Summer Map Workshops

Photo of whiteboard with very scribbly fairy-tale map on it

This summer, I’m giving a speedy map-illustration workshop at four Brisbane libraries! It’s a 1-hour pocket-sized version, just right for an afternoon activity and a shot of ideas to build your own fantasy maps with. The workshops are ideal for ages 9-16, and are free (bookings required).

Map: Western Massachusetts Bookstores

A map!

Photo of newspaper page showing illustrated bookstore map

The map of Western Massachusetts bookstores, which I started in 2019 (while sitting in Book Moon in Easthampton) and which was delayed by, well, 2020 and 2021, is now out and about!

Close-up of dip-pen nib drawing bats

It has been in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and you can also get a copy from Book Moon directly.

Close-up of illustrated bookstore map printed on newsprint

I pinched these photos from their social media.

Photo of newspaper information on Independent Bookstores Day 30 April 2022

If you are in their area on Independent Bookstore Day (30 April), a number of the shops in the area will have limited special edition offers and freebies, and Book Moon have already started their 50% off sale on used history, biography, art and travel books.

Close-up of drawing of bear and cubs in ink

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.

Art Process: Wilderlore Maps

Here is a look behind the scenes at how I drew the maps for Amanda Foody‘s first two Wilderlore books (for Simon & Schuster): The Accidental Apprentice and The Weeping Tide.

Stay tuned for interviews with author Amanda Foody (now up!), art director (Karyn Lee) and editor (Kate Prosswimmer)!

First, as usual, is to read the book and work out what should go into the world. The publisher and author provided me with sketches showing roughly where everything was located, and ideas for elements — this sped up the process, as sometimes I get to spend a while playing with alternative geographies (also fun). But reading the book lets me find ways to fit the elements together, and make the drawings suit the story, and find more Beasts with which to ornament the pages.

(Drawing two maps at once simplified some decisions, too, as they needed to match and belong to the same style.)

You can see that at one point I was thinking about a double-page map (top left, below), but in fact this was to be a single-page map. The edges of maps are very important to consider! Both so that the world can be pleasingly spaced inside them, and because while borders take real estate, they’re also a lot of fun to play in.

We thought about having no borders (since the world hasn’t been completely mapped). But in the end we all liked the idea of beasts in the corners so much that we put borders around them anyway. Design tensions!

Tiny thumbnail sketches of book elements

So many Beasts!

These sketches are on accordion-folded strips of drawing paper. You can see here I was starting to think about how to fill all the space between the islands in the Sea.

There was a lot of Sea to draw — and a lot of Woods! These maps are of places that are only partially explored in the world of the books. So I had to fill them with enough detail to keep them interesting (the Beasts helped with this!) while also giving the sense that there were many adventures yet to be had.

Tiny thumbnail sketches of book elements

My older sister asked if I could just draw a whole lot of trees/waves etc once, and use them to fill in backgrounds. I certainly could, and possibly one day I will on a project that suits it. But I love making everything a little bit different, a miniature world on the page, and being able to work elements around each other, or hint at topographies with the arrangements of trees.

Here are the sketches Amanda Foody made for me, for reference (she said I could show you, and noted that they were drawn just as guidelines for me!). I dropped them into a page template in Photoshop and stretched and nudged them into place until everything fit.

Author's map sketches in page templates

I had to think hard about placing things around Woods because there’s a LOT of information that would usually be centred on a map (towns, kingdoms, etc), but which here needs to be pushed right to the side, so the Woods can take pride of place. But I also wanted to draw the little towns!

I printed those rough layouts and used them as a guide for a large pencil sketch. That sketch would go for adjustments and approval, and then I would use it as a guide for inking.

Here is what the pencils look like close up. Something I wanted to play with here was using the trees’ shadows to hint at the rise and fall of the land.

Pencil sketch of trees and bats

I sent the sketches through for discussion. You can see some of the notes made on them here — adjusting locations and labels, identifying watercourses, etc.

I have two big geographic rules when I’m drawing maps: everything is connected, and (unless there’s extreme provocation to the contrary) water flows downhill. Sometimes I can add in connections and watercourses, but often they might turn out to be important in later books, or affect the broader shape of the world. And sometimes (as in other maps) I have to leave room for elements that will later appear or disappear.

Something else that’s fun with maps is that they do involve a little bit of writing. There’s the figurative sense, in which I am influencing and reflecting and talking with the story. But there are, quite literally, labels to write. And some of those labels I get to make up, or at least suggest — as here, with the “partial and incomplete” and “tentative and ongoing” labels.

And then I have to draw the banners around them (banners are fun — I filled the whole February calendar with them).

The next step, after having the pencils approved, and discussing the ideal corner animals, is to panic. I almost always freeze up — maps are big and complicated to draw (and therefore to get wrong), and I’ve almost always suggested something in pencil that will be very difficult to draw specifically in ink.

The trick, almost always, is to do a sampler page, trying out whirlpools, for example, or different ways of drawing streams, or how to hint at a snake skeleton.

