Rennie St. James loves to put a fictional spin on her favorite things. Adopted kittens transform into mountain lions. Martial arts training creates powerful modern warriors. Chocolate is delicious and healthy! The Rahki Chronicles, her debut series, has all of these things plus magical Gypsies, travel adventures, and romance.
Welcome Rennie St. James! Before we dive in to the nitty gritty, what is the Rahki Chronicles about?
Normal had once meant an apartment, office job, and friends – Mia Rayner’s new normal includes a mountain lion, martial arts, magic, and murder. Join her in a cross-country adventure as she discovers her warrior heritage and tries to protect a gifted Gypsy orphan from the next attempt on her life.
This is an urban fantasy series with five books out currently – two more will wrap it up in 2021. A boxed set of Books 1-3 is available in Kindle Unlimited.
What are the main differences between the “regular world” and the world of your story?
Magic in the Rahki world is grounded in connections, both with the physical world (more on that below) and people. There’s a power in the intimate bonds that allow some to dreamwalk, see the future, and even share their strengths and gifts. In the regular world, those bonds are weaker and therefore give each person less ‘magic’. Mia has been in the regular world since she was eight years old so she is struggling to understand the differences and similarities of both worlds.
Is there any special way to travel between the mundane and the fantastical setting of your story, or are they intermingled?
Definitely intermingled! Mia and her escort take road trips and even fly (in airplanes, not on a dragon) in later books. There is no separate fantasy setting…however, there is a learning curve to understand what magic exists in the mundane.
Does language play any role in your world? Does everyone speak the same language, or is there a variety? Did you invent any new slang or terminology during your world-building process?
Language certainly plays an important role and I’ll even share some secrets here! The Rahki Tribe names and other keywords are blends of Hindi and Russian primarily. I believe language is fluid and adaptable, but it can also show a historical journey. The Seer’s Gypsy clan followed an ancient path from India through Russia and eventually to the United States. This journey is certainly reflected in their language and even some of their stories. Bonus secret – it is possible Mia’s journey in later books may require her to leave the United States!
What kinds of climates do your characters experience? Do they see a lot of change or is it always the same? Has your world always had this kind of climate, or has it changed over time?
I mentioned above that magic is grounded in real world connections. One of these connections is with nature. The modern conveniences of human world severed close bonds with nature as there’s less dependence on the seasons. As Mia finds her inner Rahki warrior, she also connects more to nature. The changing seasons and climates of new settings often act as minor characters in this series.
Is there any kind of faith system in your world? Myths and legends that inform the setting or characters? Did you draw inspiration from any real cultures, living or dead?
There’s a spirituality in the Rahki world but not a unified church/ system. Gypsies are known for their ability to integrate into other cultures and to maintain strong traditions. I tried to honor this with my fictional clans and Rahki warriors so there’s a blend of various cultures and beliefs.
As for legends, I have always loved history and mythology and am fascinated to see shared stories across cultures and centuries. However, as each setting is a virtually a character, you’ll find specific historical tales from Boston and San Diego to name just two.
What do people in your invented world do for fun? Are there sports, games, music, or other activities they do in their free time?
Oh, yes, so many activities! The Gypsies love music and stories (told around a campfire, of course). The Rahkis are warriors so training is a must! As Rahki Tribes have animal spirit guides, you’ll find Dolphins training in the water in groups while Eagles prefer more solitary training like parkour. Each Tribe and clan have their own unique mix with some being more traditional and others blending more fully into the real world. Meals, birthdays, and holidays are celebrated differently by each as well.
Are there any interesting creatures in your world?
There are myths of such creatures, but the creatures themselves will not be a part of this series. I do have plans for other stories with a bit more creature focus so keep in touch for those new adventures!
What usually comes first when you have an idea for a book, the main character, the plot, or the world/setting?
Typically, characters come to me first. However, traveling always inspires me as I learn about other cultures. The specifics of those cultures wind their way into the plot and character history which also brings the world/ setting into focus. There’s a give and take to the process from the beginning to the end, and I try to go with the flow. It is easy to get lost in research and even in writing, but I review my notes frequently to help me find a balance that works for me.
When you build a world, what is your process like? Do you do a lot of research upfront, wing it completely, or something in between?
Something in between – I do start with some basics but fill in the details later. The world building is blended with character building in my writing process so both gain more depth and dimension as the story unfolds. I do continue to research throughout the writing and editing stages. Gaining a deeper understanding of the world and characters often brings more questions. Again, it has taken me time and books to find the balance for me personally.
How central is the setting of your story to the story itself? Is it more of an interesting backdrop, or is it integral to the events of the story?
The setting is absolutely central! Mia is on a journey metaphorically and literally – each place she visits impacts her path. Even the way the characters interact with their settings changes and grows as they develop. Again though, I do love travel so that may be why I focus on the setting!
When helping the reader get to know the world you built, what techniques do you use?
I have an easy answer here – the reader is following Mia Rayner’s introduction to the Rahki world so they get information as she does. Details are often repeated as Mia doesn’t always listen! How about another secret? Each book contains Mia’s revised notes at the end!
Do you draw from any existing myth, legend, or magic systems?
I touched upon this a bit above and it’s another intermingled aspect. Gypsies share knowledge verbally so there’s definitely a system of stories to teach young people values and history. These stories contain influences from various cultures and belief systems. For the most part, we only catch glimpses of these tales as Mia trains. However, even in the background, it influences the characters.
How about another secret? In Book 3, the story of a mythological creature is revealed and that certainly impacts the story greatly!
Do you have any specialized training or background from your “real life” that has informed your world-building?
This is a fun one for me – the Rahki Chronicles focus on warriors and I have training in martial arts! I have studied aikido for over a decade and have even taught classes. Those self-defense techniques and warrior philosophies shaped the Rahki world. My personal training also determined what injuries the characters received at various points! Of course, fiction and fantasy, in particular, allows me to put a wonderful spin on those so there’s a lot more drama.
How do you keep all of the details of your world and characters straight? Do you have a system for deciding on different factors and keeping it all organized, or does it live more in your head?
You’ll find my characters often take notes and several are a little obsessive about it. This quirk comes from me. I have pages of research, organized outlines, and various documents with links and sources. Throughout the writing process, I reorganize these lists to suit my needs and the ever-growing world.
Did you experience any difficulties while building your world? Any facts that refused to cooperate or inconsistencies you needed to address while editing?
There were things I didn’t entirely understand in the beginning. I typically put those aside under a list of questions/ issues (see my obsessive note-taking above). All were resolved as the story progressed even if a few did surprise me.
Where can people find you on the web?
Thanks so much for allowing me to ramble about my Rahki world! If you want to see just where you fit into the Rahki world, take this 25 question quiz to claim your Tribe! By the way, creating this character quiz was a great learning tool for me as a writer and a lot of fun. Hopefully, it’s also fun from the reader perspective!
Writing in this world has allowed me to play with all of my favorite things – travel, animals, history, training, chocolate, and more. If you enjoy any of the same, please feel free to stalk me!
Thanks so much for joining us today, Rennie!
Did you enjoy this interview? Check out the rest of the series!