ABOUT SHADOW MAGIC:
Thorn, an outlaw’s son, wasn’t supposed to be a slave. He’s been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they’re headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.
Lilith Shadow wasn’t supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?
Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.
What do you hope the readers will take away from SHADOW MAGIC?
Thrills, spills, and chills. A few tears and plenty of laughs. It’s pretty big for a mid-grade, but I hope to take the reader out of the day to day for a few hours, and send them to a land of undead with the sweetest princess of darkness they’ll ever hope to meet, an outlaw boy with a dark secret and, of course, one epically giant vampire bat!
If they close the covers and are still loving the tale the next day, that’s my job done.
What book(s) would you recommend to a reader who loved SHADOW MAGIC, and wants to read something similar?
Okay, this has an easy answer, and a hard one. For the easy answer I’d say Rick Riordan (go for his Kane chronicles, and his new Magnus Chase series, featuring Norse gods) and then (naturally) J.K Rowling. But, TBH, you’ve probably read them so often that the pages have fallen out. Both were very much in my mind as I worked on SM. Rick has a great ability to balance the action and frightening scenes with humour, and that’s important for mid-grade and the type of book I wanted to write. Mine was set in a land of undead, where you’ve got zombies working in the kitchens and ghosts minding the doors. Yet I wanted something younger kids could get into, so the scary concepts needed to be tempered with humour. Lily’s earliest memory if of old ‘One-eyed Ron’, the faithful servant who’d been in looking after the Shadow family for generations, Sure, he was a zombie, but at least he let her practice her sewing on him without fuss (his ears tended to fall off, especially near the end when he was being held together by spit, twine and a lot of nails).
What can be said about JK Rowling that hasn’t been said? But, for me, Hogwarts RULED. She built a brilliant fantasy world, and that was a huge inspiration.
Now, the hard answers. These are the guys and gals who’ve been around but may still be under the radar.
Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series blew my mind when I read it. It’s steam-punk and full of pure wonder, heart-ache and total excitement. He should be a lot more famous than he is.
For older readers, I’ve recommend pretty much anything by Angela Carter and ‘The Book of Lost Things’ by John Connolly, and his Nocturnes. But you will end up sleeping with the lights on!
I’m a huge, HUGE comics fan. Sandman is a classic, and the tone, magical, ethereal and where the magical is day to day, was part of the thought process in SM (and no doubt on my mind when I was working on the sequel, DREAM MAGIC).
Then try out the British hero, JUDGE DREDD. I’ve been reading his adventures since I was a wee lad, and its loud, violent and edgy satire. Again, probably for older readers.
I cannot end this without mentioning The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien (as if I needed to tell you that). It remains the greatest children’s book of all time, and anyone who loves fantasy should have it on their shelves.
What was your favourite part of writing SHADOW MAGIC?
Impossible to define, as you must love all bits of it, though in different ways. I loved writing Castle Gloom, its history and its surroundings. It’s huge, a city really, but one without windows. The lords of darkness built it, so why would they ever want any light to enter? It’s the ultimate haunted house, but our heroine, Lily, loves it. It’s her home. She loves the gargoyles, the bats, the vast empty halls and the echoes of her footsteps down its endless corridors. Each time I wrote about Gloom I wanted the reader to get a hint of why Lily would love it so much. A character tells her she smells of ‘Stones and Bones’, and that’s true. The stones of her castle, and the bones of her ancestors. They define her.
I loved writing the mystery. I needed to put in the clues to who was the villain, why they did what they did, and the consequences of their actions. By setting it in one place, Castle Gloom, you have a host of suspects, but Lily and Thorn race against the clock, as the villain has not finished their work…
Finally, it was fun letting the characters grow and watching what they’d get up to. I’d put Lily and Thorn in situations, then let them sort it out. They both have their own styles of dealing with danger. Lily is a proud, magical princess from a legendary family. She can trace her ancestors back to the beginning of history. Thorn’s a nobody from a village no-one has heard of and the most famous member of his family is grand-dad, because of his whistling pigs.
Sometimes you know where you’re going when you write. Sometimes you don’t and you count on your heroes to sort it out. When that happens, it’s brilliant.
What are the 5 must-have items when you sit down to write?
I work a lot in cafes, so the first is background noise. I like having activity around me. I can tune it out but writing’s a lonely business so it’s cool to see a few familiar faces, day to day. The cafe owner is a big fantasy fan too, so we have plenty of chats about the latest episode of Game of Thrones!
Second is ignorance. I try and forget about what else is happening. There are always distractions. Get the cleaning done. Make supper. Pick up this, drop off that. Checking up on Facebook. CUT IT OUT. Protect your writing time and enjoy it. I must admit, when I’m in the story, it is the best time ever. I still feel awe that this is my job.
Item three is music. I write with earphones. Not always, but more often than not. It helps carry you away into another mood, another world. Right now I’m listening to Florence and the Machine.
The fourth is what I call ‘Boots and a Compass’. Have the gear you need to explore, and some idea of where you’re going. A sense of direction’s important, to maintain focus, but with boots you’re ready to enjoy the scenery, rather that struggle through it because the soles of your sneakers are too thin and every step is a pain and you just want it over. Whenever I sit down to work, I make sure I’ve got what I need, equipment-wise, and a rough (only a rough) idea of what I want to get done that day, a scene, a chapter, an article.
Five is a deadline. You need to know when to stop. Writing is a bloody amazing job, but don’t let it rule your life. There are family, friends, duty all away from the screen. Remember that’s your life too. I used to let work spill over into evenings, weekends and even holidays. No more. Do the best you can in the time you have, then park it. It links with protecting your writing time. Commit to work, commit to family. That’s pretty much how I manage my life. When all is said and done, that’s what I want my legacy to be. To have raised good kids.
Though galaxy-spanning best-seller would be nice too…
ABOUT JOSHUA KHAN:
Born in Britain. Lives in London. Would rather live in a castle. Writes fantasy. Enjoys it.
3 Finished Copies of SHADOW MAGIC (US Only)