Welcome, one and all, to another author interview! Today, I’m chatting with Chris Bedell, author of the new YA novel In The Name Of Magic.
Chris, for those unfamiliar with you and your work, can you give us am introduction?
My name is Chris Bedell, and I’m a MG (Middle Grade)/YA (Young Adult) writer. However, YA fiction is my main area of expertise. I’ve gotten essays, short stories, and creative nonfiction published on Thought Catalog, Entropy Magazine, Chicago Literati, and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine to name several examples.
Your YA fantasy novel In The Name Of Magic is due to be released on August 6th 2018, and follows Maximillian, a magical human who hides his non-magical best friend Katherine from an oppressive queen who is waging a campaign against non-magical people. During the tale, Maximillian also falls for the queen’s estranged younger brother Stefan. As I understand it, you first got the idea for the book back in November 2016. What inspired you to start working on this story?
This is a complicated, yet important question. So, I’m going to handle this as delicately as possible. During November 2016, there was an increase in hate crimes in the United States of America. And I wanted to do something that was cathartic. However, my book twists the issue of discrimination. In my book, people can be whatever gender, sexuality, race, or religion they want. However, people who are born without magic are the ones who face discrimination in In The Name Of Magic. Furthermore, I’ve always wanted to write a YA Fantasy with dystopian elements (even before Dystopian literature became saturated), so this opportunity is great.
Is the book set to be a standalone title or part of a series?
The book is the first in a trilogy. And I’m so excited for readers to eventually read book 2 and book 3. While the micro details might change, I still have a vision for the series and know the endgame I want/the novel’s emotional truth will stay the same.
Since we hit the 2000’s YA fiction has really exploded outwards in terms of themes and genres that it approaches. In particular, it has a rich history of embracing diversity. Why do you think this is, and did the genre’s acceptance of diversity play any part in you choosing to write a YA novel as opposed to an adult novel?
I think YA has exploded because teens need stories about them. Coming of age themes might generate a finite amount of material. But there are always new kids coming of age who will need teen pop culture. And, yeah. The acceptance of diversity is why I wanted to write a YA novel. There’s nothing wrong with adult literature, yet YA seems to be in a Golden Age today.
In The Name Of Magic has a good-sized cast of key characters, with plenty of interweaving plot points to bind the characters together and create conflict. Was it difficult to keep track of how the different character’s stories would interact with each other? Did you need to do much pre-planning for it all?
It wasn’t difficult to keep track of different character’s stories because I do a lot of outlining before writing a novel. Also, I tried to keep it organic, meaning there’s only one narrator (Maximillian). But I still want well-rounded characters. Therefore, every character has a scene with Maximillian that reveals something about his or her character. And that’s important because it’s possible to create fleshed out characters even if they aren’t a POV character. For example, Maximillian’s friend Raquel struggles with her sexuality and he helps her with it.
Are any of the characters based on real life people?
Sort of. The novel’s villain (Queen Vivian) is a combination of Hitler, Mussolini, and Francisco Franco as Magnifico is the contemporary fantasy Earth like equivalent of fascism.
The book is set in a fictional country called Magnifico. Does the setting have any parallels with real world locations?
Yes. The setting resembles the United States in the early 1930s as cars, electricity, indoor plumbing, etc. exist in Magnifico. Having a contemporary fantasy setting was an interesting choice because that seems to be not used much in YA Fantasy books. And it’s a unique idea to have technology and magic coexist with each other.
With the story covering an oppressive regime and a country suffering from economic problems, it seems safe to say that the book touches on the political side of the setting. How big a part does politics play in the book?
Politics is a pretty big part in my novel with Queen Vivian’s tyrannical monarchy, and the way oppression is shown is through the issue of discriminating against non-magical people. Although I had to be careful. Obviously, I think most people can agree racism, prejudice, and bigotry are wrong. That being said, I didn’t want the discrimination against people born without magic to be cartoon like. That means that I show the various sides. Maximillian protects his non-magical best friend Katherine, Maximillian’s friend Taylor supports Queen Vivian because of being poor while the intolerance is shown through Queen Vivian and her tyrannical government. Showing the numerous facets doesn’t excuse the intolerance, though. Maximillian and Taylor eventually collide because of his support for Queen Vivian in addition to how Maximillian spars with Queen Vivian and Sirch Manges (Queen Vivian’s boyfriend) too and reveals his anger towards them. As a result, it’s very clear the intolerance is wrong since Maximillian stands up against it. And that’s part of the novel’s point. Everyone has to choose a side—whether it’s to resist Queen Vivian, be neutral, or support her.
