INTERVIEW: Jonathan L. Howard, author of “The Ereshkigal Working”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

A necromancer’s lot is not a happy one, which is irritating for Cabal but great for me. Horrible things befall him on a regular basis, although this story is the first time his experimental subjects have reanimated before he’s done anything necromantic to them at all.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what
prompted you to write it?

The story came from wondering how Cabal would handle a full-on zombie outbreak. It’s not the sort of ostentation that he would subscribe to himself, but he isn’t the only dabbler in the occult out there.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

The only tricky bit was figuring out a way to have a stoppable apocalypse

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

That’s a very true statement. I myself halted a zombie apocalypse a couple of years ago, and I remember thinking at the time, “This would make a good story.”

What research did you have to do for the story?

A little bit on death rates in urban populations, and a little bit on death goddesses of the ancient world. Just the usual sort of thing.

What is the appeal of wizard fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

Wizards and superheroes are appealing for much the same reasons; the allure of great power at your fingertips, or — at least in the case of wizards — at the tip of your wand.

I’m very sorry; that didn’t come out quite as intended.

What are some of your favorite examples of wizard fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

He’s not really a wizard, in fact he’s more of an anti-wizard, but I’m a great fan of William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki. His open mind and rational pragmatism were certainly influences in the creation of Johannes Cabal.

INTERVIEW: John R. Fultz, author of “The Thirteen Texts of Arthyria”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

“The Thirteen Texts of Arthyria” is about the sacred relationship between a book and its reader. It’s about shedding the illusions that surround you…finding the true reality that lies beneath the Big Lie. It’s about being an outsider, someone who doesn’t fit in, and finding out that you were never meant to fit in here at all…but are needed and essential somewhere else. It’s about one man’s journey of discovery as he unlocks a mystery that spans space, time, and the soul. It’s also about letting go of the past so you can move forward into the future. Finally, it’s about magic…the magic of reading and writing books.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

Books. The incredible magic of books. The timeless mystique of bookstores. I’m a firm believer in the mystical power of the written word. But I’m not one those guys who reads “everything.” In fact I’m very particular about what I’ll read. I can spend two hours roaming the shelves of a bookstore and find nothing that I want to buy. However, many times in my life certain books have called to me. I’m walking through a bookstore–it could be a gleaming new superchain or an old, musty den of used books–and I end up wandering directly toward a book that thrills, captivates, and amazes me. There, among thousands of possible tomes, I discover just the right book…the literary needle in the haystack. In this way I have found books that have changed my life through sheer inspiration. Portals to strange and fantastic worlds. I started thinking about how I have always done this, from the time I was old enough to read. It got me thinking that maybe we don’t find the books we’re truly meant to read, they find us. Is there a mystic link between readers and books? Are there certain books you are supposed to read? This concept was the genesis of the “Thirteen Texts of Arthyria.”

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

Actually this story flowed like…well, magic. Once I locked into the concept and decided to run with it, everything opened from there like the petals of some gorgeously weird lotus. Much like the main character, who is drawn into a quest for certain books that unlock massive secrets, I was drawn into the world (or worlds) of this story to discover the details and capture the images as I went. The parts I spent the most time on getting just right were the first couple of segments, when the modern world is slowly slipping away and something else begins to show through. I had written this bizarre scene where thousands of automobiles on the interstate were suddenly replaced by thousands of horses with modern commuters riding them as if this was totally normal. I decided to cut that scene because, although it was bizarre and ironic, it just didn’t fit the greater scheme/mood of the story. It would have been a glaring distraction from the subtle, gradual emergence of a second reality. Other than that, this story evolved without much pain. It was a smooth birth and no drugs were required.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

