I don’t think there’s any part of being an author that’s easy, but the hardest part for me is keeping my nose to the grindstone when the words aren’t coming. Writing when you’re inspired is work, but it’s easy to get lost in it and let it happen. Having to force things out when they don’t want to come can be brutal. But unless you can do that, you’re unlikely to ever finish anything.
What inspired you to write this series?
I’ve always been into alternative history. In conceiving the Twin Magic series, I began with what felt like fertile ground to me: German at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, a time when science was starting to rise up against religion but when old fears and superstitions—such as the risk of babies beings switched forchangelings—were still strong. It’s important to remember that during this period magic was nothing unusual, in the sense that common people believed in it and believed that witches and wizards existed along with all sorts of fantastical creatures.
So I took that background and made it real. In these books, magic does exist and has become a familiar element in people’s lives, familiar enough to be part of the scientific, religious, and cultural revolutions that were taking place. Developments like gunpowder and advances in engineering, rather than being pure inventions, are instead outgrowths of this magical knowledge. (Thus injecting a bit of steampunk into this world as well.)
That allowed me to ask some interesting questions: How would the presence of magic affect the endless political machinations that wracked the Holy Roman Empire? How would Martin Luther’s challenge to the Church play out in such a context? (The Luther in The Witches’ Covenant comes up with 110 theses rather than 95.) And how would these mages who have become part of the political and religious landscape deal with those pernicious superstitions?
How many hours per day do you spend writing?
It can vary tremendously. Some days I do nothing, other days I may get in 10 or 12 hours. It depends on what I’m working on and how well things are going. On average, though, when I’m writing a new book, I’ll probably spend two to three hours a day on it.
Is this your first book?
Depending how you want to define it, I have written around 15 novels, not all of which I’ve published (or intend to). Some of them were essentially just practice or things I’d rather not release into the wild.
Name your top five favorite books.
It would be tough to narrow down five from the thousands I’ve read in my life, but these are the books and series I’ve found most interesting and influential on my own writing, at least recently.
The Lord of the Rings
Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and The Stand
The Bas-Lag series by China Miéville (a big influence on Twin Magic)
John Fowles’ The Magus (a difficult, often infuriating book that you can’t get out of your head)
I rather enjoyed this book. It was an intriguing mix of history and magic, involving genuine historical figures in an alternative view of the time. There were some really great ideas within the text and the plot tied together really well. It managed to incorporate the back plot of several protagonists with verve and skill.
There were a few negative issues, I did feel that the magic needed more explanation and several of the plot points seemed rushed. I also could not understand why certain characters were acting the way they did. I feel this could be attributed to the fact that it is the second book in this series and possibly characters and situations were fleshed out in the first book.
With that said, these pacing and character issues did not detract from my enjoyment of the book and I do recommend it.