Were there any elements of Magnifico that you had in mind but weren’t able to include in the end?
Luckily, everything I wanted will be included in the book. The only major change was adding more emotional depth with Maximillian and how he reacts to situations—the novel deals with an intense subject matter so Maximillian will have a lot of feelings.
Do you have a favorite scene in the book?
Yes. However, it’s a tie between two scenes, and I can discuss both of them briefly as the scenes don’t contain major spoilers. One scene is between Maximillian and his boyfriend Stefan. It just involves them being silly and having a snowball fight. That scene is important for my book because smaller, everyday moments balance the life and death stakes. I also like a scene with Katherine and Maximillian when Katherine leaves Maximillian’s house by fleeing into the woods and Maximillian having to chase after him before Queen Vivian’s government finds out him and his parents have illegally been hiding Katherine. The scene is important because it covers a lot of ground despite being an emotional moment. Readers will really see Katherine’s vulnerability. She hates having to be in hiding since there should be more to life than surviving.
You have stated before that In The Name Of Magic is your favorite thing that you’ve written. Why is that? What sets it apart from your previous work?
There are a couple of reasons In The Name Of Magic is my most favorite work. One reason is because Maximillian isn’t afraid to take big swings. He risks his life by hiding his non-magical best friend Katherine. He also schemes against Queen Vivian’s tyrannical government by him and Stefan pretending to be nice to her in order to slowly plot her demies. Having Maximillian take these big steps is important because he’s fighting for a better future. I also love In The Name of Magic because the novel is like a snowball rolling down the hill—the conflict gets bigger and bigger. And that’s super exciting because good writing should be like dominos, i.e. one thing leads to the next.
The book is being published by NineStar Press. How did you end up placing the title with this publisher?
I first submitted In The Name Of Magic to NineStar Press at the end of January 2017. Then, I got a Revise and Resubmit at the end of April 2017. One month later, I submitted the R and R, which just consisted of adding more emotional depth. After that, they offered me a contract a few months later in August.
Your previously published pieces include a multitude of short stories, non-fiction pieces, and poetry. Was it difficult to transition from this style to the long-form storytelling of In The Name Of Magic?
No, the transition wasn’t too difficult as I’ve always been working on novels. Therefore, it wasn’t too much of a shock. Writing short stories is also a good training for writing a novel. A writer can improve their craft without making a large commitment.
Do you have a favorite among your previous work?
Yes. My Middle Grade novel LIVING NIGHTMARES, which was published online on Teleport Magazine. I love the novel because it really pushed the boundaries for Middle Grade literature since it is super dark and edgy—think A Series of Unfortunate Events meets Coraline. The novel also made agents give me personalized feedback, which was appreciated. I didn’t get an agent for that book, but it’s nice to know my writing
Do you have any advice you can give to writers still looking to get a foothold in the industry?
Spend time controlling what you can—whether it’s keeping a word count goal or improving writing craft by reading craft books, articles, and blogs or current books in the genre you write. Doing so is important because there are things about publishing you can’t control. Like luck and timing. And that’s frustrating, believe me, I get it. But writers must always keep pushing forward.
Moving away from writing for a moment, you tweet out some adorable dog videos on Twitter. What is it that makes dogs so appealing?
Dogs are just so innocent/sweet/pure with how they generally love their owners unconditionally.
Finally, I wanted to thank you for coming on board today. Do you have any final message for readers? Where can they find you online if they want to know more? Feel free to link to anywhere you want.
My final message for readers is I can’t wait for them to read In The Name Of Magic. If people want to find me online, my twitter is @ChrisBedell. I tweet about Days of our Lives in addition to other shows and movie, and writing (whether it be about my writing or lifting up other writers).