Currently, I am completing the third book, Neuri Shape-Shifter, in my Stone Quest magical realism series. Recently, Evie Woolmore of Allonymbooks reviewed the first book of that series, Desert Chimera, and followed up the review with an interview. Desert Chimera was first envisioned as the play Desert Wolf some fifteen years ago that premiered at the InterAct Theatre Company here in Los Angeles. Evie asked me some very interesting and insightful questions, one of which was: What did writing the book offer you, in terms of exploring [the] huge range of material, that you couldn’t cover in the play?
Though playwrights have experimented with play forms for as long as the craft has existed, and though we now have technology that can spark and pop and make our audiences gasp and howl with joy and wonder, in the end with any play production there are limits: limits of budget, limits of time, limits of space, in short, limits of reality. In trying to craft the story of characters such as Luke Stone who begins the play with an apocryphal vision in the heart of Death Valley and Armand Jacobi who is described as Luke’s nemesis and a “black magician,” for the stage, one can see how difficult those limits can be. How does one show the apocryphal vision to an audience when all one has is the actor on the stage? Does he voice a monologue? Throughout the play there were several instances of “magical” effects. How to affect those? Of course the hugely successful Wicked dazzled. But I did not have that budget. Nor a fraction of it. Perhaps the greatest frustration for me was the final duel between Armand and Luke in the Desert Wolf Café. No matter how brilliantly this stage fight was choreographed, it was doomed to remain at best only a stage fight.
But as a novel? What are the limits in a novel? In the physical realm, none.
However, when you are employing magic realism, you can take your readers as high as you can fly.
As I adapted the play to a novel, I had the opportunity to widen the scope of the piece, exploring, for example, the spirituality of the characters, especially my protagonist and antagonist, Luke Stone and Armand Jacobi. For example, I was able to fully describe the apocryphal vision Luke had in the desert as well as many of his other visions. Luke tells Consuelo about the first time he remembers healing. He had been forced to shoot a bird by his alcoholic abusive father. He gathered up the wounded bird in his hand; he felt his hands grow warm, he felt the bird’s heartbeat, the wings flutter, and the bird flew suddenly away. The novel also delves into the dark magic of Armand Jacobi and the life Luke led with him while he was one of Jacobi’s lost boys It describes the rituals Armand held with the young Luke at his side, the conjuring they did, the spirits they raised, and the moment when the darkness danced so far upon the razor’s edge of evil that Luke ran for his life. During the final showdown between mentor and pupil, I could go into as much detail as I desired, taking Luke into his past, and even deep within the cries of the desert wolves that howl outside the café as rain pelts the windows and Luke fights his nemesis in a battle that will culminate either in his triumph or the loss of his soul forever.
But creating magic realism is not akin to anything goes.
If anything, the writer must be more vigilant, more careful, more particular, more attentive to detail than in fiction that does not contain this element.
The writer is crafting an entire universe unknown, at first, to anyone but her. If your readers enter this unknown land and are not quickly given the key to its existence, if they do not understand the rules under which your world operates, they will all too quickly grow disenchanted, and exeunt.
If Luke Stone is suddenly able to solve all his problems by his magical powers—where is the tension? And if Luke Stone has magical powers, why can’t he solve all his problems by simply calling upon them? Moreover, and vice versa, of his nemesis Armand Jacobi is the so-powerful black magician who was his mentor and knows him so well, why can’t Jacobi easily over-power Luke? You had better make certain you have answers to these questions, and those answers better be good and they’d better be rooted in certainty and in the reality of the world you have created in which your characters dwell. It isn’t always easy when you play around with magic; it most assuredly makes for a far more daunting challenge, but in the end, both the creator and the reader are amply rewarded.
I am pleased to announce that I have just joined Zoe Brook’s Magic Realism Blog Hop. The above article is my first posting for the “hop.” Below are our other members. You can also visit and learn more about Ms. Brooks’ work @ http://ZoeBrooks.blogspot.com or on Facebook/ZoeBrooksAuthor
Have a great tour!