Sunday, 24 January 2016

Hello, Tyler!

Okay, the ARCs (advanced reader copies) of SHADOW MAGIC are doing the rounds. That's all great (it fact, it's AWESOME) and there are reviewers, bloggers and librarians who've not got it sitting somewhere on their TBR piles.

As you saw from my last post (yes, just look back a bit) SHADOW MAGIC scored a big fat STAR from the SLJ.

Now I've had my first from a kid, y'know, the sort of person the book's actuallyu aimed at. And what's more, Tyler's kindly written ma a letter.

Here it is.

Dear Joshua Khan,

My name is Tyler Zenz and I am a 6th grade student of Westwood Middle School. I am writing because I just read Shadow Magic. My teacher went to the National Council of Teachers of English Convention and received lots of ARC books. I chose Shadow Magic out of all of them because it had a cool cover, with a bat, and it sounded like my type of book. I read your book and wrote a book review. Here is my book review: 

In the book Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan, Thorn, an enslaved boy who ran away from home searching for his dad, meets Lily, a 13 year old girl who's parents and brother died while coming back from a peace meeting with neighboring lands. Lily, now the only person left in House Shadow, which is one of the six old Great Houses of sorcerers, becomes the ruler of Gehenna and Queen of Castle  
Gloom. When Thorn is found by Tyburn, House Shadow's executioner, and gets brought back to Castle Gloom, he sees Lily again. A sudden surprise sends them on a wild goose chase, and both of them discover clues that could change the way they think about the past.

This book was very entertaining and compelling. The way the author uses imagery, sensory language, and mood, really made me feel like I was standing with the character and feeling what the character feels. Such a distinct voice for each character made it super easy to tell who's talking and how they are feeling. The scattered black and white pictures throughout the book really helped me to visualize what was happening. The surprises were very well placed and there were just enough to keep you reading. Overall, I loved reading this awesome book. 

I really loved the book, as I mentioned in my book review. I really couldn't find anything I didn't like. I was just wondering how you think of ideas to write books? Also, how long do you think you should spend on brainstorming for your book? When you write do you think about errors in capitalization, punctuation, or spelling or do your editors fix that for you? Do the words just come out easily or do do have to think for a while?

Thank you for writing Shadow Magic. I really loved reading it and can't wait for the sequel to come out.

Tyler Zenz

Dear Tyler, a brilliant review (I should get you to write my blurbs) and some top questions. Here are some answers.
1. Book starts with a character. I had an idea of a slave boy and princess joining forces to solve a mystery. Two characters a million miles apart in upbringing, attitude, training and education. A pair who, normally, would never even meet. 
But what sort of princess? What sort of slave boy? Now there are a lot of kick-ass heroines in fiction and I'm a big fan of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, but, I didn't want to do that. I wanted a heroine who was tough, clever, and brave WITHOUT picking up a sword.
As a Brit, we've got Queen Elizabeth the First. So great we named an Age after her. Daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (who he executed) Liz was never meant to be queen. But her brother and sister died, and queen she became. She had enemies at all sides. She had other kings wanting to marry her (and thus have her power) and she ruled an age that was the beginning of the British Empire, and incidently gave us William Shakespeare. She defeated every one of her enemies, and never once lifted a sword or shot and arrow. I wanted my heroine to be like her. That was the start of Lily Shadow.
Then, what sort of boy? He needed to be streetwise (or forest-wise in this case) and be able to stand his own, without being overshadowed by Lily. I wanted him to be stubborn, a fighter, but with a rigid moral code. He knows what's right and what's wrong. he feels in in his guts and he trusts them. If Lily was all brains and education, then Thorn was all instinct.

2. Next, came the world they would inhabit. I wanted to write a HUGE, EPIC fantasy, but one without the usual heroes. Y'know, the knights in shining armour and destinies to be kings. Sure, i hd them, but they were the BAD GUYS (think of Gabriel and the paladins). MY heroes were the necromancers, the ones with the ghosts and the zombies and all the bad press. The ones who in most books are the villains. 

Now, going further along in the fantasy thread, I always wondered why the wizards didn't just take charge over everything. Like Gandalf. Why not just take the ring, summon and eagle and fly over Mount Doom and drop the Ring in? Job done and no faffing around with hobbits and men of Gondor and whatnots.

So, in my fantasy world, the sorcerers are IN CHARGE. Each has his specialty (Air, Water, Fire, Earth, Light and Darkness) and their cultures and magic are very very different from one another's. I hope, if the series continues to expand, we'll get a change to travel to these other kingdoms.

3. But what's it all about, in the end? What's the MEANING behind this story?

In the end, it's about the power of learning. About education, in it's simplest form. Look at the Third World. Millions of kids (especially girls) don''t have the chance to go to school. To learn to read and write. You heard of Malala Yousafzai? She's a Pakistani girl who tried to get education, and was shot for it. She survived and won the Nobel Prize last year. 

She inspired me on Lily's story. Lily's powerless because she's denied her birthright, an education like her brother. In SHADOW MAGIC it's the opportunity to learn magic. To become powerful. In our world, it's education that is the path to power. 

There is an old saying. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. I believe that. Without education, without knowledge, how can we make life better for ourselves, and those around us? That's Lily's goal. As you know from the book, she LOVES Gehenna, and will do everything she can to protect it, and her people. It makes her a bit blind (she wants to see the best in people) but makes her noble, in the truest sense of the word.

Thorn's journey is the same, it's the quest for knowledge. He learns dark secrets (especially about his father) but instead of that destroying him (NO SPOILERS!!!!) it makes him BETTER. Look at how he treats K'leef. He is loyal, honest and straightforward. He may not know how to read and write, but he's as clever as anyone else in Castle Gloom. 

I could talk LOTS and LOTS about the origins of SHADOW MAGIC, but thought i'd give you some of the answers you've been looking for. Who knows, if the book does well I may even get a chance to come out to the US and maybe meet, face-to-face, and then we can have a proper chat about it all. Oh, and then I can tell you much more about Hades, perhaps my favourite character!

The writing wasn't easy, not at all. The book took about two years to write, but I enjoyed every minute I was at the keyboard. It's been great, GREAT fun exploring Castle Gloom and the big old place still has many, many more mysteries hidden away in its catacombs and tombs. I'me busy working on the sequel, DREAM MAGIC, and that'll take the adventures of Thorn and Lily to another level entirely...

All the best,

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