Maps and Map-making with Soraya Corcoran

Mycenaean Greece SepiaIsn’t this a terrific map? Soraya Corcoran made it for my upcoming release, Bellerophon, and I love it. It has just the right vintage flavor for a map of Greece, set a couple of generations prior to the Trojan War. Soraya has completed two projects already for me in this past month, and I’m so impressed with her work that I wanted to share both it and her with everyone here.

Profile Pic Blog

Soraya is not your average housewife. Raised in the wilderness of western Montana, she lived every day inspired by the beauty of Big Sky Country. (Fun fact: there are more cattle than people.) But she didn’t want to be stuck there forever.

At the tender age of eighteen, she enlisted in the US Navy, and ended up serving on an aircraft carrier forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. She’d stay in Japan forever, if she could. It’s a whole other world compared to Montana. It was on that nuclear warship of 100,000 tons Soraya met her soul mate.

They married and moved to Michigan, got a house, a kid, a dog, and a couple cats. You would think life would get a little boring… tedious even. Not for Soraya. She’s not a very good housewife. The dishes pile up and she often forgets to start dinner, but that’s because she’s living in other worlds, whether they be her own fantasy lands or another. Thanks to her son Logan, Soraya knows more about sharks than she ever imagined. Her favorite is the thresher shark for its big eyes and long elegant tail. Also, she hates coffee, with the passion of a thousand suns.

So, Soraya, when did you begin to study maps and map-making? What series of events led to your interest?

I started drawing at a young age and never stopped, so the artistic capabilities were there by the time I got into cartography. One of my strongest memories is from eighth grade, when we built made-up worlds out of clay and had to integrate plate tectonics and illustrate where they were, the directions they shifted, and how that shaped the geography. It was an awesome class, and I still remember most of that stuff to this day!

From there, I started writing a lot, and I would sketch out my own maps. My writing and map skills have evolved together, especially over the last few years. Now I have a couple novels I need to query or self-publish and a freelance cartography business.

What maps hold a special fascination for you?

Tolkien’s map will always be a favorite. It’s classic. It’s the one that inspires most of us I think. Another that holds a special place in my heart is Skyrim. I don’t regret the hours upon hours I poured into that game.

I loved Tolkien’s maps, too–they made the Middle-Earth setting of his tales come alive. But I loved the stories even more. What do you like to read, and who are your favorite authors?

I’ve been in love with fantasy since I was a kid, the first books I loved being Brian Jacques’s Redwall series. Then it was Harry Potter.

I got into Dragonlance in my teens years, but nowadays some of my favorites are VE Schwab, Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie, and Scott Lynch. I guess I took a turn down a darker fantasy path.

Do you have a favorite quote or quotes?

A couple:


Tolkien quote


Do you have a map that you’re particularly proud of? If so, please tell us about it.

Valen Country Color2

I made this map for my dark fantasy WIP. It’s called THE CURSED ASHTIAN. My hero travels all across this land, so a map seemed like a necessity. I love the shapes of the mountains, from the Everest-like peaks of Ashta to the crescent-shaped range being split apart by the waters of the Gray Gulf. The compass rose itself represents the two main characters in the story. Confession: I am insanely proud of it! It’s on my office wall and I stare at it all the time.

How do you think maps add to the reader’s experience of a book?

I think it helps to ground the reader in a new world, especially concerning fantasy or a historical part of the real world they aren’t familiar with. But a map that is too busy can have the opposite effect. I aim to make my maps visually pleasing with all the necessary text. I want it to be inviting yet informational. To me, it’s art, yet it still serves an important purpose.

I completely agree. If you want to check out more of Soraya’s work, go to: It’s well worth the visit. 

Happy map reading. 🙂

Avid writer and reader of Faerie tales and noblebright fantasy.

Posted in Author Interviews
33 comments on “Maps and Map-making with Soraya Corcoran
  1. Simon says:

    I think maps are necessary now, since Tolkien this has become more popular and this has exploded in recent years. I’m not sure how many people study them but they are at least a pleasing graphical addition and shows the kind of effort that’s been put into a book 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Bernadette says:

    Thanks for the introduction to this gifted artist. I always have loved the maps of fantasy worlds. They truly do make the world come to life.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. babbitman says:

    As a cartophile I love all maps, but especially in books and particularly in fantasy/historical novels. Factual books should have some form of map as a matter of course but the great things about maps in fiction is that they add a whole new dimension to the story. I particularly like Diana’s maps in her various stories:

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Dan Antion says:

    Thanks for telling us about Soraya – map-making is fascinating.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is, isn’t it? I’ve even read descriptions of how George Washington would survey the Ohio valley to make maps of it, and that whole process fascinates me, too. It’s almost like a small kind of magic. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Absolutely beautiful artwork! I’m fascinated by maps, both real and fictional, and it’s great to find artists who have really become masters of them!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Jennie says:

    Terrific! I love maps. They’re necessary, important, and historical. A map is like a good book, not GPS.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Ann Coleman says:

    What an amazing young woman! And personally, I love it when a book includes a map, even if it isn’t a fantasy book. It helps me picture where the action is taking place, which I think is important. Plus, maps are just plain fun to study, no matter what!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can easily lose time in map gazing. Recently I’ve also realized that I miss having a globe, so I’m keeping my eyes open for the right one. I’ll have to be more assiduous in hitting second-hand and antique stores. I want a globe with some character. It’s an I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it sort of thing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, Cathleen, Soraya’s maps are phenomenal. How beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. What a lovely post about Soraya, Cathleen. She sounds like a real adventurer.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Neha Sharma says:

    So good to have read this. Map-making sounds so, so fascinating 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Contact Cathleen Townsend

%d bloggers like this: