Fantasy author Christopher Golden told Tor.com that his new novel (written in collaboration with Tim Lebbon), The Map of Moments, is the second book in The Hidden Cities—a series of books in which each takes place in a different city, with different characters and concepts.
“Fundamentally, they are all about the secret histories and hidden magic of a city,” Golden said in an interview. “Sometimes, as in [the first in the series] Mind the Gap, it’s literally a hidden city within the city, and other times that ‘hidden’ quality is more metaphorical.”
The first contract was for two books, and the two authors knew right away that the second book would have to be set in New Orleans. “Though [Tim] is from the UK, and I live in New England, the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, the hideous neglect and total abdication of responsibility at all levels of government before, during, and especially after that storm, made an enormous impact on us,” Golden said. “I’ve set other stories in New Orleans, as have many other fantasy and horror writers. The city has always had magic, danger, and mystery in equal measure, and far more so than any other American city. But after Hurricane Katrina, it’s a story of such mixed sorrow and hope that we were compelled to set a Hidden Cities novel there. We started with love and death and magic, but [it was] only when we came up with the title, The Map of Moments, and realized what the map could do, that we understood what the book would really be about.”
In the book, a former Tulane professor, Max Corbett, left New Orleans after having his heart broken by the nineteen-year-old student with whom he was having an affair. “After Katrina, he is contacted by her cousin and learns that she drowned in her attic during the storm,” Golden said. “With no one else really to mourn her, he feels compelled to return to New Orleans, but once there he encounters a mysterious old man named Ray, who drugs him and gives him a strange map, insisting that if Max follows the map’s instructions and bears witness to the ghostly recreations of the city’s supernatural events that it will lead him to, he might accumulate enough magic to earn a chance to send a warning back to his dead lover, Gabrielle, saving her from drowning, changing the past. But there are secrets within secrets, rules he knows nothing about, and people involved who aren’t what they appear to be, including Gabrielle herself. And somewhere in the mix, there’s a demon…”
Golden said that doing the worldbuilding for the novel was a very interesting, organic experience. “Tim and I created a crazy quilt of actual New Orleans history, well known New Orleans folklore and ghost stories, and entirely invented mythology, and made it all into our own unified ‘hidden city,'” Golden said. “Nothing we utilized is connected in any existing folklore about New Orleans, but we built a very intricate series of relationships that involved famous landmarks and established organizations and awful, real events, and then we brought in a new, unique magical discipline (in other words, not voodoo or anything else so obvious or traditional) that springs from the European and African trade influences that helped shape the city and make it so different from the rest of America.”
Lebbon and Golden will soon begin work on the third Hidden Cities book, Tell My Sorrows to the Stones, which is set in modern-day Venice. Lebbon also has a new book in his Noreela milieu, The Island, due out soon, and Golden’s next solo novel for is a thriller called The Ocean Dark, which will publish in September.