historygirl2008: How did you come up with the setting for your book?
Terri Windling: I lived in New York City back in the 1980s, which is when the Bordertown series was created. New York was a different place then — dirtier, edgier, more dangerous, but also in some ways more exciting. The downtown music scene was exploding — punk and folk music were everywhere — and it wasn’t as expensive to live there then, so a lot of young artists, musicians, writers, etc. etc. were all living and doing crazy things in scruffy neighborhoods like the East Village.
I was a Fantasy Editor for a publishing company back then — but in those days, “fantasy” to most people meant “imaginary world” books, like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. A number of the younger writers in the field, however, wanted to create a branch of fantasy that was rooted in contemporary, urban North America, rather than medieval or pastoral Europe. I’d already been working with some of these folks (Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, etc.), who were writing novels that would become the foundations for the current Urban Fantasy field. At the time, these kinds of stories were considered so strange and different, it was actually hard to get them into print.
When I was asked by a publishing company to create a shared-world anthology for Young Adult readers, I wanted to create an Urban Fantasy setting that was something like a magical version of New York…but I didn’t want it to actually be New York. I want it to be any city and every city — a place that anyone from anywhere could go to or relate to. The idea of placing it on the border of Elfland came from the fact that I’d just re-read a fantasy classic called The King of Elfland’s Daughter by the Irish writer Lord Dunsany. I love stories that take place on the borderlands between two different worlds…and so I borrowed this concept, but adapted it to a modern, punky, urban setting.
I drew upon elements of the various cities I knew best — New York, Boston, London, Dublin, maybe even a little of Mexico City, where I’d been for a little while as a teen — and scrambled them up and turned them into Bordertown. There actually IS a Mad River in southern Ohio (where I went to college) and I always thought that was a great name, so I imported it to Bordertown. As for the water being red, that came from the river of blood in the Scottish folk ballad “Thomas the Rhymer,” which Thomas must cross to get into Elfland.
-- Excerpt of the Random Buzzers Q&A With Holly Black, Ellen Kushner, and Terri Windling” (via bordertownseries)