Story of the Story: At the End of All Magic
A Second Novel
The story of At the End of All Magic may be less detailed than the story of my first novel. It’s not because the book was mundane or I was some kind of seasoned veteran, it’s just that I don’t have as many vivid memories of the beginning of this particular story. I can’t tell you exactly what my headspace was, or when I started writing it, or even when the germ of the idea snuck into my brain.
However, I can tell you a little bit about the book itself, and its process. Once again, I tapped the wonderful, amazing Tim Denee for the cover art. I probably owe him another $100 since he gave me such a good price, but he’s a hard-working graphic designer, and I imagine that I probably couldn’t afford him for his (well deserved!) professional pricing nowadays.
Like my first book I started this one with a prologue that explained just a little of the history of the story, to set up my villain. And then, I did something I hadn’t done before:
I sat down and planned the daggum thing out.
Experience is a powerful teacher, and I learned from my first novel that I needed to have a plan this time around. After going through two rounds of edits on my first book and realizing I had made a timeline mistake (all of my characters were about a day apart in time, if you were paying attention) I knew that I needed to make sure that everything that happened in this novel should be on purpose.
I knew where I wanted the story to start, and I knew where I wanted to finish, and so all I had to do was fill in the middle.
But enough process!
The story is really about a man coming to grips with his past, with his present, and how he wanted his future to be. It’s about Andrew, a wizard from Earth, who is displaced into the world of Aethero. One of the magical rules of Aethero is that you can be magical, you can have powers, but direct, practical, on-purpose magic was unknown. That is, until Andrew showed up as a boy with his uncle Meryle.
Andrew and Meryle were the last of a line of wizards from Earth who fled because the Industrial Revolution killed magic on Earth. Alone, and on the run from magic-hunters from the new world, Meryle struggles to raise Andrew and teach him to use magic responsibly. At the same time, Meryle is harboring a dark secret: to escape to the new world he made a deal with the Fairy God of Earth, who desired a new body of his own. He let the God inhabit his own body, but managed to suppress his control until Andrew got older.
Meryle was forced to abandon Andrew with a friend, and isn’t seen again until later in the book, when the Fairy God has taken control of the body.
The adventure proceeds from there.
There’s a love interest, deep, emotional ties between characters, betrayal, magic fighting, a dragon made of blood and tissue, and so much more.
The most fun I had writing the book was creating magic duels and scenes for Andrew. I wanted my magic to be so much more than what we see on TV, typically. Not just telekinesis, though they have that capability, but beyond that. Not just bolts of energy flung from wands, but real effort put into creative uses of magic.
The magic that Andrew knows is sympathetic in large part, meaning he needs something to work with to make magical effects happen. He can draw power from things near him in the environment,, items on his person, and elements around. Further, I wanted magic to take effort. These wizards don’t just wave their hands, they perform magical feats that defy the natural laws of the world. That should take effort! And it does. Andrew works himself to near exhaustion on more than one occasion trying to push himself that much further to get away, to defeat the bad guy, to help shield a loved one.
The story is more personal than my first book. There are fewer characters and the story mainly centers around about 3-4 people. The world is not at stake (though the consequences of some of the actions taken certainly could be a threat to the world,) but the relationships, happiness, and freedom of a handful of people are.
And, I chose to subvert a trope. Andrew is in no way special other than his ability to do magic. At the beginning of the novel, he’s not particularly sympathetic, but through the use of alternating timelines of past and present, we come to understand why he is the way he is. When he asks the main villain “Why me?” The villain basically replies “Because you were here.” No prophecy, no chosen one, just a man with an ability that is useful to others.
I haven’t read my book in a long time. I don’t know how many authors tend to read their own works to gain insights and reflection into their process and how to be better, but I think I will very soon.
I’ve finally started work on my third book, and it is even more personal, and has even fewer characters. I think it will be, in some ways, minimalist, similar to Stephen King’s Gunslinger. (God, hopefully not in scope! Just in ways that the first novel felt.) It will reflect the continued interest I show in relationships, and the nature of good and evil. The next book will have a heavy religious tone to it, for reasons that I think will make sense.
I’ve also planned it out, so I’ve got that going for me.
At the End of All Magic is a book I’m proud of to this day. I paid for the art and for help from an editor to make it better than my first book, and I think it shows the quality I am capable of, when it comes to writing. While it’s by no means a perfect book, I know it was the best book I could write at the time. Many, many short stories and false-starts on other novels later, I am ready for the next one.