I suppose the story reflects my own mystical/spiritual approach to choosing the books I read…as well as my love of books in general and how I venerate the books that truly made a difference in my life. Yes, I am a Book Addict. This wouldn’t be a problem if I owned a vast library somewhere, but as it turns out I leave books scattered in my wake everywhere I move…like a hurricane. Have you ever felt drawn into a bookstore…didn’t know why but thought “I need to go in here right now.” I have…many times. On those occasions I always discover something amazing. On the other hands, many times I go into a bookstore out of boredom and leave without finding a single book that interests me. I also love finding old used book stores…they are treasure troves containing a billion gateways to alternate realities. There’s something very sacred about bookstores, and this story reflects that belief. I always tell my students that writing (and reading) is a form of magic. How else can you share the thoughts of someone who lived 500 years ago and enter his world in all its beautiful and ugly detail? So this story is sort of an exploration of my own fascination with books. It’s also an extended metaphor for discovering those amazing fantasy worlds into which only books can take you.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story? 

A lifetime of prowling through stacks of new and used books, looking for the next Great Fantasy Tale.

What is the appeal of wizard fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

Ah, the wizard. What more fascinating character is there in all of literature? Whether you call them wizards, sorcerers, warlocks, witches, magicians, or what-have-you, they are the Mysterious Ones. The ones who know the obscure secrets of the cosmos…they wield the eldritch powers that would make most of us flee in terror. They command the forces of nature and supernature, they weave destinies, they create and destroy worlds, they study the eternal mysteries of existence and non-existence. They are the Keepers of Knowledge…the archetypal Wise Man (or Wise Woman) who holds the secrets of the universe in the palm of his hand. There is so much mystique, wonder, and possibility in the wizard/sorcerer character that it’s hard to ignore. I think we all have a link to this character imbedded in our DNA…our Universal Consciousness. It comes down to us from ancient times, when wizards and Wise Men and shamans were very real–and very essential to daily existence. Today, we still have our wizards, but we don’t call them that anymore…they’re Doctors, Professors, Scientists, and Artists of all types. But the concept of the Learned One still remains an essential human quality…we need these “wizards” because they are a vital part of the human race. When we strip away all of the modern-day trappings and get back to the primal wizard figure, there’s a fascinating and wondrous journey there…it takes us back into the depths of our own forgotten history, to a time when the world was a conglomeration of wonders and terrors. The men (and women) who could master those terrors and bend cosmic forces to their will were the wizards. Some were to be feared, others sought for advice and favors. Stories of wizards transport us into the primeval world, where sheer awe comes alive. Allow me to quote the great Black Sabbath: “Evil powers disappear…demons worry…when the Wizard is near. He turns fear…into joy. Everyone’s happy…when the Wizard walks by.” That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

What are some of your favorite examples of wizard fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

