Posts Tagged ‘American Fairy Trilogy’

That Old Time Feeling

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fireworksWriting is, by necessity, a profession of emotions.  Emotions are at the heart of character, and character is at the heart of story.  And at the heart of the human brain is a quirk that by describing a feeling, you invoke it in yourself.  So, there’s no part of writing a novel that is not going to put the writer on an emotional roller coaster.  And people wonder why we tend to drink so much…

But there are other ways that the work itself gets emotionally involving.  One comes at the very beginning.  There is a moment when that first scene, that first bit of dialogue or description just sort of…shows up.  Of course, it doesn’t come from nowhere.  It’s the result of a long process of mental and emotional synthesis that’s been going on, partly in the conscious mind, partly in the  unconscious.  But there does come this one moment when your whole brain gets together and says “Yes, this.  This is it.  This is my way into this story, this world, the home of these particular people.”

It’s going to change, of course.  It might be a dead end, but it is the way in and from there you can explore, you can follow your nose and your mental guides.

It is the beginning, and it feels great.

Encounters with the Fantastic — A Fantastic Doll’s House

fairy castle 2Any fantasy author can talk about encounters with the fantastic in the real world.  We’ve all had them, or we wouldn’t write what we do.

Usually, I blame my choice of profession, and subject on the fact I learned to read out of The Wizard of Oz.  But there were other influences.  One of the strongest was, and still is, in Chicago.

My grandparents lived in Chicago, and we used to go visit a couple of times a year.  My mother, who was really hoping to raise pratical minded children who understood the value of hard, practical work, would take us to the Museum of Science and Industry.  She wanted me to be interested in things like the coal mine.  Never worked.  Whenever we went, the only think I wanted to see was the fairy castle.

This thing was amazing.  It’s big, but when I was five it looked ENORMOUS.  It was a toy for an old-time movie star, so it was as detailed and opulent as a Hollywood imagination could conceive.  The glass slippers waiting for Cinderella were hollow.  The books were legible, if you had a magnifying glass.  The paintings on the walls were done by hand.

I was in love with this castle.  I used to make up stories about it.  I bought the souvenir book and poured over the pages.  I think I still have it somewhere.  Probably I saw other things in the museum, but this was the thing I remembered.  This was the glamour and the magic what I fell in love with.

Never have gone down into that coal mine, but I never seem to have quite left that castle.

fairy castle

Sweet Home Chicago

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From the time I started thinking seriously about the American Fairy books, I was sure Callie and Jack were going to end up in Chicago.  It was, in fact, one of the first things I knew about their story.

Fairies and magic have always been linked to beauty, creativity and glamor.  For a story set in the 1930s, it was easy to take this and run with it so that the Seelie Court — the bright, beautiful, literally glamourous fairy — would gather in and around Hollywood.  Once I realized that the focus for the Unseelie was going to be jazz — wilder, dangerous, villified, any yet profoundly powerful, that made New York city, a natural base of operations for them (yes, jazz has its origins New Orleans, and strong roots in Kansas City and St. Louis, among other places.  Jazz comes at you from all directions).

That made Chicago the middle ground.  A strong city with its own history, it’s own character and characters, filled to the brim with all the tensions and creativity that make America unique.

The Second City also happens to be my first city.  My mother grew up there, my father went to school there.  I joke about their mixed marriage — he was a White Sox fan, she was a Cubs fan.  I visited my grandparents there, spent hours in the Field Museum, saw the Christmas displays in the Marshall Fields windows and ate Frango mints when that was the only place you could get them.  There’s still something about downtown Chicago that feels more comfortable to me than any other city.  It’s still the place where the train tracks meet and the music, the blues, is distinct.  It’s a place where people come looking for work, looking to profit, looking to hide.

It was the only place I could picture Jack and Callie making their stand.

Sweet Home Chicago