A MINOR MAGIC
By Justin Macumber
Genre: Young Adult
Tour Host: Lady Amber's Tours
Over the course of a single night, mystical fires tore through the sky and reduced most of Earth to ash. Ten years later magical fire burns again, but this time it’s in the hands of a young girl named Skylar. Exiled from her adoptive home, Skylar must now struggle through ruined lands and religious zealots who believe she’s an agent of the Devil. An even greater threat exists in the form of shadowy sorcerers from another world who covet her blood. Along her journey, she meets a motley band of outcasts who not only know the secret of what happened to Earth, but also of Skylar’s true origin. Will Skylar be able to accept this fantastical truth? But more importantly, can her powers and raging heart be tamed in time to stop those who once burned the world and now seek total domination?
Book excerptSkylar's eyes filled with a flickering blue light as ghostly flames jetted from her palms, and her screams were lost over the roaring of the blaze. Instinctively, she shook her hands, slapped them against her legs, and then clapped them together to try and extinguish the fire. As her hands touched, the flames vanished. To her astonishment her skin wasn't burned. It wasn't even warm. Sadly, the same couldn't be said for Buster. The dog was a smoking ruin at her feet, one more pile of burnt remains in a world already covered in ash. Her heart broke as she stared down at him. Oh god, she thought. What's happened? What have I done?
"Oh my Lord, girl," a man said behind her. "What did you do?"
Skylar whirled around, her eyes widening in guilt even though she didn't understand what had happened, or how. "Henry, he jumped at me! I don't know why he did it, and I tried to stop him, but..." She fell silent, her thoughts too scrambled to know what more to say. Buster was a dog she'd loved and cared for ever since coming to live on the farm years ago, and without warning, he had attacked her. When she'd held her hands up to ward him off, blue fire had erupted from them and consumed him as though it was a living, ravenous thing. Nothing like that had ever happened to her before, and she couldn't rightly explain what she didn't understand.
Over the course of a single night, mystical fires tore through the sky and reduced most of Earth to ash. Ten years later magical fire burns again, but this time it's in the hands of a young girl named Skylar. Exiled from her adoptive home, Skylar must now struggle through ruined lands and religious zealots who believe she's an agent of the Devil. An even greater threat exists in the form of shadowy sorcerers from another world who covet her blood. Along her journey, she meets a motley band of outcasts who not only know the secret of what happened to Earth, but also of Skylar's true origin. Will Skylar be able to accept this fantastical truth? But more importantly, can her powers and raging heart be tamed in time to stop those who once burned the world and now seek total domination?
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was a kid and I couldn’t afford to go to the store and buy adventures for my friends to go through when we played D&D. Instead I made the adventures myself, and they loved them. Ever since I’ve loved being able to create worlds and characters that people wanted to read about.
How long does it take you to write a book?
The first draft takes a couple of months, and then the second draft another month. After that I let people I trust read it to give me their opinions, and then I go over it again and again until it’s what I want. Not perfect, mind you, but what I want.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
A lot of writers try to make their first draft perfect, but I don’t. In fact, I couldn’t care less how good it is. All I want to do is get the story out of my head and on paper. Editing is where the REAL work is.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
My ideas come from everywhere and everything. I may get one while watching an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or while playing Silent Hill, or even while helping a writer friend work out their own idea.
As for information, mostly through online sources, though I do try to interview people when I can. And, if I’m using a real place, then I try to go there if possible so I can see it for myself. A MINOR MAGIC takes place mostly in the south, Tennessee and Louisiana to be specific, so I went on a road trip to take pictures and write notes. Those were invaluable while writing the book.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Like any good writer I’m also a big reader, but I love to watch movies and play video games too. I used to play guitar, but I had to give it up when I realized I had too many things on my plate, and it was either that or stop playing Mass Effect, and that wasn’t going to happen.
What was one of the most surprising things you have learned in creating your books?
That we humans are far more capable of empathy than we tend to think we are. I mean, take me for example. I’m an older guy who’s lived a fairly normal life, yet I wrote a book about a young girl with magical powers in a ravaged America. Most people would think it odd that I could get into the head of a character like that, that part of me could be that girl, but I can. I did. Just like I was in the mind of a hateful preacher and otherworldly mages. We are capable of thinking beyond ourselves, to see the world from new perspectives, yet so few seem to want to do that. I don’t understand why not.
Why did you choose to create this genre of books?
It’s a wide open canvas where I can tell any sort of story I want to. I’m not confined by any conventions. When I can really let my imagination run wild is when I’m the most happy at my keyboard, and this genre lets me do that.
This story had me captivated from the very beginning, so many twists and turns. The action in this story was intense, but not too violent or gory. Most YA authors lead into a storyline; however Skylar's story begins on page 1. Why?
Wow, thank you. I prefer stories that dump me right into the middle of the action, or right when things are hitting the fan, so when I write I do the same thing. Your time is precious, so why should I waste it on pages that don’t carry you and the rest of the characters forward? Let’s get on with it! ;)
I like how you blended paranormal, fantasy, dystopian and just a dash of Sci-Fi into this storyline. Do you have a specific genre that you write or do you enjoy writing a creative mix?
I don’t believe in being put in a genre box. I consume stories across nearly every medium and genre, so why not do the same with the stories I create? My biggest writing heroes – Stephen King and Joss Whedon -- work across all genres, and that’s why I’m going to do too.
I loved both dedications at the beginning and the end. You said that your niece was the inspiration for Skylar's character, did your niece give a lot of input on being a 15-16 yr old girl?
LOL. No, actually a lot of that I got from female writer friends of mine. I went on their podcast, the Pendragon Variety Podcast, and asked them to help me understand what a girl at that age might think about, how she’d feel given certain criteria, that sort of thing. My wife was another source of insight. My niece, though, I wanted to keep out of it so she could read it without knowing what was coming.
Justin, you hint that there may be a next book, so is Minor Magic going to be a series or is this just a standalone novel?
A MINOR MAGIC is the first in a planned trilogy. I’ve written the first draft of its sequel, A BROKEN MAGIC, and I’m hoping to have it out later this year. The third book is a bit more nebulous, but I have a general notion of how I’ll finish Skylar’s journey. I hope everyone comes along and enjoys the adventure too.
Justin R. Macumber is the author of HAYWIRE and A MINOR MAGIC. When not hard at work on his next story he hosts the popular Dead Robots' Society podcast, which is a podcast made by writers for writers. He and his lovely wife live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex along with a rampaging pack of dogs and cats that they think of as their children. He is also a co-host on The Hollywood Outsider, a weekly podcast about movies and television. Currently he is working on two novels - the horror story STILL WATER, and the sequel to A MINOR MAGIC entitled A BROKEN MAGIC.