Wow, how much space do you have for this answer? The first wizard I remember reading about was Gandalf, when I read The Hobbit in third grade. I was absolutely captivated. That led me to The Lord of the Rings. Soon after that I learned the legend of Merlin, and I saw the movie Excalibur as a kid on HBO and that was a major deal for me (as well as Ralph Bakshi’s animated Lord of the Rings movie). Gandalf and Merlin are maybe the greatest examples of the archetypal wizards who appear in literature. There is no denying the appeal of Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Arthur’s mystical Britain. In the cannon of classic fantasy, there are many examples of terrific wizardry, such as Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser tales, where Ningauble of the Seven Eyes and Sheelba of the Eyeless Face are the heroes’ patrons–mysterious inhuman wizards who watch over and protect Fafhrd and the Mouser, as well as giving them preposterous quests now and then. The tales of Clark Ashton Smith are rife with wizardry (although he prefers the term “sorcerer” usually)…Malygris of Susran, Namirrah of Zothique, and Evagh the Warlock, to name only a few. Nobody could build a rich, phantasmagoric world of dark wonders like Smith…his prose is hypnotizing and his necromancers are legendary. Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone is one of my favorite wizards as well (although once again he’s usually called “sorcerer”–to me these two terms are interchangeable). Elric was a revelation for many reasons: Not ony was he a warrior-hero (or anti-hero), but also a master of wizardly power. Who knew a wizard could be such a bad-ass with a sword? Of course, he was also the tormented prince, a tragic figure whose sorcery couldn’t save him from the doom that awaited him in the end. Tanith Lee’s Tales from the Flat Earth are some of the most magical and beautiful stories involving wizards and magical beings. She brings wizardry to life in poetic, lyrical, and gorgeous style…and she explores essential human truths via these fantastic and ancient concepts. These stories are like magic spells that weave the reader in a web of jewel-bright prose. Darrell Schweitzer is another writer who simply amazes me with his lyrical, metaphysical, and often surreal tales of wizards and sorcerers. A few of my favorites are: “The Sorcerer Evagdorou,” “The Mysteries of the Faceless King,” “A Lanter Maker of Ai Hanlo,” “The One Who Spoke with the Owls,” and “The Witch of the World’s End.” All of these are splendid jewels dripping with the light of wizardry. Recently I discovered Patricia A. McKillip’s superb Riddle-Master trilogy, beginning with The Riddle-Master of Hed, and I have to say it’s one of the greatest examples of wizard fiction I’ve ever encountered. I’m currently devouring the second book, Heir of Sea and Fire. McKillip evokes that Tolkien-esque feeling without actually stealing from Tolkien–not an easy thing to do. The world of the Riddle-Master is a place you want to go wandering in, to experience its endless enchantment firsthand. Finally, I have to mention A. A. Attanasio’s Arthor series, and R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing series, both of which approach magic/wizardry/sorcery in stunningly fresh ways. Unforgettable stuff.

INTERVIEW: Jeremiah Tolbert, author of “One Click Banishment”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

The story is about how magic would work in today’s internet-connected world, and what happens when you use a magical website without reading the user agreement.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I’ve been wanting to return to the world of my story “Captain Bl00d’s B00ty” for a while now. When the Way of the Wizard was announced, I knew I needed to send something in.  Finding the story idea was as easy as thinking about the previous story and surfing the web for a couple of hours.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

It was challenging in that I had a solid idea for the worldbuilding, but the nature of the protagonist was slow to develop.  Then I realized that parts of the story were expressing my own anxiety about growing older and falling behind on tech, so I made that central to my character and it started to work much better.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

Well, see the previous question really. I spend 9-10 hours online every day for my work.  The anxiety that Hidr faces, the fear of not being on top of what can be done, is a very real one for anyone who works in web design for a living.  Staying on top technologically is crucial to our ability to make a living.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story? 

I might have Googled something.  I don’t remember.  

What is the appeal of wizard fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

The story combines two of my favorite things: the web and old school “real world” magic, real tomes that were supposed to be magical, such as The Long Lost Friend, a book that I first read about in Manly Wade Wellman’s Silver John stories.  As a teenager, I ordered a copy of it through interlibrary loan and was fascinated but the utter bullshit it contained, labeled as “magic.” 

The truth is, for most of us, magic is at best a state of mind, but we all, bound by the laws of physics, wish desperately that we could break them with ease.  We all seek power over our environment and our world — it’s part of the human condition to do so.  We don’t adapt to the world so much as we adapt it to us.  That’s magic in a way.  The idea of magic in my mind is born from our species desire to more easily shape the world to our desires. With that in mind, of course we love it.

It’s really no coincidence that the time in our lives when magic is an acceptable thing to be fascinated by is when we are children — when we have perhaps as little control and power in our lives as we ever will.   

I’ll stop now before I get a master’s thesis out of this.

What are some of your favorite examples of wizard fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

My absolute favorite wizard fictions are the Silver John stories I mentioned before.  Rural, Appalachian, quintessentially American magic is fascinating to me.  I love magic that feels like it belongs in my world, my country.  

I also quite enjoyed the non-magic magic “knacks” in the Alvin the Maker series by Orson Scott Card for the same reasons.

