Please welcome Brad Abraham
to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge
Interviews. Magicians Impossible
is published on September 12th by Thomas Dunne Books.
Please join The Qwillery in wishing Brad a Happy Publication Day!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Brad: Thank-you for having me! I’ve been writing professionally for 18 years, first as a screenwriter and journalist, then as a comic book creator and (now) a novelist. Writing is something I kind of fell into, though not entirely by accident. Growing up I wanted to be a filmmaker – a movie director, specifically – and on graduating high school I went to film school to learn how to do just that. But over that program – 4 years - I found that the writing process was the part of filmmaking I loved the most; I enjoyed creating the world and populating it with interesting people much more than trying to execute it on screen. In my senior year I wrote and directed one film, but co-wrote several others, and found that experience a lot less nerve wracking than directing. Following film school, I decided I was going to focus on screenwriting as a profession, which was quite a struggle. It took about three years from graduation to “break in”. I’ve been successful at screenwriting, but I wanted to branch out into other areas of storytelling. I freelanced as a journalist, I created an acclaimed comic book series, and began to dip my toe into writing novels, where Magicians Impossible was born.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Brad: I’m much more of a hybrid if I’m anything. I do outline everything before I write, and I spend a lot of time writing biographies of all my characters no matter how minor they may seem to be. I find outlining helps me “break the story” to use TV terms – to figure out what happens and to whom. But once I start drafting the story I’m prone to taking things in a different direction when the mood suits me. To me an outline is like your first draft of the story; if along the way I find a better way to get to the destination I have in mind, I’ll feel safe to divert off the path I’ve mapped and take a different route to get there. Magicians Impossible changed a fair bit between outline and finished draft, particularly the back half of the story, but to me that’s a natural part of the storytelling process. Any writer will tell you they could still go back and noodle with a book that’s already been published; you can come up with a great idea after you’ve finished your draft and will want to go back in and see how that will fit together. But in my outline I had my ending in mind before I started the writing, right down to the last sentence in the book. That remained constant; it was just the journey Jason Bishop took to get there that became a little more labyrinthine.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Brad: Well, since becoming a father and juggling being a stay-at-home dad with being a work-from home writer, just finding time to write is the biggest challenge. I used to be able to devote a full working day to writing; now I have maybe half of that, as my day is occupied by dad stuff. That said, since becoming a father and having less time to write, I feel my writing has improved overall. I don’t have as much time to write so I make sure to maximize what time I do have. Because writing is my day job it helps to treat that like work. I focus on deadlines – personal or imposed – and I determine how many words a day I need to write to finish by that deadline. That’s basically it.
TQ: How do writing films and TV series affect your novel writing?
Brad: It’s certainly impacted how I write a novel, mostly in plotting and structuring. Film and TV writing is very structured, with three acts for film, five acts for TV. Having a solid background in structuring a story saved my life on many occasions, especially when writing Magicians Impossible and deciding I wanted to take the story in a different direction. Having a framework already in place meant I could see where the changes I wanted to make would impact the overall story, and adjust accordingly. If I’d just started writing without that roadmap I would have been lost, and the reader would have been just as lost. Film and TV, like publishing, is also very deadline-oriented, and I’ve never missed a deadline – even when I injured my back the month before Magicians was due I soldiered on, even when the pain became so unbearable I couldn’t sit at my desk for more than an hour!
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Brad: Life. Travel. Experience. For me, getting away from my desk and experiencing life is the best tool you have as a writer. The globe-trotting aspects of Magicians Impossible are drawn largely from my own travels; the portions of the story that are set in Paris are directly influence by a trip I took there in 2011, from the Louvre right down to the location of a famous French film director’s grave. I also visited Stockholm, which has a minor role in the story, and Cold Spring New York, which is Jason’s hometown, is a couple hours from where I live. I visited that town some years ago and was captivated both by its beauty, but also by its history and its geography, particularly Storm King Mountain, which features in the story in a pretty big way. To me, travel is where I’m going to get ideas for stories I have yet to write. And it doesn’t have to be international travel either; even visiting a different part of your city or state can be enough to spark the idea.
