Naming kingdoms, mountains and ice ghouls in SKY SONG

By abielphinstone, Nov 8 2017 05:28PM

1. Erkenwald

The very first book I ever wrote was inspired by Neil Gaiman’s 'Stardust' and it featured a fantasy world on a star named Erkenwald. This book was rejected by over thirty literary agents so after a while I shut it away in a drawer in my writing shed and moved on to another story. Although that book was definitely not strong enough to be a published work there were elements of it – names, character ideas, features of settings – that I’ve borrowed since. For this story, I borrowed the name of the star, Erkenwald, and used it for the name of my icy kingdom.

2. Winterfang

This is the name of my Ice Queen’s palace, a fortress of domes, spires and towers carved out of an iceberg. I wanted a word that would conjure up the menace of the Ice Queen: ‘winter’ carried all the connotations of ice and snow and ‘fang’ leant the word a sinister undertone. Often when I’m creating a new setting I use a photograph or google image to inspire me and in this case I used the below.

3. Never Cliffs

I’ve always loved J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and especially Neverland, the fictional world the characters travel to. There’s something endlessly magical about the word ‘never’ – and using that word in conjunction with a mountain range implies dazzlingly high peaks and ridges that go on and on and on. I grew up surrounded by mountains in Scotland that seemed to go on forever and so I wanted to include that kind of setting here.

4. Needlespin

A few years ago I read a wonderful book called One Wish by Michelle Harrison. It featured a terrifying river monster called Nessie Needletooth and in Sky Song I wanted to create my own ‘needle-sharp’ monster. Cue Needlespin, a ghoul made entirely from splinters of ice, who haunts the Never Cliffs.

5. Devil’s Dancefloor

This is the name of an enchanted lake in Erkenwald but I didn’t make the name up myself. While researching the book, I was reading about adventurer Olly Hick’s kayak expedition from Greenland to Scotland and one of the toughest stretches of his journey was over the 300 miles of open water between Iceland and the Faroe Islands, known as the Devil’s Dancefloor. I loved the alliteration of these words, and their sinister connotations, and I decided they would be perfect for a lake enslaved to an Ice Queen’s command.


This is the name my heroine, Eska, gives to the golden eagle that befriends her and I first heard it when living with the Kazakh Eagle Hunters out in Mongolia (you can read about my adventure here). Eagle hunters and huntresses call every eagle under the age of one Balapan and so

7. The Groaning Splinters

To research my Arctic setting, I journeyed to the frozen fjords off the northern coast of Norway where I watched orcas dive for herring, steered a dog-sled through snowy valleys and glimpsed the aurora borealis rippling across the sky. This was a land shrouded in silence and locked in darkness – the sun doesn’t rise at all in the winter months – but if I really listened, I could hear the place whispering: the crack and pop of sea ice, the underwater clicks of the orcas and the whir of ptarmigan wings over mountain peaks. Many think of icebergs as frozen blocks of silence but I wanted a name for my icebergs that implied movement and noise…

Add a comment
* Required
RSS Feed


Abi Elphinstone's Blog