It was inevitable that I’d procure a map for Nothing Left to Burn.
I have always been obsessed with maps, flipping back to a fantasy novel’s map at every mention of a location, running my finger along mountains and valleys and seas. Scrutinizing the possibilities. Adoring the art and peculiarities of a map that (often) matched the story’s tone. The setting’s tone. If I’m reading a contemporary novel and a location is mentioned, even something as meager as a highway number, I turn to the internet to see it for myself. I can spend hours adore tracking locations and routes on google maps. For fun, I’ve routed every place I’ve called home, an epic memory road trip: Orange County to the Bay Area to Colorado Springs to Cascade back to Orange County up to Humboldt County and then another jump back to Colorado and then north, so north, to Interior Alaska back south to Southern California only to leap up to Pacific Northwest. (This epic, whiplash road trip would clock in somewhere around 200 hours, FYI.)
All of this is to say that I REALLY like maps in books and I really, really love to feel a strong sense of place when reading.
Even in the early versions of Nothing Left to Burn, the one I drafted at thirteen, Orange County was present: the Montage in Laguna Beach, the Spectrum in Irvine, Tesoro High School and Las Flores Middle School, Coto De Caza, Dove Canyon, beyond. In 2005, I wrote extensively of Southern California’s September heat, the Santa Ana winds, the June Gloom. This wasn’t a conscious decision–or, if it was, I don’t remember it–but it’s all there in that earnest first go of a novel.
But it wasn’t until I trashed that original version and wrote an entirely new story for Audrey–one that thrusts her into a day’s journey around Orange County–that the setting in NLTB came to the surface loud and clear (I hope!), wildfires and all. From her home that sits of wildland and Coto de Caza, to the Starbucks on Antonio Parkway just outside the gates, back into Coto De Caza to her best friend’s house, again to her own… up to the hospital in Orange, down to Newport, over to Foothill, and more. The 241 to the 133 to the I-5, she rambles. And her summer: the 405 to the 55 to Balboa Island, the dip into the canyon roads in Trabuco Canyon, offroading to the Holy Jim trailhead, etc.
In writing a new story for her, I passed on my obsession with place, with naming locations, to Audrey.
(As you can see, I’m clearly an amazing map drawer and this is… very directionally accurate (lol).)
It was during my first go at revising this new single-day version that I started sketching haphazard maps and google mapping Audrey’s day relentlessly. I did this in part for fun, to appease my obsession, as well as track her movement. But I also mapped out her day to ensure the time she spends at each location and on the road is realistic (this was a HEADACHE and I FAILED and my editor, copy editors, and proofreaders are SAINTS). So, perhaps it was during this revision that I became fixated on having an official map for Nothing Left to Burn. Maps in contemporary novels are not a thing, so I knew that any map I had designed wouldn’t be in the book but I still had to have one created. It wasn’t an option. I’ve always been rather self-indulgent. And so I went about having a map designed, all the well knowing that perhaps I’d be the only one who would care about said map. That this map would be my last gift to Audrey.
Catherine Scully is the brilliant designer I brought to the task. And, oh, is she a patient designer. We started with one approach (an accurate topographic-y style) and then another approach and then another. I likely the most frustrating client ever. I’m nitpicky but also easy to confuse and, even more, I’m confusing when articulating my visions. I also went into the collaboration with a REALLY unrealistic concept. I wanted the impossible: a map that was accurate, highways and scale and all. And I wanted this detailed map complete to encompass nearly ALL of Orange County: from the most southern end to the north side. AND I wanted this monster map to have detailed locations for readers to recognize (houses, the pirate ship that I swear exists in Coto, the fire station, and the Balboa Ferris wheel)…
Obviously, I was quite silly.
But as I let go of my obsession with accuracy, as Catherine and I moved forward with our collaboration and I continued to gasp at her talent, this distance-compacted interpretive version of Orange County felt more and more right and true to the story. As we moved closer to the final product, I was reminded of my initial desire to have a map created: for it to be Audrey’s interpretation of the setting in retrospect of her long day and whimsical summer, that–if she were as incredibly talented as Cat–she could have drawn it. I wanted a dreamy map with the ever so slight-blink-and-you-miss-it darkness.
And though it took some time and A LOT of back and forth (because of me), Catherine managed to capture exactly that: the map of my dreams, or, rather, Audrey’s dreams.
From the locations marked, to the detailed mountains, to the surreal colors that so wonderfully match the cover, the focus on Coto, and of course the fire. This map is perfect in that what is significant to Audrey is represented. It so accurately shows how she cloudly recalls her summer with Brooks, and, by the end of the novel, how she compartmentalizes her day’s journey.
And so, at long last, I present to you Nothing Left to Burn’s map!
(Click here for a closer look!)
I’m obsessed. IN LOVE. My poster-sized version can’t come soon enough. I hope you love it too, especially if you’ve already read Nothing Left to Burn and if you’ll be reading Nothing Left to Burn soon.
And if you do love this map, or like it enough to want your own version in print and you’ve pre-ordered NLTB, head over to my pre-order thank you page to have a GORGEOUS print of this map sent your way (among other gifts!).
*whispers*: the Orange County Institue of Ballet doesn’t exist. It’s the one and only made up location–it had to happen.
And for those asking, why Heather, why the HELL is a STARBUCKS showcased on this map? BECAUSE YOU’LL FIND OUT. Because it’s an inside joke. Because, okay, five (!) (very short! really compelling! fantastic!) chapters are set in that Starbucks. In earlier versions of the book, those chapters were… not good and 100% introspection. It became a joke among friends. Get Audrey out of the Starbucks. And, of course, I did, I do, but I also brought in some others, and some drama, to the Starbucks. (I’m not some mega Starbucks fan, there are simply no other coffee shops or cafes for Audrey to go in a reasonable proximity!)