Let’s talk about maps

Posted on February 12, 2015

I am currently in the process of sketching out a version of Quinn’s map. By which I mean, I am making an absolutely awful job of putting the world from The Mapmaker Chronicles down on paper. When I am writing, it all makes perfect sense – I can see the Libertas ploughing through the waves, can see a complete image of each place Quinn visits, and I can see, with singular clarity, every detail of Quinn’s beautiful map.

When it comes to getting all that imagery out of my head and onto the page, however, it’s a little different. Imagine the Mona Lisa. Now imagine the stick figures your kids drew when they were younger. The difference is that marked.

I’ve been having fun with it, however, deciding where everything goes, and how to draw a large, white narwhal, and where, precisely, Kurt’s village needs to lie. But I’m sadly aware that my efforts are NOTHING like they should be.

This is the style of the maps I had in my mind as I wrote The Mapmaker Chronicles:





You’ll notice the use of drawings of ships and sea monsters and angels and the like – mostly to fill in the gaps where the mapmaker’s actual knowledge ran out and swathes of ocean needed livening up. The middle map (above) is from a book called Maps of The Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer (Peter Turchi) – which is possibly one I should read before I go too much further…

The fact is that my pencil sketch of Quinn’s map will never see the light of day. It will be sent to a talented illustrator who will bring it to life and make the reality match up to that wondrous picture in my mind.

I’m pretty sure that Nammu* will be happy with that.

If you (or the kids) are interested in learning more about maps and mapmaking, I’ve put together a list of resources to get you started.

*Quinn’s favourite mythical beast, which may bear a striking resemblance to a large, white narwhal

Allison book signingAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.

 THE FIRE STAR, the first book in my new Maven & Reeve Mystery series, is out on 1 September 2020.

You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.


  1. Lisa

    Such beautiful maps. I can’t draw a straight line so I take my hat off to you (and your illustrator) for getting Quinn’s map down on paper. Life imitating art. Quinn had to draw his map, and now you are drawing his map. Good luck x

  2. Lilybett

    I read a great non-fiction book called The Map Thief (Michael Blanding?) about a guy who razored maps out of precious books and sold them on the blackmarket. Love a good map. Maps already fire up the imagination – getting to make your own is amazing.

  3. Helen K

    Are these your maps? (no! If so, very impressed!) I love maps – all town planners do, we’re a bit nerdy that way (and having grown up in the home of the Melways, we have been spoilt here in Melbourne). I’m pleased to say I have (indoctrinated) encouraged my son too, and he has the Melways by his bed (a little night reading), just as my geography teacher father encouraged me. I’ll be looking into these resources – thank you!

    • Allison Tait

      Unfortunately, not mine. Two are antique maps, one is from the book mentioned above. I love that your son reads the street directory!

      • Helen K

        Although my husband and daughter look at him weirdly, I’m very proud (as is his grandfather) – chip off the old block, etc

  4. Rae Hilhorst

    I can’t draw for peanuts, your maps are perfect x

    • Allison Tait

      Unfortunately, the ones above are not mine – but one does one’s best, right?

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