Maps in Books: An interview with Kate Prosswimmer, editor

And finally in this series of Wilderlore posts, an interview with KATE PROSSWIMMER, editor at Margaret K. McElderry (Simon & Schuster), who published Amanda Foody’s Wilderlore novels.

Inking of stream on map in progress — visible pen nib

Kate Prosswimmer joined the McElderry team in 2019 after spending five years as an editor at Sourcebooks. She has had the distinct honor of working on acclaimed and award-winning titles including Amanda Foody’s The Accidental Apprentice, F.T. Lukens’ In Deeper Waters, Jess Keatings’ Shark Lady, Annette Bay Pimentel’s All the Way to the Top, and Zoraida Cordova’s Brooklyn Brujas series. Kate is enthusiastically acquiring a list picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction. If she had to distill her taste across all age ranges and genres to one word, it would be “escapist.” She loves mysteries, books that make her ugly cry, atmospheric and unusual settings, middle grade stories that are both whimsical and earnest across all genres, picture books that favor story over message or concept, YA that exists outside everyday settings in both contemporary and speculative genres, and stories across all ages that make the ordinary feel extraordinary.

For related posts (and much more art)

Photo of inked maps side-by-side on drawing board
The original inks: see more in the illustration process post

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

Kate: I’m a very visual person, the kind of person who remembers faces and not names and uses landmarks to navigate rather than street signs. And when it comes to complicated fantasy worlds that feature unusual names, the struggle can be really compounded! Because of this, I oftentimes feel lost in a story when I can’t visualize the physical journey a character is taking. Maps help an otherwise fantastical world feel more accessible and grounded in a way that allows me to get closer to the characters and the story. I don’t know if I have a particular “favorite” map, but I will tell you that when I was growing up, I pretty much refused to read a book if it didn’t have a map in it! That was the easiest way I knew to identify books with the kind of epic scope and adventure that I was looking for.

2. KJ: How do you decide when to put a map into a book? Why did you want maps in these books?

Kate: Typically, I consider adding maps to any of my books that depend heavily on a complicated or far-ranging setting. That happens most often with fantasy titles, but maps can certainly be helpful in contemporary titles too. If having a map would enrich the reading experience by providing a useful reference point for readers, then I like to try to include one! Amanda Foody created such a rich and exciting world in the Wilderlands, and providing maps for readers felt like a great way to honor that and amplify the reading experience! There’s something about physically seeing a special, magical world that makes it feel more tangible.

3. KJ: Do all maps in books need to do the same thing? Or what are some of the purposes a map might serve?

Kate: Not at all! Some maps are meant to help communicate the enormous scope of a world that sprawls over multiple continents, while others provide a look at how intensely detailed a smaller city full of discoverable nooks and crannies might be.

4. KJ: What’s the process you follow when you’re commissioning a map? Are there any surprises in that process? Has anything ever gone hilariously wrong (that you can talk about)?

Kate: I’m pretty lucky – as the Editor, I get to go to our in-house designer and say “let’s make a map!” From there, I get to sit back and enjoy as they present me with a selection of artists who might be good for the style that we’re looking to employ. We discuss the options before coming to an agreement on who we’d love to reach out to, and then we cross our fingers and hope they’re available! So far, I haven’t had anything go hilariously wrong…*knocks on wood*

5. KJ: What would be your favourite thing to find in a map?

Kate: I love nothing more than to find an extra little world-building detail on the map that isn’t explicitly written in the book. It feels like a special little discovery that’s been placed for the delight of the reader (which is pretty much accurate)!

6. KJ: What would be the worst/funniest book to have a map in, if you could only get away with it?

Kate: Probably a picture book, like THE BOOK WITH NO PICTURES – there would be nothing to map out!!

7. KJ: Any questions you’d like me to answer?

Kate: I’d love to know where you start when you begin creating a map? And what’s your favorite part about illustrating maps?

KJ: I start by reading the books and trying to imagine the shape of the world and the lookof the landscape — sometimes it’s clearly described, but often I have to build it out of hints and probabilities. At the same time, I collect little details that might be interesting to fill out the world — creatures and oddities to draw into the corners of the map. My favourite part is finding those twists and ornaments that will help create the feeling of the book, the right way to draw a creek for that forest, or just the right type of fish, or a way to fit in those phrases that suggest the map is unfinished, or hint at what’s over the borders.



Here are the books:

Cover Image of The Accidental Apprentice
Cover art: Petur Antonsson, design by Karyn S Lee

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, design by Karyn S Lee

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.

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