Blog Tour: Amanda Lester Series: How I Create Amanda’s Physical World: Paula Berinstein

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This is my stop during the book blitz for the Amanda Lester Series by Paula Berinstein. This book blitz is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The book blitz runs from 30 January till 5 February. You can see the tour schedule here

Post 3. How I create Amanda’s physical world

Before I started writing the Amanda Lester series, I didn’t realize that a novelist has to be an architect, interior designer, landscape artist, and city planner. I learned fast. Fictional characters move around within an environment, and you have to create that space for them. If you want it to be interesting it has to be detailed, which means you have to imagine the macro and the micro of it and everything in between. It also has to work in the story, which means travel times have to be realistic, buildings need to be large enough to house the people and activities they contain, characters need ways to get around, and details must be plentiful and accurate.

My stories involve not just an English boarding school but the town and region that surrounds it. I’ve studded them with Neolithic tunnels, an old factory, a clock tower, a lighthouse, a boat, trains, other schools, shops, hotels, caves, churches, police stations, garages, homes, and a whole lot more. Some of these places actually exist. Most are made up. In both cases I have to know where rooms, doors, and staircases are placed; how the spaces are lit; what can be seen from various angles; how to get into and out of them; what they’re made of; what colors they are; who uses them; what they’re like during various seasons of the year; what happens when they’re beset by earthquakes, floods, and age—you get the picture.

The most complicated environment to create was the secret detective school, Legatum Continuatum. For this and all the places in the series I did a lot of photo research. I had to decide how many stories to make the school, how to lay it out, where to locate the staircases and elevators, what to do about the hospital and morgue, etc. I decided that three stories should do it. I could get all my classrooms, dorms, common rooms, kitchen, dining, administrative, medical, and so on into a building that size. The gym and assembly hall would have to reside in separate buildings, however, which my research told me was credible.

You can’t imagine how hard it was to draw the school. I wanted it to be full of odd shapes to show that it had been added onto over the more than one hundred years it had been in existence. I also had to figure out how to fit in storage areas, restrooms, hallways, a foyer, and offices. I don’t know how many sketches I went through but it was a lot. It was worth it though because the school has served me for six books so far.

The second-hardest environment I had to create was the criminals’ school. I knew it was going to be in a castle so I needed to figure out how big castles are and how to fit classrooms, kitchen, dining room, residences, and all that stuff into one. (Many castles are way too small for all that, believe it or not.) I also needed to figure out how much it would cost to acquire and fit out such a castle because I needed to finance the school.

Let me tell you, that was something. I looked at tons of pictures of castles, read about layouts and square footages, examined real estate listings. (Yes, you can actually buy a castle and I would love to, but I’ll have to sell a few more books in order to make that dream come true.) Then, after I decided how big to make the castle, I needed to come up with a layout that worked in my story.

As I sketched the Schola Sceleratorum castle I realized that it was looking a lot like the detective school, and I couldn’t have that. The criminals had to be completely different from the detectives. So I tried different arrangements until my pencil was dull, but I could not come up with anything unique . . . until I hit on the idea of circles.

As you can see in the graphic, Schola Sceleratorum is composed of a huge number of round rooms and towers. To my knowledge no real castle has been built that way, but it works for me. While there’s no such thing as a typical hall in my design, I do have passages that ring the circles. These not only function as halls but as secret passages for intruders to sneak around in.

I also had to imagine the interior of Nick’s boat, the Moriartys’ sugar factory, Amanda’s mother’s house, Stencil Moriarty’s London mansion, and the Neolithic tunnels that run under the Lake District. Trust me when I say that I initially got some things wrong. English houses are not laid out the way California houses are, but I’d written the scene where Amanda goes to Stencil’s house as if they were. My tunnels are much more comfortable than real Stone Age tunnels would be (and better lit). I’m not sure the conveyor belt Amanda rides in the sugar factory would actually work either, despite the fact that I found pictures of such a device and wrote from them.

Which brings me to another point. Thank goodness a writer has license to play with geography and other environmental characteristics. While there are quarries in the Lake District, none actually exists in Windermere. I made mine up. Nor is there a little church outside Penrith that connects to an underground network, nor a Lake Enchanto like the one that borders Legatum (although there is a Lake Enchanto in Agoura, California, near my house). On the other hand, there really are factories

like the Moriartys’ sugar plant along the Thames near the London City Airport, there really is a zoo near Windermere, and Simon’s London adventures in Book 6 are based on the actual layout of the city.

