

Amanda: I didn’t request any maps up front because, in comparison to other fantasy books I’ve written in the past, The Accidental Apprentice didn’t require one so much. And since we had the Beast glossary in the back, I figured the book already had some wonderful extra content. But The Weeping Tide did lend itself better to a map, so when my team suggested adding one, not just for Book Two, but for TAA, TWT, and all the future books in the series, I was thrilled! Why would I ever say no to such delightful additions? 

KJ: These books take place in very different locations (the Woods and the Sea), and all the remarkable beasts in them change accordingly (except for the ones who travel with the main characters). Yet these aren’t exactly journey or quest fantasies — they’re much more about mystery and discovery. Did you want to explore the geography of the world as part of that? How/why did you choose the areas for those stories to take place in?

Amanda: As each book in the series is set in a different Wilderland, aka a magical biome, each time I’ve sat down to outline a new installment, one of the key items of my agenda is to list some geographical locations or phenomena I’d like to feature, which are typically inspired by the real world. For example, in The Weeping Tide, set at the Sea, I wanted to include a trench similar to the Marianna Trench, a coral reef, underwater rivers and lakes, islands, and even the Shifts—the very visible dividing line between the Sea and the ocean of the Elsewheres—is inspired by the real life border of where the Pacific and Indian Oceans meet. But honestly, TWT was just the beginning! This process only grew more expansive and detailed once I learned there would be maps in the series, which came after TWT was finished. Since then, I’ve begun to outline with the maps in mind, encouraging myself to feature even more dazzling and scientifically fascinating locations. Book 3 spotlights places inspired by landmarks across five different Earth continents. The maps have genuinely become integral to how I view my Wilderlore writing process.

KJ: Do you have a favourite type of landscape?

Amanda: I’m partial to the Woods, as I feel that’s the biome I grew up in, being from Central Pennsylvania. Though my ecological and geographical research has been one of the joys of writing this series, so I’ve possibly had even more fun exploring places beyond it.

KJ: Often maps are treated like an Objective Truth. But one of the things discussed when these maps were in development was that they should feel unfinished. Why was that important?

Amanda: Because the Wilderlands are meant to be so wild and magical, they’re described as not being totally explored. In fact, there is a whole class of Lore Keeper called Surveyors who make their careers out of mapping the uncharted regions of each Wilderland. I love the mystery that this adds. What discoveries might be found in places humans have yet to touch?

KJ: How did you think up the shape of the world in these stories? Some authors work out a very detailed geography first. Others make it up on the fly to fit the story. Some just have a very strong aesthetic/vibe they work with. (Speaking as an illustrator, all of these are quite exciting to convert to a map.)

Amanda: I definitely fall into the latter category. I find that if I commit to figuring out too much of the world upfront, I feel a lot of pressure to include all of that detail in the book, and it can often be overwhelming. When I start with simply what’s necessary on page and go from there, it keeps it more minimal. (Though I don’t think anyone who’s read my books would claim the worlds are minimal haha!)

KJ: Did you draw any maps yourself, and can I show your rough sketch?

Amanda: You absolutely can, though I drew them specifically as guides for you, as opposed to guides for me, so I only put the bare bones into them because I knew you’d take them away so beautifully from there! I’m very visual and good with directions, so I tend to remember the overall layout of my settings without relying on a map as I write.

[KJ: You can see the reference sketch Amanda made for me over in the illustration process post]

KJ: What is it like working with an art director and illustrator to have a map made to fit a book?

Amanda: It’s very fun! I’ve had maps included in most of my books to date, and the process across publishers and series and age categories has always been much the same. Typically, once the book is mostly finished, I’m asked to provide some type of sketch of the map to send to the illustrator, and then some time later, I receive something a million times better than what I originally sent, often styllized in a way that suits. I also love how varied my maps have been. In Wilderlore, they’re maps of the Wilderlands, which are extremely large. In All of Us Villlains, the map is of the grounds of a death tournament, which include a single city and its surrounding regions. And in the Shadow Game series, the maps are all of the same single city, with alterations to suit the locations of each installment. [Maps by Jennifer Hanover]

KJ: What would be your favourite thing to find on a map?

Amanda: I love including details that might not feature in the actual book. I find they’re such a great way to make the world feel big and vibrant and not clue the reader into every single piece of information that will be important later.

You can read all about the illustration process for the maps here:

Art Process — Wilderlore maps

Here is a sheep from the maps:

tiny ink drawing of sheep

Here are the books:

Cover Image of The Accidental Apprentice
Cover art: Petur Antonsson

A boy who accidentally bonds with a magical Beast must set off on an adventure in the mysterious Woods in this “wholesome, delightful” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), and cheeky middle grade fantasy debut—perfect for fans of Nevermoor and How to Train Your Dragon.

Cover image of The Weeping Tide
Cover art: Petur Antonsson

Barclay and his friends must save an island city from the Legendary Beast of the Sea in this exciting second book in the Wilderlore series, perfect for fans of Nevermoor and How to Train Your Dragon.

5 thoughts on “An Interview with Amanda Foody

  1. Pingback: Art Process: Wilderlore Maps | Kathleen Jennings

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