Having review Smoky's book The Storyteller's Bracelet a few weeks ago, I am delighted to welcome this talented writer to the blog to answer some questions.
Who are your favourite magic realist authors and why?
I love Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Isabel Allende, of course. Who doesn’t? In The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, Clara’s psychic ability—her ability to talk to spirits, her gift for curses—are as natural for her as breathing. I think the fact so many magic realism authors are from Central and South America is because that sort of thing isn’t looked at as “crazy” in those cultures. They are considered gifts.
Jose Saramago is another favorite. He’s from Portugal, and his Death With Interruptions is one of the finest (if toughest) books I’ve ever read. You actually fall in love with Death by the end of the book, but I don’t want to put any spoilers here, so I won’t say any more than that.
I hope Helene Wecker follows up The Golum and the Jinni with another magic realism book, because that—apparently her debut novel—was nothing short of brilliant. And I guess I should mention Haruki Murikami. I’m not as big of fan of his as some readers are, but I thought The Strange Library was one of the most fun books I read last year.
What is your all-time favourite magic realist book?
That’s a tough question. I have so many favorites, including those I mentioned already. But if I was stuck on a desert isle and could have only one magic realism book with me, it would be F.G. Hagenbeck’s The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo. Kahlo is my favorite artist, and I read everything I can get my hands on about her. This book absolutely blew me away. I was so enchanted with the ending, I had to go back and re-read it from the beginning so I could look for clues that lead to his ending.
Why do you write magic realism?
I look at the world as a magical place. Perhaps it’s my more animistic way of looking at nature and life that is responsible, but I see magic everywhere I go. I talk to the trees, the rivers, the rocks, the desert, and they talk back. Oh, not in words, per se, but there is definitely a connection in my mind. My husband and I love to collect rocks, but I never take one without asking its permission. Sometimes, the rock is happy to be pocketed. Other times, I get the distinct impression I should leave it where it is, and I do. So, for me, it is natural to write magic realism, because, to me, magic realism is just what is.
Can you give us your definition of magic realism?
I define magic realism as magic or supernatural occurrences happening in what otherwise is a “normal” setting and time. Books like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are fantasy, because, for the most part, the story takes place in another world that does not exist. Same with the Harry Potter books. In both, part of the story is real: Dorothy’s life in Kansas, and Harry’s life with the Dursleys are normal settings with nothing supernatural about them, but most of those books take place in an alternate, very magical setting. But a book like House of the Spirits has Clara talking to spirits who come at her beck and call. While that has an element of fantasy to it, it’s magic realism, because not all the characters can do what she can do, yet those who know of her skills don’t question it at all. It’s part of their everyday existence.
Tell us about your latest magic realist book?
My novel, The Cabin, was just released by Thomas-Jacob Publishing. In it, James-Cyrus Hoffmann has just inherited his grandfather’s farm, and with it a mysterious cabin deep in the woods on Hoffmann mountain, a cabin he has dreamed about since childhood. When James-Cyrus enters the cabin, he is vaulted back through time to the Civil War era, where he meets, Elizabeth, the brave young woman who lives there, and Malachi, a runaway slave. James-Cyrus’s neighbor, Cora, knows all too well the tragic history of the cabin. When James-Cyrus tells Cora about Elizabeth, Malachi, and his fantastic vault back through time, the two devise a plant to change the past and right a wrong that has haunted the Hoffmann family for generations.
While that might sound more fantasy than magic realism, it isn’t. While the magic in the book takes the characters by surprise at first, they don’t question it is happening, at least, not for long. The story is historically accurate as far as the setting and storyline about the Underground Railroad and the Civil War are concerned. The story itself was inspired by events that took place in my own family, events that were very much of this world.
The Cabin is available in print and in Kindle editions, as is my other magic realism novel, The Storyteller’s Bracelet.