Debut author S.E. Grove is a historian, dedicated traveler, and has spent years studying the world of maps. Readers of The Glass Sentence (first in her Mapmakers trilogy) are about to benefit from the combined wealth of her interests. Grove’s story transports readers to an expansive and deeply absorbing world, one in which the Great Disruption of 1799 has wrenched Earth’s continents into different time periods, creating a patchwork of times from long ago to the far future—and posing challenges for anyone who wants to travel across borders. Grove’s likeable 13-year-old protagonist Sophia sets out to find her uncle, the talented mapmaker Shadrack, who has been kidnapped for his vital skills as a cartographer.
Grove says she started the first Mapmakers book when she was a graduate student working on her dissertation and “looking for a fun world to escape into every once in a while. I didn’t really have a target audience in mind because it was just this enjoyable place where I went to have fun, where I could invent historical possibilities.”
Grove began “toying around” with a story she was planning to write for herself, “the story of a girl who’s lost something. And she’s trying to find a city that contains all the things in the world that have been lost. But that idea started me wondering: ‘What are the things you can lose? Can you only lose objects or also intangibles? How big are these lost things, and are they conceptual? Are they emotions?’ Somewhere along the way, that turned into the loss of time, in a strange way—the loss of one’s past. And somewhere from that emerged the notion of this fragmentation.”
The first draft Grove calls “an exercise in world building”; the manuscript went through three “really big” revisions before her agent showed it to editors. Grove says she focused much of her attention on her main character, Sophia. “I worked to make the story more character-driven,” she says. “The storyline with Sophia in that first draft was very meandering. Back then, she was more like a vehicle with which to view all these different cool places.” The revisions also focused on “pacing, tempo, and developing a sense of danger in the story.” Grove says she had to “scale back on the contextualization, my descriptions of these places: Maybe we don’t need to know about the coffee trade in this particular city!”
Grove cites the work of Madeleine L’Engle as one of her inspirations. “I read her voraciously when I was young,” she says. Not only did L’Engle’s stories plant the seed of playing with time, but lately Grove says she’s realized another influence as well. “Some readers have commented on how many kind adults there are in the world of my book. That didn’t occur to me while I was writing, and it’s not something that I consciously imitated. But that is something that I like about L’Engle’s books. The children are on a journey but not totally alone. They have some support.”
Jessie C. Grearson is a freelance writer and writing teacher living in Falmouth, Maine. She has co-authored two books and several essays on intercultural subjects and reviews art, books, and audiobooks for a variety of publications. She is a graduate of The Iowa Writers’ Workshop.