INTERVIEW: Jeffrey Ford, author of “The Sorcerer Minus”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

My story is about the Sorcerer Minus, who’s different from other wizards and sorcerers in that, whereas they use illusion and magic to confound their victims, enemies and clients, he removes the illusion, self-delusion from people, leaving them at the mercy of cold, hard reality.  It is said that he is the most evil sorcerer because his sorcery is backwards.  Minus has two helpers, one a tall, thin man in an overcoat and hat named Bill Mugg, and the other is an ingenious, trained Rat, Axis.  The story contains the murder of a hapless genre writer and an act of subtraction diminishing into the future. 

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I don’t know.  I’ve been writing some stories lately that deal with the themes of high fantasy — “The Manticore Spell,” “The Coral Heart.”  I’d never written a story that focused on a wizard before.   

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

It was pretty unexpected.  The hardest part was just letting it happen.   

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

I didn’t feel any direct personal connection to the story, but I suppose, being a fiction writer, I traffic in illusion and a sort of magic (sometimes, I hope), and yet I’m also in very real contact with reality in the rest of my life (sometimes, I hope).  This story is about self-delusion and reality, the magic and the mundane.   

What kind of research did you have to do for the story? 

An in-depth study of wheels of cheese, whiskey and rats.   

What is the appeal of wizard fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

Well, I don’t write about it much, but Wizards are like super-heroes in a way or like Gods.  They have special powers.  The Green Lanterns of the medieval set.  Dr. Strange is the nexus between comic book super heroes and old time sorcery.   

What are some of your favorite examples of wizard fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

The Wizard of Oz is the quintessential wizard of the modern age.  He’s a good example of the use of illusion as a tool of political power.  I also like the story of Christ in the Bible.  Jesus has got a lot of slick magic — turning water into wine (who wouldn’t want to do that?), raising folks from the dead (this would actually make him a sorcerer), walking on water.  Very imaginative.  Also, he has a powerful nemesis.

INTERVIEW: Genevieve Valentine, author of “So Deep That the Bottom Could Not Be Seen”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

In “So Deep that the Bottom Could Not be Seen,” Annakpok, the last Inuit of shamanic descent in the Northern States, is called to be a representative at a congress of magic-users. Even though she’s aware it’s an empty gesture (and doesn’t consider herself a shaman) she goes, and finds the conference more difficult — and illuminating — than anyone expected.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

Global warming, the overuse of natural resources, and the invisibility of minority groups in political and cultural debate are all pressing contemporary issues; it wasn’t a huge leap to extrapolate a world in which the resource in question is magic, and the practices of modern industry and politics have played out similarly as to the disadvantage of indigenous peoples.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

Because this story deals with the problems of marginalized groups against the majority, representing those groups accurately was definitely important.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

A very personal aspect of this story for me is that of feeling powerless in the face of geological difficulties that seem insurmountable – the effects of global warning are going to be catastrophic, and they’re going to be soon, and it’s hard to feel like anything you do can possibly ameliorate that. In the story, that’s only one aspect of the magician politics at work, but it’s definitely something that carries over into the real world, for me.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

For this story, I researched Inuit shamanism and a little of their history in Canada, as well as more general research into the projected timelines of the effects of global warming in order to extrapolate the world of the story.

What is the appeal of wizard fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

I think wizards and magicians have instant appeal because they have a control over their environments we wish we had (who hasn’t wished you could hold out a hand and summon the remote?), which makes for drama and awesome fight scenes. But on a deeper level, I think they also answer our need for a spiritual connection that has a more immediate payoff than most religious spiritualism; you can reach into the magical reserves of the earth or the air or the talisman in your hand and, so long as you have either natural talent or practiced skill, the medium will answer you. That’s a heady thing, and I think it’s a large part of the reason magicians still have such a draw.

