"My first thought about this book and how to describe it is "Harry Potter meets Dr. Doolittle". I absolutely loved this book. There are plenty of good guys and baddies. I can't wait for more from this author."
"Animaia is about a world where through evolution, people who were once thought to be witches were actually "gifted" individuals who could psychically link their thoughts with animals, reptiles and birds. Because of this ability, through revolution, a country became Animaia where all people are vegans... no fleshers, skinners or others, even if you are not an anima and "gifted" to be able to sync with the animal kingdom.
Animaia is about Arno Steele, a truly gifted anima who can converse/link with multiple animal groups (a rarity)and his friends as they go off for their first year of school to learn how to control and use their gifts. There are lurking threats from a neighboring country of fleshers (meat eaters) & skinners as well as the question of the crater and the grommets. Shades of Harry Potter, but with a completely different appeal.
I recently put up the map of Animaia (link above). It can be a little tricky building a map when the story is being written progressively over several volumes. Things happen in subsequent volumes that an author cannot entirely predict, unless you're an extraordinary planner and story-boarder. This relates to locations as well.
Even so, with ebook publishing there is always the option to update the map in subsequent volumes (and even early volumes).
Map was done in Corel, and as you can see, I'm no expert artist or Corel user, although adequate, IMHO!
You might also ask "how long is a piece of string." It doesn't really matter if the story is well crafted. Harry Potter, for example, has many layers of characters in order of importance to the story. Some epic fantasies have many more than that.
The thing is, for fantasy stories that wind up over three or more volumes, readers have plenty of time to come to grips with a diverse cast of characters, especially minor ones that keep popping up from time to time. The objection to "too many characters" is often that it makes the story too confusing and detracts from main character development. This may be so in shorter novels where time and pacing are limited. In longer fantasies, you have more time (and words) to embed a multitude of characters.
In addition, you can get away with a big cast if you don't give a minor character a crucial scene without first introducing him or her in a previous chapter, preferably more than once. Surprises and plot twists are fine, but doing it with new characters is not the best way.
ANIMAIA has a cast of, well . . . not exactly thousands but certainly a few dozen. Even so, the superstars are two boys and two girls as the prime protagonists. Another six or so are very important secondary characters, with another ten or more in a third layer of prominence. I think it works well (as do other readers), and by the end of the book the main cast is well entrenched, as they will be for the following volumes.
I added some comments to a post on John Konrath's blog about employing a proofreader: Diana Cox in this case, who charges very reasonable rates. The discussion worked around to editing styles and whether it might be wise to confirm the style the copy editor or proofreader will use for your manuscript. If you are from the UK or Australia you may prefer the Cambridge Handbook or Oxford Style Manual rather than the Chicago Manual of Style for example, depending on many things, including your main reader audience. Then again it may not matter to you at all.
The following are thoughts about this process for indie authors writing for a global audience and possibly sourcing editors and readers internationally.
If you are to employ an editor (or proofreader), you don't want to waste her time and yours if she is going to mark up all the serial comma misfits in strict accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style when you don't write to that style convention. Some degree of communication about such things may benefit both parties. This is only one example of course and many other points of style are contentious across international waters and style guides.
You can break the rules and create your own style, and this may work as long as it reads well and you don't get the grammar police giving you bad reviews on Amazon, which is never a good thing. Having said that, there are obvious reasons for following recognised styles.
One thing to note for indies is that when you sold your novel to a traditional agent/publisher, the international rights were looked after for you. That is, you did not have to worry about changing spelling, idiom and style to suit readers across the Atlantic or Pacific: your publisher did it if this was seen to be advantageous. The classic case was changing 'Philosopher' (UK) to 'Sorcerer' (US) in the title of the first Harry Potter book, plus idiomatic text changes as well. This was a poor decision on any number of criteria.
With Amazon recently opening a German Kindle Store, with probably more to come, whether indies decide they need to have more than one version of a book in order to maximise international sales is surely worth considering . . . or at least your editing style is.
Read any writing or agent blog and the advice not to write fiction about 'causes' is relatively widespread. However, like much proscriptive writing advice, the proof is in the implementation. True, few people want to read didactic, lecturing and unsubtle stories about campaigns and causes in a novel -- from environmental activism to religion or political activism -- unless they choose to be harangued in this way.
However, sub-texts on such themes in fiction can work well as long as the story is well-written and heavy-handed finger shaking is not a primary theme.
ANIMAIA has an environmental and animal rights theme, but it is somewhat subsumed in the grand story of one teen's personal journey and a group of teenagers struggling with life, school, and changes in society and personal and international security . . . not to mention each other!
And the best books of this type, in my view, usually present ambivalent themes and challenges to the obvious paradigm. Working and writing in the 'grey' regions of ethical and moral dilemmas not only provides great scope for authors in developing story, but keeps readers interested -- especially young adults who are struggling with ideas and behaviours in a world that's changing rapidly.