Hi, Lisa! Thank you so much for agreeing on my Author Interview! I’m honored to do so and have these questions answered.
- How did you come up with the concept of the magic system in The Last Magician? I kind of hard to believe how well you execute parts of the magic. It was overwhelming and I want to know more.
It all started with the idea of a thief who could see in bullet time. From there, I started to build out—why she could manipulate time like that, how it works. I came up with the idea that magic is in the spaces between things, because I wanted the magic in the book to mirror scientific fact. There is a lot about how science and logic has replaced or killed off the old magic in TLM, and I wanted to make sure that the magic could work or be explained by science. I also wanted magic to be rooted in place. Magic is like a talent, but it’s also part of cultural memory for the Mageus. The way it grows and takes root varies from place to place and culture to culture. So there might be lots of Mageus that can bend light like Jianyu can, but coming from China and his specific part of the world, he learned and honed his skills in ways that are different from others like him.
I will say, though, there is a lot that’s not in the first book, because the Mageus don’t necessarily know everything about how their affinities work. They have stories passed down, but the truth of their magic is something that will be revealed more in the next book.
- If you are going to date someone, fictional or not, dead or alive, who would it be and why? What are the things that you are going to do on your date?
I think my husband would not be happy if I dated anyone but him…but assuming he was out of the picture, I’d probably date Dolph. And then we’d probably just sit there talking about how much we loved and admired our respective partners. We’d eat at an amazing restaurant and talk about books and how to resist.
- I read in one blog that Dolph Saunders name is based on a real person and also a con man, my question is, how did you find the name of your characters like Esta’s, or Harte’s or Viola’s.
Esta’s name came from a feisty older woman who goes to my church. I heard it and liked it, and then I met her and loved it. Harte’s is from Hart Crane, an American poet who wrote “The Bridge” (about the Brooklyn Bridge). He was friends with one of my favorite historical figures—Caresse Crosby—in the 1920s in Paris, and I love weaving in little Easter Eggs that amuse me from my past life as an academic. And Viola’s name was one I wanted to use in an earlier book. I wanted to have a character named Violet, because I like the name, but I kept typing in Violent, so I gave up. When I decided my assassin would be a woman, Violent/Viola just seemed perfect.
- If you have the easiest character to write, can you name the character of yours that you have a hard time writing?
Dolph was the easiest. He was the clearest to me, even though he is a very murky and gray character. Strangely enough, Jack was the hardest. I knew exactly how awful I wanted him to be, I knew I wanted him to be like fragile masculinity personified, but being able to pull that off without making him cartoonish, and therefore ridiculous, was really hard.
- Your book is in third-person point of view, what made you decide to write it in 3rd person?
Originally, it was going to be in dual first-person pov, but there was too much story for that. I needed the perspectives of the other characters, but jumping from 5-6 first-person narrators would have been really hard for a reader to follow. The third person lets the narrative itself seem consistent, and then I get to focalize through the various characters. I can tell more of the story (because it’s so much bigger than just Harte & Esta), but I can do it without the confusion of who is talking when.
- Aside from the research that you have done, what is the most challenging when you were writing The Last Magician?
Time travel inconsistencies. I knew what I wanted the twist to be, and where I wanted to be at the end of the story, but making sure I didn’t have inconsistencies in the time travel…ugh. Both me and my editor had headaches from that one.
- If you are going to give an advice to your 10-year old self, what advice would you give to her?
Don’t worry so much about what other people think.
- Time Travel and Fantasy is one of the things that stand out so much in The Last Magician, how did you come up incorporating time and magic all at once. And also, with that kind of twist! [I’m pertaining to Esta’s lineage.]
Once I realized the story was going to be in 1900s NYC, I had a problem: my main character didn’t really belong there. I had Esta first, and I wanted her to be this confident, badass heroine that didn’t take any sh*t from anyone…but trying to imagine that character growing up on the streets or at the turn of the century? I’m sure there have always been women like that throughout history, but Esta couldn’t realistically be the person I wanted and needed her to be if she had been born in 1894. Time travel seemed like the best solution, but I needed the time travel to be more than just a plot device. It needed to be necessary. Hence, the twist at the end.
- How does it feel to be an author at this moment? Is being an author a dream come true to you?
I never dreamed of being an author when I was younger. I just assumed I’d never be good enough. So, yes and no. Yes. It’s a total dream that people actually wanted to publish and then read my books, but since I’ve always approached it as work—a job—I try to keep myself grounded with the writing.
- Are there any future plans to The Last Magician or at least to the sequel of the book? How many installments would there be?
It is planned as a dualogy. But this is a great big story and a huge world, so I wouldn’t be opposed to writing more in this world.
- Random Question! Top 5 favorite foods!
Chocolate, pasta, bread, coffee, popcorn
- Describe The Last Magician in ten words!
Gangs of NY with Magic. Newsies meets Six of Crows.
- What books that inspire you and made you as a reader and a writer today?
How much time do you have? Seriously. I have a PhD in Literature, so there are wayyyy toooo many to name. I think it’s easier for me to talk about what I don’t like. But I love Toni Morrison, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Tim O’Brien, Diana Gabaldon, Nora Roberts, Deborah Harkness, JK Rowling… I like a lot of stuff.
- If you are going to give a lesson to the whole world, what lesson would you impart to them?
I think the whole treating other people as you would want to be treated would cover most things, don’t you?
- What is your favorite quote in The Last Magician and why is it your favorite?
“You only think I have.”
Doesn’t sound like much, right? But people who have read the book will understand that line. It came to me in a flash and delighted me so much when I wrote it. I still love it.
Also read my book review of The Last Magician, here.
ABOUT LISA MAXWELL
Lisa Maxwell is the New York Times Best-Selling author of THE LAST MAGICIAN. Also of UNHOOKED, SWEET UNREST, and GATHERING DEEP. When she’s not writing books, she teaches English at a local college. She lives near DC with her very patient husband and two not-so patient boys.