What are some of your favorite examples of wizard fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

I’d be lying if I didn’t mention Gandalf as an early favorite (there’s photographic evidence of me in a Gandalf costume for Halloween in first or second grade). However, The Last Unicorn‘s Schmendrick the Magician is probably my favorite portrayal of a wizard; the magic he deals with is capricious, and often it backfires, but every once in a while when he lets the power flow through him he can accomplish great things. When you’re a kid (or an adult) struggling with the creative process, it’s a pretty accurate mirror of your own experience.

INTERVIEW: Desirina Boskovich, author of “Love is the Spell That Casts Out Fear”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

My story is actually two stories. One story is about an average girl who lives in a middle-class suburb, attends a typical evangelical Christian church, and hides a big secret. The other story is about a girl wizard who lives in a fantastical city called Perta Perdida, where lost girls from every universe escape to be safe. Of course, the two stories are really the same story. That story is about the sacrifices we make for people we love, and the way our fantasy lives give us the power and courage to make these sacrifices.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

When I first set out to write a story about a wizard, I knew I wanted to write something that would explore magic and wizardry in a metafictional way. I adore M. John Harrison’s story “Seven Guesses of the Heart,” which beautifully engages the idea of magic and what it means — as well as what it is and isn’t capable of changing. Inspired by this story, I wanted to write something in a similar vein. I also knew I wanted to write something with anachronistic elements, using signifiers and scenery that would disassociate the story from any particular place or time.

One evening a few lines came to me and I wrote them down. They were these ones:

“The wizard trembles in her sleep.

She dreams of lands she has never seen, lovers she has never tasted, spells she will never utter. She sees the shining seas, the glittering towers, the assembly lines and forest floors. She smells frying noodles, hot metal, marina waters and sweet honeysuckle. She hears chiming bells, raucous construction, rock and roll.

The wizard is old, but not that old.

The wizard is young, but not that young.

She has never been so afraid.”

I realized that this story belonged in Perta Perdida, a fantasy world to which I escape from time to time. The rest of the story evolved over the next several months, and those lines made it into the final draft with a few alterations.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

Actually, this story was among the most difficult stories I’ve ever written. It was a huge stretch for me creatively. I struggled quite a bit with the challenge of switching back and forth between story lines while maintaining consistency in voice, and using the two stories to tell just one. It was also a stretch for me personally, forcing me to draw on memories of a time in my life that I would be happy to forget. I went through a phase of intense creative block, which I eventually shattered by listening to Christian music for several hours, forcing myself to reconnect with Hannah’s world.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

I read up on the lore of incubi throughout the ages, partly seeking inspiration on how to resolve the central conflict of the wizard’s story, and partly to learn about the tropes and assumptions underlying the mythology. My intent is to explore and challenge these assumptions from a feminist perspective.

What is the appeal of wizard fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

I think wizard fiction appeals because it’s fantasy in its purest form. Wizardry is the act of creating change through the power of will as expressed through language. To me, this is what fantasy is about. In a way, this is what writing is about, too. And every human endeavor that requires patience, practice and passion. Wizardry is metaphor for the most conscious, focused, human parts of us.

What are some of your favorite examples of wizard fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

“Seven Guesses of the Heart,” by M. John Harrison.

“Not Long Before the End,” by Larry Niven.

The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle.

Each of these works is totally brilliant, and it would be utterly unfair to both me and the stories to attempt to explain why. They’re much better read than described. However, each greatly influenced this story in one way or another. I think because each approaches wizardry with varying combinations of cynicism, skepticism and play, pushing back against archetypes and cliché to ask, “What is this story really about?”

INTERVIEW: David Farland, author of “Feeding the Feral Children”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

It is a “classic” kind of story about a young man who has a run-in with a powerful sorcerer.