TQ: Describe Magicians Impossible in 140 characters or less.
Brad: Jason Bishop learns his late father was a magic-wielding secret agent, and that those responsible for his father’s murder are now after him.
TQ: Tell us something about Magicians Impossible that is not found in the book description.
Brad: Magicians Impossible is structured like a magic act, and is itself a puzzle-box of a story. The story you’re reading – and the one Jason is told – is not necessarily the truth. I’m a big fan of books that have a re-read value and aspired to that level. A second read of Magicians Impossible will be a much different experience than your first. A lot of people have told me they liked it on the first read but absolutely LOVED it on the second, where they could see how the pieces fit together.
TQ: What inspired you to write Magicians Impossible? What appeals to you about writing Contemporary Fantasy?
Brad: Magicians Impossible actually began its life as a bit of mangled syntax. I was trying to say “Mission Impossible” and it came out as “Magicians Impossible”. I thought it was a great title in search of a story, and it was a while before I latched onto one. Originally the magicians of the title were supposed to be stage magicians, acrobats, masters of disguise. It was my editor at St. Martins Press who thought “real” magic should be the element to tell the story – and he was right. To be honest when I sat down to write Magicians Impossible I wasn’t thinking of it as Contemporary Fantasy; I just wanted to tell a story. What appealed to me about working in that genre was the idea of a secret world running parallel with our own mundane world. That those witches and wizards and lands of magic I read about as a child still exist and still walk among us. We all could use a little fantasy and escape in our lives.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Magicians Impossible?
Brad: I tried to avoid any similar stories – book, movies, TV – and just focus on telling my own. But what I did do was read a lot of folklore and mythology; particularly European and Middle-Eastern. For every page of my book there are probably ten pages of research, especially when we start getting into the origins of our rival magical clans The Invisible Hand and The Golden Dawn. I wanted everything magical in the book to have grounding in the folklore of our world, and didn’t want to be specifically tied to a Western or North American myth. An example of that would be the story within the story Allegra Sand tells Jason Bishop about an ancient chess game, which is inspired in part by a Middle Eastern fable. Another central idea – of the boundaries between the magical and mortal worlds – comes from a wide range of cultures, but the ones in Magicians I drew from Celtic legend. And the notion of Balance; what both sides of this conflict are seeking to either protect or undo is a very Eastern philosophy – think Yin and Yang. So there’s a real mix of real-world mythology and beliefs that serve as backdrop in the book.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for Magicians Impossible.
Brad: The cover is awesome. And what makes it awesome is it’s a great blend of iconic spy imagery like James Bond with the element of the fantastic of smoke and fire. I think that image paired with the book’s title basically tells you everything you need to know about the book without reading the jacket copy or plot synopsis. If the cover grabs you, the book will too.
TQ: In Magicians Impossible who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Brad: The easiest and most difficult characters to write were the father and the son respectively. Damon King, the magic-wielding secret agent was a blast to write because he’s at the peak of his powers, fast with the quip, and lethal with a deck of cards. He was just a fun character to write, despite being only a small part of the story. The flipside of that was Jason, who was much more difficult because his was the dominant POV, and the character who took us into this world. I had to do a lot of heavy lifting to make sure he felt like a real person. He’s very much me at a much younger age when I was still trying to get my act together. He also had to carry the story on his shoulders. The other characters in the story are all a lot flashier, but Jason needed to be grounded in our reality not theirs.
TQ: Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Magicians Impossible?
