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[GUEST POST] Debra Mullins on Building the World of Atlantis

Debra Mullins is the author of thirteen historical romances for Avon Books and one paranormal romance for Tor/Forge. Her books have been translated into several languages and nominated for awards from both the magazine RT Book Reviews and Romance Writers of America and its chapters, including the Golden Heart, the RITA, the Holt Medallion (twice), the Book Buyer’s Best Award, and the National Readers Choice Award. She also won the Golden Leaf Award for Best Historical for her book, A NECESSARY BRIDE. She is currently finishing a paranormal trilogy for Tor/Forge. The first book, PRODIGAL SON, is out now. You can find her on Twitter using @debramullins and on the web at

Building the World of Atlantis

by Debra Mullins

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated with the lost city of Atlantis. Archaeologists still search for evidence that the city/island existed, even to this day. Our only clues to this mystery are the ones Plato left for us in his Socratic dialogue Timaeus. Long story short, he heard about Atlantis from a friend whose ancestor had traveled to Egypt to compare history and legends between Egypt and Athens. It was in Egypt that this ancestor learned about Atlantis and came home to tell the story to his family, which got passed down each generation. Plato goes on to describe what he heard from his friend, and his words are the accepted canon for how Atlantis might have been.

World building is an integral part of any story, but even more so in science fiction/fantasy/paranormal. The reader needs to understand the rules of the world in order to get completely invested in the story. Without a fully developed world, the reader loses that suspension of disbelief so crucial to full emotional commitment. I don’t know about you, but I love losing myself in someone else’s world, whether that world is the Federation, Tatooine, Serenity, Valdemar, Hogwarts, the Matrix or any of the other amazing worlds that have entertained us in books and movies. I learn the rules, and I am appropriately shocked when a rule is bent, such as when Spock cries or Neo proves faster than the agents. But before you can bend rules, you have to know what they are.

When developing the rules for my world in Atlantis, I’ve tried to remain true to Plato’s vision while also adding my own spin to fill in the blanks. Before writing page one of this series, I had to create Atlantis from the ground up. I’ve pretty much gone along with Plato’s physical descriptions of the city, but I’ve created my own Atlantean society.

In my Atlantis, there are regular humans, and there are three sects of super humans, which we will call Atlanteans: Seers, Channelers and Warriors. All of them can communicate telepathically, and the three sects work together in a perfect balance to protect the human population. One sect cannot function at full capacity without the other two, and the powers of Atlanteans do not work on other Atlanteans. But there is an exception to every rule.

All Seers can look into a human’s eyes and know if they are telling the truth. They also have secondary powers, such as being able to find anyone anywhere or to see the future or just know things. Again, these abilities do not work on other Atlanteans. However, the Empath is a Seer who sees into the hearts of others, and this ability works on both humans and Atlanteans. The empath was designed to be a peacemaker, a bridge between the two.

The Channelers are a cool group. I’ve had a lot of fun with them because their abilities involve manipulating energy. We have things like a Lightning Thrower, a Conjurer, a Wind Chanter, a Fire Walker, a Son of Poseidon and a Stone Singer. These abilities do not work on other Atlanteans. However, an Echo is a Channeler whose only power is to enhance the abilities of others; therefore his talent has to work on other Atlanteans.

The Warriors are pretty much what you think. They’re protectors with enhanced strength and speed and a sharp logistical mind for battle planning. There’s a flavor of Warrior called a Whisperer, who can impress a suggestion on a human and get that human to do whatever he says. (The origin of this ability was for crowd control.) Amongst the Warriors, there is a society called the Leyala, whose mission is to police the Warriors and enact judgement if one breaks the law. After all, these guys are way stronger than both the humans and the other sects, so we need someone slightly more powerful to keep the peace. The Leyala have the ability to strip a Warrior of his powers and leave him a drooling vegetable. Not just anyone can become Leyala; a candidate must be nominated and tested to prove his worth.

Balance is key in order for this society to work, and as we discover in book one, Prodigal Son, the Atlantean society living in the twenty-first century is way out of balance. The story told through this trilogy will shed light on how Atlantis was destroyed, who did it, how the Atlanteans ended up in the situation they’re in today and how they can possibly resolve it.

Come along for the ride. I promise not to bend the rules-much.

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