From the bookshelf: December 2017 Behind the scenes of A Touch of Magic

In this post I thought I’d share a bit of the “behind the scenes” of A Touch of Magic.

Back in 2016 I started reading fiction again after an involuntary hiatus (due to being busy with study, producing Alternative Chef Kitchen and having kids that didn’t like sleeping for a few years). In November 2016 I decided to do NaNoWriMo after carving out some time for fun in my life again, and I ended up writing the first draft of an urban fantasy/ paranormal/contemporary fantasy story which I’m calling “Familiar” and you can read a little about that here. Anyway, at the end of 2016 I wanted to meet more authors (because it’s an odd thing we do and its great to have other people to chat with who understand some of the writing dilemmas and fiction writers have different challenges than non-fiction writers do). One of my non-fiction author friends said, “Why don’t you join twitter”. I’d previously avoided twitter like the plague because I just don’t do 140 characters (yes, I wrote poetry in high school but other than that I’m a long story girl. If I have a choice between a 100 page book and an 800 page book – I buy the 800 page one, especially if it’s part of a series and not a standalone). So the thought of twitter just didn’t do it for me. But, I was eager to meet more writers, so I decided to give it a go and created a twitter account. I was surprised to find it fun (if you’re read my previous posts, you’re probably starting to see a bit of a trend here, if not you might find this post and this post (about 2 different books I thought I wouldn’t enjoy but did) entertaining….). Anyway I began tweeting and retweeting quotes that resonated and I ended up “meeting” another author (D.P. Joynes). Dena introduced me to her online fantasy writing group that she’d met through Books Go Social and I joined the group just as they were preparing to publish a fantasy anthology.  The problem for me was that it was a short story anthology – the maximum story length was 25K words (Familiar was about 95K at that time…. I had thought Familiar would be a novella…. I had thought it would be standalone…. but Sarah Gai read it, laughed and told me, “Um no, it’s at least 3-5 books.” (Hmm…..)

So length of the submission aside, my other problem was the anthology theme: war. I don’t read war books, watch war themed movies (mostly because I find them so heartbreaking) and I don’t know much about the military. So I wasn’t sure I could “pull off” writing a war themed short story. But as I sat at the cafe, with my laptop open and the cursor blinking at me, I had an idea for a story about one of my Familiar side characters, and a way I could write about the war theme that suited my style of story telling. So I began writing and I ended up with a 25K word manuscript for a story I called Conflicted. I thought Conflicted might make a good standalone novella that people could read before Familiar, but my beta readers and editor Kim said “No,  people need to read Familiar first to understand this book.” (Bugger. I was back to square one).

By this time things were getting busy as I had a minor surgery scheduled, and the manuscript due date was looming (along with my Season 3 launch for Alternative Chef Kitchen, and some public speaking events). So I ended up deciding not to submit my story. But while I was recovering Dena messaged me and said that I should submit. So, as I lay in bed, recovering with strong painkillers and good books, I had the idea for another story. It was standalone and not linked to Familiar in anyway. “It’ll be about 5K words,” I told my husband. He just smiled encouragingly at me (after all, this is the man who heard me say, “I’m going to indie produce a cooking show.”) So the next day I headed to the cafe (painkiller free) and started writing. One of my favourite bits in the book On Writing by Stephen King is when he talks about ‘writing becoming a way back’ and helping him to heal when he was recovering from being hit by a car (luckily I wasn’t recovering from being hit by a car), but I had to agree with Stephen. Pain is pain and since I wasn’t taking pain killers (because I needed to drive), the writing kept me going. When I was at home, reading buffered the time needed between doses and as I was writing, I found myself able to cope without them until I got home.

My first draft of A Touch of Magic (the working title I had for the story at the time was Healing Wounds) came in at 15K words. Just like Conflicted, I explored the theme of being at war with yourself. Because I see that everywhere; in clinic I see people with chronic health conditions that are literally instances of the body being at war with itself from autoimmune conditions to people ravaging their body with stress because their mouth keeps saying “yes” to taking more on and doing more, and their body is screaming  “no”. So I sat at the cafe and began writing about Jessie. The other place I think we see “being at war with ourselves” is in ageing. People will pull out grey hairs and do any number of crazy things in order to look younger and resist ageing. Generally people miss the point: it’s not about arriving at old age looking as beautiful as you do in your 20s, but it’s about quality of life, independence and mobility. Being able to walk, feed yourself and live in your family home (if you want to). Being able to drive. See. Simple things that we take for granted when we are young. Lastly, you don’t have to look too far to find a scandal online now about health practitioners (natural or mainstream). Ironically it wasn’t my intention to write about a mainstream medicine vs natural war because my personal view is not “either/or”.  (I realised when I read a reviewers comment that some people might see it that way). My intention was to write about prejudices people have and how hard it is to hold one set of beliefs, and then have an experience thrust upon you which forces you to change how you think (some people accept this easier than others). Of course, I have come across “Jessie-like” characters in my professional life (and so have a number of my colleagues), but I’ve also come across the scary types who give natural medicine a bad name too and I can’t blame the “Jessie-like characters” for their opinions. So instead of writing about a natural vs main stream “war” I loved the challenge of putting myself in the shoes of someone like Jessie and asking myself what kind of experiences she must have had in order to have such strong convictions and how someone with such strong beliefs would cope if they were forced to have an experience that was in direct conflict to what they believed. (I like to torture my characters… if you read more of my stories over time you’ll find this;-) I love a HEA (happily ever after) but I will make my characters work for it;-).

Anyway, we all needed a quote that matched our story theme for the anthology. I chose the quote “Be kind because everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” It’s such a true statement and in this time of quick-judgement and social media which makes it possible for people to have one-sided rants and ignore contrary opinions (by deleting, blocking or trolling), I wish more people would take the time to consider someone else’s point of view.

So that brings me to the end of this peek “behind the scenes” of A Touch of Magic.

It’s not your typical romance, or a typical fantasy. It’s a mix of contemporary fantasy, magical realism, sweet romance and contemporary women’s fiction.

If you’re curious to read it, or to read more of my stories, then click here to get the book and click here to join my newsletter list and I’ll keep you up to date on what I’m working on and when it is released.