What was the genesis of the story—what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I was working in China working on a movie script for a big fantasy adventure trilogy when I began working on this. I wanted a different kind of wizardry in the story, and considered setting this in the American West, with Sioux Indians. I’d just been nominated for a major award for a historical novel that I had researched heavily, but then I realized, “Hey, I’ve been researching ancient China night and day for months. How about if I set it on the Silk Road 2300 years ago?”  So for me the setting came first, and I got to thinking about how to do a variation on a Chinese opera called Butterflies, about two star-crossed lovers. It all fell into place from there.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

Actually, it was just fun.  I had to do a lot of research, but I enjoy that.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

I think that every parent at one point in his or her life will look at the sacrifices he has made for his children and wonder if it was worth it. In this story, I’m dealing with a young man who loses everything to the younger generation.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

I’ve made several trips to China, and have been to the region around Urumqi (on China’s far western border) on a couple of occasions. So I did a lot of reading, visiting museums, research on clothing and weapons, and this sort of thing. I was once in a storm when the Yellow Wind blew out of the Gobi, and that was one of the eeriest moments of my life, watching the whole sun get blotted out by ocher-colored dust. It was surreal, ethereal, as if you were in a dust storm on Mars.

What is the appeal of wizard fiction? Why do so many writers—or you yourself—write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

I think that each of us goes through a time in life–at puberty–when we really do gain some “magical” powers. We get stronger, wiser, faster. We suddenly have the urge and ability to procreate. So on a symbolic level, stories about wizardry touch upon our shared experience of what it is like to suddenly gain strange new powers. At the same time, these stories play upon some of our wildest fantasies.

What are some of your favorite examples of wizard fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

I enjoy stories where the wizards have powers but also have sharp limitations.  I like stories where the magic makes sense, almost like a science, but where there is still something magical and undefinable about the system. I hope that my own Runelords books give an example of that, especially as you delve into Gaborn and Binnesman, but I think that Brandon Sanderson has done a nice job of it with his Mistborn series, too.

INTERVIEW: Delia Sherman, author of “Wizard’s Apprentice”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

It’s about an Evil Wizard and his downtrodden apprentice. It is also (like a lot of my fiction) about finding family outside of the one you were born into. I stole the broad outlines of the plot from the Russian fairytale “The Wizard Outwitted” and combined it with relevant bits of folklore and fairy tale as they came to mind.  

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling asked me for a non-standard villain fairy-tale retelling for middle-grade readers. I love doing assignments for Terri and Ellen. They push me to come up with stories and situations I’d never otherwise approach. This, for instance, came out as a boy story–not a female character in sight. Which is pretty much a first for me. Also, rural Maine?  Please–I’m a city girl. But I’ve spent a fair amount of time now writing in a friend’s house up on the Maine coast and have browsed some pretty scary bookshops–most notably the one run by Doris Grumbach. All of which found their way into the story as well. 

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

Well, a boy’s POV was a stretch. I’m an only child, I went to an all-girls school for 12 years, most of my friends have daughters. Little boys are as mysterious to me as elves. Which is why I couldn’t play my usual kid’s story trick of writing a first-person narrative. It was also a challenge to create an Evil Wizard who retains some measure of evilness while taking in a lost child and giving him a safe place to live and teaching him a useful (!) trade. It’s going to be even more fun when I come to write the novel this story kept trying to turn into.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

Some of it is pure wish fulfillment. There are days when I’d like nothing better than to hang out in a dusty old bookshop full of books I didn’t need to sell, with nothing to do but the work I love, growling at everyone who interrupts me. Having once spent 9 months in Maine doing pretty much just that, I know it wouldn’t be good for me, but it’s fun to visit in a story. Also, I’m adopted.  No matter what I try to write about, somehow it always, on some level or other, boils down to finding and making family outside of the ties of blood.  

What kind of research did you have to do for the story? 

