Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Creating a Fantasy World - Ailsa Abraham's "Shaman's Drum"

More in our series of posts about the settings authors have chosen for their books.

I'm delighted to have Ailsa Abraham on my blog today, as she takes us through the ideas and places behind the world she has created for her Fantasy Romance, Shaman's Drum.

Over to you, Ailsa! 

Thanks for asking me along, Michela. So the question is “Why did I choose the location for my novel Shaman's Drum?”

Slight pause while I try to remember where it was. Ah yes! The capital. Why was I so very vague about not using the name when it clearly states in the blurb that the book is set in England in the very near future?
That's easy. Although my novel is futuristic, it is not set in a fantasy world.  The tale unfolds in a place very like this but the infrastructure and organised religions have changed. So there are still pizza places, public transport, computers, crystal shops etc. What I did not want to do is put readers in a setting they couldn't recognise. This could be your capital, wherever you live. The Underground railway could just as easily be the subway, the metro or the tube. I needed readers to identify with this place and know that it looked familiar even though some of the events were way beyond their experience.
Freemason's Hall, London

Specific locations in the story were made up from an amalgam of buildings I have visited and which made an impression on me. The Black Shaman's Guild is based on Freemason's Hall in London but the enclosed courtyard at the back may or may not exist, I have not yet gained entry there, being female.

The convent where we find Riga at the beginning was a mixture of a great many monastic institutions. Strangely enough I love visiting convents! The cloisters always struck me as very peaceful places, but what if a person were imprisoned within those cloisters and desperately wanted to escape? The contemplative silence would then not be tranquil, it would become oppressive.

The Convent

When it came to the Great Hall of the Council of the Wise I was spoilt for choice. The Palace of Westminster, Holyrood or any other banqueting hall I have the National Trust to thank for visiting. 
The only other place mentioned by name is Glastonbury because I don't think you can have a story about magic without somebody saying it and it must be, after Ayre's Rock in Australia, one of the best known ancient holy sites in the world.

The prequel to Shaman's Drum is my work in progress where we learn how the world came to have changed so much. This because readers told me I started in the wrong place and the reader is always right, so back to the very beginning we go. 


Ailsa Abraham was raised in a family of hereditary witches but undertook Wiccan training later in life, becoming a High Priestess. She left her coven to pursue a solo career as a shaman. She is now a healer in her village.

Having written all her life, she grabbed the opportunity when forced to stop work due to ill-health, to make it her full-time occupation.

Obviously with her background, paganism and shamanic practice were going to be to the fore in her novels.

She also loves adventure stories and romance. So her first published novel, Shaman's Drum binds all these passions together in one fast-paced, action-packed tale which has been likened to Indiana Jones but with magic.

She lives in France and when not doing anything else she likes crafting and runs and orphange for homeless teddybears. She is married and loves travelling around Europe with her husband and dogs in a very disreputable van.

Her novel "Shaman's Drum" has been nominated for the prestigious People's Choice Book Prize.

England in the near future.

Mainstream religions have been outlawed, and the old gods rule again.

Iamo has been a priest of the Great Mother and is sworn to celibacy, but his love for Riga, a Black Shaman, a magical assassin, caused him to break his vows. After being imprisoned apart from each other for three years, Iamo accepts an offer to earn them both a pardon and the possibility of marriage. If they survive.
Iamo and Riga must discover why demons are breaking through from the other side. Which of the cults are renegades who allow the demons through? Who can they trust?

Combining their powers, they face the ordeal with the help of a band of eclectic pagans, spirit creatures, Riga's Black Shaman brothers, an undercover Christian granny, and three unusually energetic Goths.

It's a tough assignment, but the hope of a life together keeps them fighting.


  1. Thanks for that, Ailsa & Michela. Grounding a fictional or fantasy world in realistic buildings and places helps the reader, I think, as well as the writer. A scene comes alive when it is visualised in words. I'm looking forward to reading Shaman's Drum.

  2. Thanks, Nik. I prefer that to inventing whole new worlds which all tend to resemble each other and have similar Celtic-based names.

  3. Having read Shaman's Drum, the images above fit REALLY well! I launched straight into your setting - the Capital -which means you explained it perfectly. I love reading about how other authors make their choices. Thank you Ailsa, and Michela.