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Monday 31 October 2016

ℚ A Criminal Magic - Lee Kelly

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about A Criminal Magic (, Saga Press, 433 pages), a Young Adult Historical Fantasy.

"This urban fantasy, always electric, reads like jazz itself." (Publisher's Weekly)

“This is a solid, suspenseful, Prohibition-era crime story, with one rather large twist: in this version of the U.S., it's not liquor that's been made illegal, it's magic. . . . This is a clever and very imaginative variant on a tried-and-true theme.”

"Reminiscent of The Night Circus with a splash of The Great Gatsby."
(Romantic Times)

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

A very warm welcome to Lee Kelly; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!
"Thanks so much for having me!"
What was the inspiration for A Criminal Magic?
"I wanted A Criminal Magic to feel like an intense game of cat-and-mouse inside a very dangerous underworld, and so Martin Scorsese’s film The Departed was a great starting place. I also binge-watched The Peaky Blinders (this amazing BBC 1920s-period drama starring Cillian Murphy) – all of the characters of the show are fully-realized, and the gritty landscape of 1920s Ireland is so evocative it almost feels like a character itself.

For the sorcery threads in the novel, I looked to The Night Circus, Harry Potter and The Magicians series as inspiration!"
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"My first book, CITY OF SAVAGES, heavily borrowed from my relationships with my two sisters, and felt very personal… but A CRIMINAL MAGIC was definitely more of an escapist book than a self-reflective story. I consciously set out to write about things that I loved (namely, magic, Prohibition and organized crime), so once I nailed down the way I wanted to combine those concepts, writing this novel became a form of pure entertainment for me."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover. Can you tell us about your cover for A Criminal Magic - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"The cover designer is actually Michael McCartney of Simon & Schuster – he designed my first novel’s cover, as well of most of the book covers for Saga Press, and I think he’s just genius. The actual graphic, of the martini glass with the lightning and clouds, was illustrated by Steve Stone. I’ve been a long-time admirer of Stone’s work, and I thought he just nailed this one: it simultaneously gives a nod to the Prohibition theme of the book, the magic, even the novel’s noir feel."
Why should we read A Criminal Magic and what sets it apart from the rest? What makes your book unique?
"Someone once called the book “enchanting with a razored edge,” and I thought that was just about the greatest compliment ever :-). Meaning, I think there are a lot of books about magic, and a lot of books that are set in the Roaring Twenties, but I haven’t read many that combine the two (one of the reasons I set out to write this novel in the first place – I was hungry for this type of story myself!) And while I love gangster movies, I don’t see a lot of “gangster” books, at least books that actually focus on the grit and the violence of organized crime, instead of organized crime being something of a background consideration and not much more."
Can you tell us something quirky about A Criminal Magic, its story and characters?
"Actually, most of the gangsters are named after my family members or friends! One of the Shaw Gang underbosses, Harrison Gunn, was named for my co-worker who insisted he get a mention in my second novel. I also gave my maiden name and my mother-in-law’s maiden name to smaller-time Italian D Street gangsters."
Who would you recommend A Criminal Magic to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"I would recommend this book to anyone who likes their magic with a little grit as well as glamour, and anyone who gobbles up Prohibition-era stories or gangster movies. Fair warning though: there is some violence, and some language too – it’s definitely meant to appeal to an older YA/crossover audience."
If you could / wished to turn A Criminal Magic into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"Well, the story was optioned by Warner Bros. earlier this year for a potential television series, so fingers crossed that happens!! It would truly be a dream come true. I would love to see someone like Beau Willimon direct, maybe even collaborate with the Duffer Brothers ;). On the acting front maybe: Hailee Steinfeld as Joan, Douglas Booth as Alex, and Freddie Stroma as Harrison Gunn."
What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I don’t know if my writing all falls into one particular category, like fantasy or horror, but I do think all of the stories I end up pursuing take place in a version of the real world, have speculative elements, and are thrillers of one sort or another.

And I think I read what I like to write: like right now I’m reading THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR, and some of my favorites this year are EVERY HEART A DOORWAY and ROSES AND ROT.

I also can’t help but get completely sucked in by a good contemporary mystery/thriller – in the YA space, I love Kim Savage and Alexandra Sirowy’s work, and in the adult space Ruth Ware and Gillian Flynn’s."
What is your writing process?
"It’s evolved, for sure. Before CITY OF SAVAGES, I had a really hard time finishing anything: I was a perfectionist, and needed each chapter to read complete and final before I moved on to the next. But sadly, after the first twenty pages of a manuscript, I'd clam up and start worrying that I’d make a mistake.

Eventually, I realized that the only way to overcome the fear of imperfection was just to submit to it. So now I write “with a spit and a polish.” I'll initially draft a passage or a chapter – sometimes with just sketches of ideas – and then the next day, I usually polish the previous day's installment so it's a little more readable. But after that quick one-two, I try to move forward with the story without any more second-guessing.

After I’ve completed a first draft, I step away from it completely for a couple weeks. When I begin the second draft, I let that “perfectionist” sit down at the computer. Draft two can be more like rewriting than revising, but that's okay, as writing is less scary when I have 85,000 or so words under my belt (even if they're the wrong words). My third draft involves input from beta readers and critique partners, followed by another fairly full-scale revision."
What is in store next?
"A CRIMINAL MAGIC is as of now a stand-alone, and I’m currently working on a couple different projects right now. I never used to toggle between projects, but I have to say, it’s kept things fresh and kept me working! Especially when I get stuck on a particular story thread in a manuscript, and the best thing for me to do is give myself time to let the story rest and marinate.

So I’m currently working on a revision of this middle grade I’ve been writing on and off for a while: it’s a story near and dear to me, and I’m finally feeling like I’m getting to the heart of the story. I’m also working on a pair of YA/crossover ideas, one that takes place in college, and one that I guess can best be described as an “afterworld” murder mystery."
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"YES! We don’t have any pets (one day!), but I have two small children, and I’m head over heels for them :-). This is me with my two buddies -- my son is almost four, and my daughter is now one."
:-)  Lovely picture, thank you for sharing and a big hello to the little ones from us here at BooksChatter!

A Criminal Magic
Available NOW!

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