I hung out in Maine, visiting bookshops. I reread “The Wizard Outwitted” in Fairytales of Many Lands (which I’ve had since I was five, and it looks it: H. Herda, ed., Franklin Watts 1956–a remarkable volume. But I digress.) and “The Magician’s Horse” in Andrew Lang’s Grey Fairy Book. I talked about shape-changing with the long-suffering son of a good friend (“What do you think it would be cool to turn yourself into?”). I did not pay that much attention to the actual magic and how it was made.  That’s for the book. 

What is the appeal of wizard fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

Wizards, like writers, are both born and made. In order to become mighty in either profession, it’s useful to have a gift for it, but you also have to put in the study and the work. Both writers and wizards conjure up demons, change reality, and manipulate events. And no matter how long you’ve been at it, things can go horribly wrong at any time, so that you never lose the exhilaration of taking a dangerous chance whenever you sit down (stand up, climb a mountaintop) to work. Wizards have great and magical powers. Their work can change the world, for better or worse. What writer doesn’t, in her heart of hearts, want her books to change the world?  

As for readers–well, the idea of being favored by a magical grownup who can get you out of even the worst kind of trouble with the wave of a wand is a very attractive one. Dumbledore (and Gandalf and even Merlin) start out looking to the less powerful protagonists (and the readers) as more omni-powerful than they end up being, but they’re still capable of saving the hero’s day in the end, if not always their own. For adults, I suspect it may have something to do with watching what a fellow-mortal chooses to do with great power. If she chooses to use it for good, then the reader can identify. If he chooses to use it for evil, then the reader can judge.  Either is emotionally satisfying.

What are some of your favorite examples of wizard fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

Well–Gandalf in TLOTR.  He wasn’t my first wizard, but he’ll always be the benchmark–even though he’s a kind of angel, and not really human in the slightest. Shmendrick in The Last Unicorn comes a close second because he was simultaneously so helpless and so powerful. Ged in The Wizard of Earthsea because he was both good and scary (like Gandalf) and because he was human, too. And because his magic of words made emotional sense to me, as formal ritual magic did not. And Merlin of The Sword In the Stone, of course, because he manages to be silly and terrible, sometimes simultaneously. Of more modern wizards, I prefer the gentlemanly wizards of Caroline Stevermer’s Scholar of Magiks to the hearty laddishness of Harry Potter and his mates. I’m also very fond of Diana Wynne Jones’s Chrestomanci books, and Howl’s Moving Castle. Her wizards are so utterly self-centered, and yet so utterly charming, which strikes me as exactly what an urban wizard should be.

INTERVIEW: Cinda Williams Chima, author of “The Trader and the Slave”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

This story is a turning point–a business meeting gone wrong between two strong personalities, one a wizard, the other an enchanter. Each is powerful in his/her own way; each is vulnerable, and each is wounded.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

This is kind of a “lost chapter” or deleted scene from my young adult fantasy novel, The Wizard Heir. It was actually a flashback scene between two characters, Leander Hastings and Linda Downey, telling the story of how they met. I’d worked with my Hyperion editor long enough to know that she wouldn’t be keen on including a admittedly unnecessary flashback scene between two adults. Still, it broke my heart to take it out. I love those characters, and my readers seem fascinated with them, too. So I filed the chapter away, meaning to find a way to re-envision it or incorporate it into a longer work. When John contacted me about the anthology, I dusted it off and reworked it as a stand-alone story.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

It’s always hard for me to work in a small space. I’m the author that has two 250,000-word volumes in an unpublished fantasy trilogy stashed away. I’ve written short stories that run 35,000 words. But I’m in a program for that.

Also, the sexual tension in this story was tricky to manage. It’s the beginning of a love story between a worldly and cynical young woman and an older man.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

All of my stories are about transformation, because I am constantly transforming myself.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

The story is set in York, on the British coast, and so I did some geographical research on the location of the story so I wouldn’t get the emails later on.

What is the appeal of wizard fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

I think we all know gifted people; people who exert disproportionate influence over others. For me, it’s all about character. After that, magic expands possibilities and heightens conflict.

