Friday, January 31, 2014

Magic In The Mix with Karen McCullough

Magic in the Mix

I write in a variety of genres, and a lot of my books contain elements of more than one. I grew up reading mystery, suspense, fantasy, and science fiction, then found romance when I got a bit older. I love them all. I find it easy to write in all of them, except for my inability to stay in one at a time. I, or my publishers, classify my stories based on the most predominant element, but there’s almost always a mix.

One of my most recently published books is a mix of science fiction, fantasy, romance, suspense, and mystery. In fact, it would be hard to say what the primary genre is for A Wizard’s Shield. The fantasy/science fiction element is the primary driver of a plot that becomes decidedly a mystery as it develops. But the relationship between the two leads is also a significant story driver as well. I like to think of it as just a good story.

Most people are familiar with the mix of romance and mystery/suspense in the plethora of romantic suspense novels on the market. But fantasy romance is a less well-known subgenre that still has many fans. But that brings up the question: how do you mix magic and romance?

It's actually not as hard as it sounds. But it does require staying in a particular mindset while writing the story. When you’re writing characters that have unusual powers, abilities or needs, you have to stay aware of how those different qualities affect the characters in every facet of their lives. It’s just a step beyond what an author normally does in getting to know their character. One already has to consider how normal things like family and economic background, location, and education affect the character. For special characters you add in the effects that having the ability has. 

In a fantasy story with romantic elements like The Wizard’s Shield, where both of the main characters have magical abilities, that power has to inform how they relate to each other as well as to others. If they can read minds or feel emotions, that’s going to have an influence on their behavior. Can they hide their reactions to things they shouldn’t know, but do? (Actually my characters don’t read minds, but they’re always aware that they can do other things that most people can’t.)

Add in elements of mystery and suspense to the story, and you have to account for how the character’s abilities would affect the progression of the story. Do they have ways to beat the bad guys that others don’t? Do they have to be careful not to harm others in the process? Do they need to hide what they’re doing from normal people? How do they explain what appears to be inexplicable? What kind of vulnerabilities do their special powers invite?

In my story, although Michael Morgan lived with Ilene McConnell’s family when he was a teenager, they were separated when the hormones hit and they grew too close to each other too early. At the start of the book they’re reunited after twelve years—and a lot of hard living—apart. Despite the bitterness between them, they immediately have to work together to divert a threat from some dark forces. Working together, though, means something different for them than for most people. It involves combining their power to make it strong enough to redirect a tornado. The process gives them access to each other in ways far more intimate than most people ever experience.

They understand each other in ways that no one else can, but that doesn’t mean they agree on everything, even the ways to use their abilities. In fact, Michael and Ilene have some significant differences that they have to work through. Some of those stem from their gifts; others are just the kinds of human disagreements everyone has with others. But when you’re fighting a criminal underworld that uses magic in evil ways, you use every advantage you have.

They’re very good at fighting magic with magic.  But then there’s what happens when they make love. No, I’m not going to tell you. I hope you’ll want to read the book yourself to find out. But here’s a hint: it’s really magical!

A powerful wizard with a physics degree and a checkered past invents a shield to ensure he'll never again be tortured almost to death. 

The wizarding powers-that-be fear the repercussions of such a device and send his former girlfriend, an accomplished wizard herself, to retrieve the device or destroy it. 

When the shield is stolen by the magical mafia, Ilene McConnell and Michael Morgan have to set aside their differences and work together to recover it. Michael claims he needs the device as insurance against the kind of injury and injustice he suffered once before. Ilene maintains its potential to upset the delicate balance of power makes it too dangerous and that it needs to be destroyed. But none of that will matter if they can’t retrieve it before a ruthless, powerful wizard learns how to use it for his own ends.

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Meet The Author

Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years. 

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