Some elements I already am comfortable drawing (trees, for example), and other elements here have shown up in other projects and samplers (the January 2022 calendar was a tree-and-building sampler, and for February 2021 I was already trying out some of these waves and fish, which owe a great debt to the style of Pauline Baynes‘ illustrations of fish, and medieval drawings). But there’s almost always some twist on how it needs to be incorporated.

Page of test ink drawings of map elements, waves, streams, trenches, etc

I went with the fully-inked watercourses here, to make them stand out in a trackless forest. It also linked the two maps, with the under-sea ‘rivers’ in the Weeping Tide map.

Below, you can see the pencils showing through the drawing paper as I work on a lightbox.

Inking of stream on map in progress — visible pen nib

You can see that best here around the lake:

Close up of ink drawing of stinky lake

I didn’t want the waves to look mechanical, but I did need them to be roughly similar-sized. If they vary all over the map when they’re not meant to, it can be distracting. I ‘d already tried this process out on the February 2021 calendar, so again I drew up a pattern of stripes about the right distance apart. I put that under the paper, and used it as a guide, adjusting a little bit where necessary to work around fixed elements.

Map of Sea on drawing board with guidelines for waves behind it

I don’t always hand-letter directly onto the map. Often I put it on a separate page. This is because (a) I make mistakes and (b) I have to separate them onto their own layer in Photoshop, for proofreading (and replacement in translations, etc).

This time I did, though — the map looked bare in patches if I left those elements out, and the idea behind the maps was that they might be maps made in a sketchbook by a traveller, so some infelicitous lettering would be consistent with that.

Photo of inked maps side-by-side on drawing board

And there are the two maps, before I scanned them in, tidied them up, separated the letering and sent them away!

Stay tuned for those interviews…

Edit: The interview with Amanda Foody is now up!

The maps aren’t in the first editions, as I came on board as the series expanded — I understand they will be in newer editions of The Accidental Apprentice (from 1 February) and second edition/hardcover reprints of The Weeping Tide (when they come out — the first edition is out now, though!).

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.

Art reveal: WILDERLORE maps

Fantasy map of woodlands

I’m very excited to be able to show you these maps for Amanda Foody’s first two Wilderlore novels: The Accidental Apprentice and The Weeping Tide (art directed by Karyn Lee).

I’ll put up a process post soon, and also map-related interviews with Amanda Foody, Karyn Lee, and Kate Prosswimmer (Amnda’s editor at Simon & Schuster)!

The maps aren’t in the first editions, as I came on board as the series expanded — I understand they will be in newer editions of The Accidental Apprentice (from 1 February) and second edition/hardcover reprints of The Weeping Tide (when they come out — the first edition is out now, though!).

Fantasy map of islands

The books are a splendid middle-grade romp, with a decentralised magical training system which I particularly enjoyed, and some really fabulous animals to draw (also just enough sheep).

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.

Map process: Amira and Hamza

Photo pinched from Samira Ahmed. Cover illustrated by Kim Ekdahl and designed by Karina Granda

Very soon I will be posting an interview with Samira Ahmed herself, author of (among other things!) Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds, and with Karina Granda, the wonderful art director. But first: the process behind this slightly unusual map.

You see, this was not a map of a small part of a world, or even just of one world. The adventures of Amira and Hamza take them not only from Chicago to the Himalayas, but then through many, many interconnected tiny worlds (tilisms), joined to each other by somewhat-metaphysical, but physically navigable, coils. And I had to fit this all on the usual double-page space allowed for a more traditional map.

I started by sketching through the book, drawing notes to myself of descriptions, geographies, references, creatures, beings, and dumpsters, and noting key descriptions, and testing out how to create certain effects (e.g. buildings of gold) when the final drawing would be in black lines.

But as I drew, I puzzled about the shape of the world — whether to draw the tilisms floating in space (but then what about Chicago?), or as a chart? Or a board game?

It was interesting to have to think about the purpose of a map like this. Not for traditional navigation, to be sure, but to create a physical representation of something that shouldn’t be possible, and to give a sense not only of the place(s) in which a story happens, and the beings you might meet along the way, but also the feeling of it: busy and ornate, full of life and wonder and danger and good advice. (Some previous thoughts on maps.)

However, as the book begins with a visit to an astronomy exhibition, and involves some significant lunar events, I started digging into beautiful old charts of the stars and planets (here are a few sketches), and that’s where I found the answer.

Down at the bottom is the tiniest drawing of a figure as a game piece — that was for one of the board-game approaches.

I suggested using an astrolabe as the base for the map’s design: the slightly offset rings could represent the different worlds, with clear boundaries between them, and plenty of room for decoration and the potential for movement. And the curving, vine-like overlays of an astrolabe would be a perfect guide for the coils connecting the worlds. (Also, I enjoy industrial fabulism.)

Here’s just one of the examples:

Mamluk-era astrolabe, 1282, Photo: Mustafa-trit20 CC CC BY-SA 4.0

So I sketched the layout accordingly, taking a rectangular slice of a hypothetical astrolabe. This created the rather rare situation of making it pretty clear where on the page just about everything needed to go. I did not have to consider, for example, the likely paths of watercourses, or the change in types of trees over an area, or puzzle out the relative distances alluded to in the novel.