What are some of your favorite examples of wizard fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

My favorite fantasy books include a range of magical persons, not all of them strictly wizards.  I favor characters who are recognizable as people. I still love Lord of the Rings; Tolkien created so many archetypes that we continue to see in fantasy today. David Eddings’s books are favorites of mine, as are Mercedes Lackey’s fantasies. In young adult, I like Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief series, Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments, and Kristin Cashore’s Seven Kingdoms series. Many young readers believe that J.K. Rowling invented wizards, but it’s what she did with them that made her books so successful.

INTERVIEW: Christie Yant, author of “The Magician and the Maid and Other Stories”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

In a very narrow sense it’s about a woman who finds herself ripped from her own fairy tale, and her quest to find the person responsible and make him send her home.

In a broader sense it’s about making the wrong decisions for the right reasons, and seeing what’s in front of you and mistaking it for something else. 

In the broadest sense it’s about the magic of stories, and how at least while we’re reading them, they are real.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

The characters came first. Miles and Audra were inspired by and loosely based on two real artists for whom I have a great deal of respect. They each have a very unique and public persona and weave a twisted kind of artistic magic of their own. They struck me as people who had been pulled right out of a fairy tale. (I don’t believe they’ve ever met, but I would love to be a fly on the wall if they ever do!) I’m not really sure how I came to put the two of them together in my mind–they probably just appeared in my RSS feed on the same day or something equally mundane.

Once they collided in my head I wrote the first paragraph, which is almost unchanged since the first draft. I didn’t really know what it meant yet or where it was going; I just had those two people and that paragraph, and I was kind of in love with them, so I had to justify their existence with a story.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

Yes! I knew when I started it that I was trying something more ambitious than anything I’d written before. I actually didn’t write the “fairy tale” part of the story until after I had a few drafts of the ‘main’ story done, and I didn’t originally intend to use it–it was just back-story for my personal peace of mind. Once I realized that I needed to give the reader both of them, it finally started to come together. Finding the right beats and transitions between the two was a fight hard won.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

In some ways this is the least personal story I’ve ever written, but of course there’s always a seed of ourselves somewhere in our stories. 

In this case the ‘character’ that is most personal to me is the book. That book actually exists–it’s sitting a few feet away from me right now. It was given to me by my paternal grandmother and dates from the 1930s. It’s a book of fairy tales called Through Fairy Halls. I read it over and over as a child, and from it I learned that fairy tales exist all over the world, and are unique little realities unto themselves. That book is where I learned to love them, and it makes perfect sense to me that the stories between its covers are true, and that maybe one is missing. 

What kind of research did you have to do for the story? 

I went back to the book, and read a lot of Grimm’s. 

What is the appeal of wizard fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers and film viewers love it so much?

There are so many ways to answer that, and all of them are probably right and equally true. 

The types of wizard stories that I seem to gravitate toward have been the descendants of T.H. White’s The Once and Future King–an ordinary kid discovers that he or she is potentially a great wizard, and we get to watch them grow up with this knowledge and see what they do with it. Even Wheel of Time follows that model. Why do we love them? Maybe because we all feel that potential within ourselves–or at least we hope that it’s there. 

What are some of your favorite examples of wizard fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

When I was growing up I loved the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane, but I think my very favorite ‘wizard’ story is Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman. It’s such a beautiful story, about choice, and power, and coming of age. It’s one of those books that I’ve bought over and over because I always loan it to someone because I want them to experience it and then (naturally) I never see it again. I don’t regret loaning it, though, all half-dozen times.  

Once you introduce the idea of magic and the power that comes with it into a world, what you do with that power becomes all-important. Timothy Hunter’s journey as he’s shown the possible futures in which he is the greatest magician of the age is an important metaphor. At some point we all have a certain amount of power over other people–how will we use it, and what is the price?

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