Today I'm pleased to welcome author M.K. Hutchins to the blog to talk a little bit about her upcoming young adult fantasy release, Drift. I'm a huge fan of all types of mythology, especially lesser-known types I'm not as familiar with, so I was super excited when M.K. submitted her guest post on Maya mythology and how it inspired the world of Drift. Take it away M.K!
Often the first thing I hear from anyone about my book is “cool giant turtle!” Thanks, Sammy Yuen, for creating such a striking cover.
The environment of Drift was inspired by Maya mythology – three elements in particular.
The World Turtle: A number of mythologies viewed the world as being on the back of a turtle. This visual is striking to me. The domed back of a swimming turtle looks like an island in miniature, with all the ridges and cracks in the shell becoming mountains and ravines.
Watery Underworld: The ancient Maya viewed both standing water and caves as portals to the underworld. The dichotomy of water as being both life-giving and dangerous fascinates me. When I heard a professor describe the world as a turtle surrounded by a watery hell, I knew I wanted to write a story using that setting. Natural bodies of water are often hard to see through. Something dangerous could always be lurking, just out of sight, below the surface.
World Tree: Many mythologies have some kind of world tree. Thanks to recent popular movies, many people are probably familiar with Yggdrasil, the Norse version. The Maya tree was different, of course, but it, too, connected the lowest part of hell to the highest reaches of the heavens.
From these, I began creating a world of many drifting turtle-island, surrounded by dangerous waters – Nearhell – and connected through the long roots of the tree to an inky, strange place – Deephell. Those who lived in the Tree could travel to Deephell and rob its treasures for strange gifts that would help protect the island. This in place, I could begin to brainstorm my main character – a young man who lived in poverty on the shores of hell, determined to join the warriors who lived in the Tree to pull himself and his sister from poverty.
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Tenjat lives on the shores of Hell, an ocean filled with ravenous naga monsters. His island, a massive Turtle, is slowed by the people living on its back. Only those poor enough to need children to support themselves in old age condescend to the shame of marriage. Tenjat is poor as poor gets, but he has a plan.
In the center of the island rises a giant Tree, where the Handlers—those who defend and rule the island—live. Against his sister’s wishes, Tenjat joins the Handlers. He couldn’t have picked a more dangerous time. The Turtle is nearing a coral reef where it desperately needs to feed, but the naga will swarm just before they reach it. Even novices like Tenjat are needed for the battle.
Can Tenjat discover his sister’s secrets in time? Will the possibility of love derail all his plans for a richer, marriage-free life? Long-held secrets will at last be revealed in this breathtaking debut from M. K. Hutchins.
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My debut novel, Drift, is forthcoming from Tu Books and my short fiction appears in Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show and Daily Science Fiction. I studied archaeology at BYU, which gave me the opportunity to compile histories from Maya glyphs, excavate in Belize, and work as a faunal analyst.