And it was a lot of fun dealing with miniature geographies — both those requiring plausibly-deniable accuracy and those heavily invented (but still guided by existing imagery). I’ve written before about the appeal of miniature groves, and that fascination fed into the map, too.

Once this concept had been approved by all concerned (art director, author, editor), I then drew an arrangement of circles on the computer to use as guidelines.

I make no secret that I don’t do straight lines or accurate geometries in my art. But I’ll sometimes rule lines up to function as a template around which I can work. These usually are softened and obscured by layers of sketches and changes, and I don’t mind if my own drawings are inaccurate, but at least the suggestion of a nod in the direction of plausibility lingers.

Using those lines and the sketch as a a base, I then developed the more detailed pencils for the map. You can just see the greyed-out circle guidelines.

I hand-lettered the place names in my own loopy writing on a separate piece of paper. But this quick placement of lettering makes sure that I (a) allow enough room for the words and (b) don’t put important details in places that will be hidden by labels. (I drew the lettering and scrolls separately so that the publisher can easily move them around / edit text / translate it.)

The grey band down the centre of the page above is to stop me putting important details where they could vanish into the spine.

Then I scan the pencil sketch in again, darken it, print it out, put it under nice drawing paper (Canson illustration 250) on the light box, and start inking.

I used a dip pen and Winsor & Newton black ink.

Once I can trick myself into starting, I love this stage: turning those aspirational little pencil scribbles into final ink drawings, with shadows and movement and personality.

Playing with hatching and texture.

Filling the space between the stars.

Drawing the tiniest dumpsters.

Then I scan and clean the linework, layer in the text, and send it to Karina:

I will post the interviews soon. In the meantime, Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds has been published and is available through all good bookstores!

A few older map posts:

Note: If you’d like to support art and writing and posts like this about it, I have a Patreon account ( and patrons there get behind-the-scenes process and sneak-peeks, starting from US$1, or you could buy me a (virtual) coffee at (and I get through quite a bit of coffee).And/or check out prints and products available at Redbubble and Spoonflower.

July 2021 calendar — Houses

Note: This calendar is supported by patrons, who get it a little bit early, along with other sneak-peeks and behind-the-scenes art:, and also by those very kind people who throw a few dollars towards it via the tip jar:

I knew I’d be running late on this one (due to some project deadlines), and I also knew this was NOT the fastest design I had in mind, but OH WELL. I’ve been wanting to draw a pattern of houses for ages and it was a very pleasing design to work on. And I was able to put some Queenslander houses into it, and a few hints of stories.

That, for me, is one of the charms of book maps — not “here is the place where this story takes place”, or even “here is this sort of place…”, but “here are the sorts of stories that might happen in a book like this.”

And that applies just as well to a town as to other maps.

It is also up as a print and repeating pattern on Redbubble if you are in need of (for example), prints, phone cases, notebooks or dresses (or a jigsaw puzzle). It’s up in both colour and as a line drawing (if you prefer monochrome, or would like to colour in your own clothes). Edit: And it’s up on Spoonflower as fabric and wallpaper in line and colour

And here (for personal use) are the printable versions — one pre-coloured and one to colour in yourself. If you like them and/or like supporting the arts, you can contribute to the calendar (and get it and other behind-the-scenes things early) at (starts at US$1/month!) or by buying me a coffee or two through Ko-Fi

Lost in Submissionland?


In preparation for Nanowrimo, the ebook of The Writer’s Book of Doubt is on sale for US $4.99. If you haven’t got a copy, now’s the time to get one — with illustrations by me! (And if you are at the World Fantasy Convention in LA this weekend, the original map art will be at the art show).

Amazon: The Writer’s Book of Doubt

Books 2 Read: 


Note re links: I’m experimenting with affiliate links, which means I might get paid a small commission if someone buys something after clicking a link on my site. This is early days, so I’m really just testing out the program links at this point!



The Wicked King – map!


Holly Black’s The Wicked King, the follow-up to The Cruel Prince, is now well and truly out. Finally. I’ve been sitting on the plot of this book for a year and am delighted at seeing everyone else’s reactions to it now.


I did not do the cover — that is by artist Sean Freeman and senior designer Karina Granda, and they have a post about it here: Evolution of a Cover.

I, however, did draw the internal ornaments, and… updated the map.


The map begins from the same place as my map for The Cruel Prince, with certain shifts and adjustments for the direction this book takes.


Below is one of my favourite changed details. Before:


And after:


I’m gradually expanding the published maps category over on my portfolio. Stay tuned!

Map Makers Workshop!

I’m giving a map workshop at Where the Wild Things Are bookstore in Brisbane on 3 October.  This is an illustration workshop (I am not a cartographer!) about making maps of and for stories. Details and tickets are available from the bookstore’s website: Mapmakers Workshop with Kathleen Jennings.

It’s a school holiday workshop for ages 10+, but adults are welcome!

(If you’re a little bit further north, I’m giving Marvellous Bird and Narrative Imagery workshops in Hervey Bay and Maryborough on 22 & 23 September).