I don’t know if every novelist designs environments the way I do. I know from the maps in many books that writers work out the geography of their environments, but I’ve never heard anyone mention designing a manor house or a castle or a zoo. Writers, please share! Inquiring minds and would-be architects want to know!

Tomorrow I will discuss the villains of Amanda’s world.

About the Amanda Lester series

The Amanda Lester series is a Middle Grade/ Young Adult Mystery series.
The series contains 5 books so far and at least 2 more books are planned. The first four books are also available bundled in a box set. And the first book is also available in audiobook format. The currently published books are:
– Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy (Amanda Lester, Detective #1)
– Amanda Lester and the Orange Crystal Crisis (Amanda Lester, Detective #2)
– Amanda Lester and the Purple Rainbow Puzzle (Amanda Lester, Detective #3)
– Amanda Lester and the Blue Peacocks’ Secret (Amanda Lester, Detective #4)
– Amanda Lester and the Red Spider Rumpus (Amanda Lester, Detective #5)

The First book in the series:
Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar ConspiracyAmanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy (Amanda Lester, Detective #1)
by Paula Berinstein

Blurb:

Amanda Lester wouldn’t be caught dead going into the family business. Her ancestor, Sherlock Holmes’s colleague Inspector G. Lestrade, is a twit. Nevertheless her parents refuse to see his flaws, and she’s going to a secret English school for the descendants of famous detectives whether she likes it or not.

When Amanda arrives at the dreaded school, she considers running away—until she and her new friends discover blood and weird pink substances in odd places. At first they’re not sure whether these oddities mean anything, but when Amanda’s father disappears and the cook is found dead with her head in a bag of sugar, they’re certain that crimes are taking place.

Now Amanda must embrace her destiny and uncover the truth. The only snag is that arch-villain Blixus Moriarty, a descendant of Holmes’s nemesis Professor James Moriarty, might be involved, and he doesn’t like nosy little girls interfering in his business.

You can find Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy on Goodreads

Get the e-copy for free!

The e-copy of Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy is free now on all vendor sites! Grab your free copy here:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Smashwords

Get the Audiobook!
You can buy the audiobook of Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy here:
Audible
Amazon
iTunes

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here!

All five books in the series

Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar ConspiracyAmanda Lester and the Orange Crystal CrisisAmanda Lester and the Purple Rainbow PuzzleAmanda Lester and the Blue Peacocks’ SecretAmanda Lester and the Red Spider Rumpus
Buy the whole series on Amazon!

The first Amanda Lester book is free and book 2, 3, 4 and 5 are only 0.99$ per book or can be bought as part of a box set. Links to each book on Amazon are below:
Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy (Amanda Lester, Detective #1)
Amanda Lester and the Orange Crystal Crisis(Amanda Lester, Detective #2)
Amanda Lester and the Purple Rainbow Puzzle (Amanda Lester, Detective #3)
Amanda Lester and the Blue Peacocks’ Secret (Amanda Lester, Detective #4)
Amanda Lester and the Red Spider Rumpus (Amanda Lester, Detective #5)
Amanda Detective box set Books 1-4
The Amanda Lester series page

The Amanda Lester books on other vendors
The Amanda Lester series is also available on other vendor sites. Get the books on B&N, Kobo, iTunes and Smashwords.

Paula BerinsteinAbout the Author:

Paula Berinstein is nothing like Amanda. For one thing, she’s crazy about Sherlock Holmes. For another, she’s never wanted to be a filmmaker. In addition, compared to Amanda she’s a big chicken! And she wouldn’t mind going to a secret school at all. In fact, she’s hoping that some day she’ll get to build one.

You can find and contact Paula here:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Paula’s blog on Goodreads
The Writing Show podcasts
Newsletter

Giveaway

There is a tour wide giveaway for the book blitz of the Amanda Lester series. These are the prizes you can win:
– One winner will win all 5 Amanda Lester books in paperback.
– Two winners will win a set of all 5 Amanda Lester books in e-format.

For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway


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