Brad: On the surface social issues might not appear to be a big part of Magicians Impossible; I shied away from tackling specific real-world problems, but if you dig a little under the surface you will find them. The Invisible Hand and The Golden Dawn are both populated by a very diverse group of characters from all cultures and all walks of life. In fact Jason Bishop – American/Caucasian/Male – is the anomaly. There isn’t another character in the book aside from Damon, his father, who shares that background. To me the idea of these magic users being the rarest of a rare breed meant that had to be from places other than America. It made sense to me that they’d be a diverse bunch.
TQ: Which question about Magicians Impossible do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Brad: The question I have yet to be asked about Magicians Impossible is the one question seemingly every author is asked about their debut book; “how autobiographical is this novel?”
The answer: much more than I expected. To me the hallmark of good writing is authenticity; that you can tell when a writer has experienced the things they are putting their characters through. Magicians Impossible is most autobiographical as it pertains to Jason’s relationship with his family. I’m the child of divorce, and it wasn’t until very late in the game that I realized a lot of Jason’s baggage was my baggage; coming to terms with a divorce of sorts that happened decades before. Like Jason I too have found myself haunted by and obsessed with moments from my past. And also like Jason, I overcame those memories and moments and came to accept and embrace my place in the world. The journey Jason undertakes in is less about becoming a Mage as it is about becoming Jason Bishop – or at least the person he needs to become to survive in this strange new world.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Magicians Impossible.
“The Invisible Hand is a secret society, comprised of individuals of great ability, skilled in the arts of espionage and wielding magic – real magic – as a weapon. Through deception we wage war, and with magic, we hope to win it.” – Carter Block
“First lesson, genius? Prophesies are bullshit; especially Great White Savior ones. Everybody comes to this place thinking they’re the next Mozart so you can imagine the disappointed look on their faces when they learn they’re Salieri at best.” – Allegra Sand
TQ: What's next?
Brad: I’m about a third of the way through my next novel, which, like Magicians Impossible, is a bit of a genre mash up. I don’t want to go into too much detail because it’s still very much a work in progress, but it’s basically The Breakfast Club meets Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. It’s based both on my own teenage years, but also the books and movies and music I consumed at that age. Its scope is not as epic as Magicians, but it has a lot more moving parts, and I’m having an absolute blast writing it.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Brad: Thanks for having me!
Thomas Dunne Books, September 12, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages
“Magicians Impossible is a mind-bending page-turner! A brilliant and unique mash-up of spells, myth and mayhem, once it got its claws in me I couldn't put it down. Like a veteran stage magician, Brad Abraham has created a hip thriller that turns convention on its ear with misdirection and mayhem. A must read for enthusiasts of edgy and extreme fiction.” —Don Coscarelli, director of John Dies At The End
Twenty-something bartender Jason Bishop’s world is shattered when his estranged father commits suicide, but the greater shock comes when he learns his father was a secret agent in the employ of the Invisible Hand; an ancient society of spies wielding magic in a centuries-spanning war. Now the Golden Dawn—the shadowy cabal of witches and warlocks responsible for Daniel Bishop’s murder, and the death of Jason’s mother years before—have Jason in their sights. His survival will depend on mastering his own dormant magic abilities; provided he makes it through the training.
From New York, to Paris, to worlds between worlds, Jason's journey through the realm of magic will be fraught with peril. But with enemies and allies on both sides of this war, whom can he trust? The Invisible Hand, who’ve been more of a family than his own family ever was? The Golden Dawn, who may know the secrets behind his mysterious lineage? For Jason Bishop, only one thing is for certain; the magic he has slowly been mastering is telling him not to trust anybody.
|Courtesy of Brad Abraham|
is a writer whose previous work includes the feature films Fresh Meat
and Stonehenge Apocalypse
, as well as the TV miniseries Robocop Prime Directives
. He is creator of the acclaimed comic book series Mixtape
, has written for such publications as Dreamwatch
, and Fangoria
, and was a long-time contributor to Rue Morgue Magazine. A native of Ottawa, Canada, he lives in NYC. Magicians Impossible
is his first novel.Website