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Guest Blog by Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic


Please welcome Mark Tompkins to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Last Days of Magic was published by Viking on March 1st.



Guest Blog by Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic




Creating Rules of Enchantment
For The Last Days of Magic


Magical worlds are wonderful places for readers to inhabit; however, they can be devilishly tricky places for writers to create. A delicate touch is required to strike an effective balance among competing factors. The magic must be powerful enough to be instrumental to the characters and storyline, and yet not so potent that the characters who wield it become indomitable and their stories therefore boring. I believe that flawed, vulnerable, and unpredictable characters are essential elements of a good novel. As I wrote The Last Days of Magic, I also wanted each aspect of the magical system to refer back to historical president or established mythology.

Consistency is key. What magic can and cannot do in the first chapter must be the same in the last. The reader cannot be expected to suspend disbelief and go with the narrative if the rules are not coherent and do not follow each other logically. When I read the final page of a fantasy novel, I want to be able to look back and think that having taken a couple of things on faith, the rest could have happened.

In The Last Days of Magic, all enchantments require energy to function. Magical practitioners can use their own life energy to power minor or mid-level spells. However, doing so exhausts them much like vigorous exercise, and excessive use can cause physical disfiguration and wasting of the body. There are only a few sources for additional energy.

Guest Blog by Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic
Dark magic workers use stolen life energy extracted while killing humans and/or magical beings. According to existing precedents, including records of witch trials, the victim must be burned, boiled, or their fat harvested.

The Roman Church’s sorcerers, aka exorcists, use relics that were created by God or angels (e.g. the Ring of Solomon) or in intimate contact with them (e.g. the True Cross of Jesus). They can also use words and symbols of power that were once uttered or written by God or angels and recorded in grimoires – magical books. These provide a thread of connection to divine energy; however, they are too powerful for humans to wield safely and frequently end up corrupting their users.

Guest Blog by Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic
Magical beings and noble human witches and sorcerers use natural magic. These enchantments are powered by Ardor, the original energy of conception. God used it to create the universe, angels, and humans. God allowed Ardor to linger on earth so that angels could create and populate the earth with lower life forms and terrestrial features, an effect intended to last a short time. However, some angels exerted their free will, abandoned heaven for earth, and propagated magic-wielding, half-human offspring called Nephilim, which resulted in Ardor remaining on earth. Ardor lingers for as long as Nephilim remain in a land. When Nephilim leave or are driven out, Ardor fades and thins, and becomes like wisps of mist that come and go as if carried on a breeze.

Runes were developed in ancient times to assist with working magic. These symbols can bend, shape, and block enchantments, but bestow no power of their own. For example, a witch can make a divination spell more accurate by inscribing runes on sticks before she tosses them. A witch hunter can paint runes on the skin of a witch to block her from using spells.

By the 14th century, when The Last Days of Magic is set, the Nephilim have been driven out of much of Europe. Ardor remains dense only in Ireland, but powerful forces from within and outside of the country’s borders threaten it, and a world that can still foster natural magic hangs in the balance.



Detail from Agostino Veneziano's The Witches Rout - This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication
 
Angel Embracing Human by Daniel Chester French - This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.





The Last Days of Magic
Viking, March 1, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Guest Blog by Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic
What became of magic in the world? Who needed to do away with it, and for what reasons? Drawing on myth, legend, fairy tales, and Biblical mysteries, The Last Days of Magic brilliantly imagines answers to these questions, sweeping us back to a world where humans and magical beings co-exist as they had for centuries.

Aisling, a goddess in human form, was born to rule both domains and—with her twin, Anya—unite the Celts with the powerful faeries of the Middle Kingdom. But within medieval Ireland interests are divided, and far from its shores greater forces are mustering. Both England and Rome have a stake in driving magic from the Emerald Isle. Jordan, the Vatican commander tasked with vanquishing the remnants of otherworldly creatures from a disenchanted Europe, has built a career on such plots. But increasingly he finds himself torn between duty and his desire to understand the magic that has been forbidden.

As kings prepare, exorcists gather, and divisions widen between the warring clans of Ireland, Aisling and Jordan must come to terms with powers given and withheld, while a world that can still foster magic hangs in the balance. Loyalties are tested, betrayals sown, and the coming war will have repercussions that ripple centuries later, in today’s world—and in particular for a young graduate student named Sara Hill.

The Last Days of Magic introduces us to unforgettable characters who grapple with quests for power, human frailty, and the longing for knowledge that has been made taboo. Mark Tompkins has crafted a remarkable tale—a feat of world-building that poses astonishing and resonant answers to epic questions.





About Mark

Guest Blog by Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic
The Last days of Magic, published by Viking, is Mark Tompkins’s debut novel. He founded the Aspen Writers' Network and serves on the board of Aspen Words, a program of the Aspen Institute. He is a published poet and international award-winning photographer whose work is held in the permanent collections of museums in the United States and abroad. Born in Texas of Irish ancestry, Tompkins divides his time between Aspen, Boston, and Houston.




Website  ~  Facebook


Twitter @MLTompkins

Interview with Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic


Please welcome Mark Tompkins to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Last Days of Magic was published by Viking on March 1st.


Interview with Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Mark:  Writing has always been a compulsion; however, in school, I was told that creative writing would be very difficult for me due to my dyslexia. Once unfettered from academic restraint, I ventured into poetry, which felt approachable because it struck me as bad grammar raised to an art form. Photography was another creative outlet, as was writing nonfiction. However, writing a novel was always out there as the ultimate goal, yet out of reach. I took some workshops and even slogged through a two-year course on grammar for adult dyslexics. Eventually, it came down to either abandoning my dream or sitting down and writing my novel.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Mark:  I am a hybrid. The first thing I did was create an outline, which made it feel safe for me to write; however, I was careful not to become attached to it. When my characters charged off in unexpected directions, I let them and updated the synopsis, which happened every few chapters. That first outline was diagramed on a giant piece of white paper, but the final story does not look much like it (much to the novel’s benefit).



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Mark:  Editing. It was always hard to know when a paragraph, or a chapter, was truly finished. I became a great believer in working with professional editors. Before the manuscript was sent out I had it edited, then my agent and publisher both worked it over again. I was very lucky to have a hands-on team as the manuscript was finalized.



TQWhat has influenced/influences your writing?

Mark:  I am a voracious reader and there are a number of great authors that I count as influences. On on the fantasy side are C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Neal Gaiman and Lev Grossman. As for historical novels, I would say Geraldine Brooks and Ken Follett.



TQYou are a poet and a photographer. How do these affect or not you prose writing?

Mark:  Poetry forced me to become an efferent and lyrical storyteller. The Last Days of Magic has been described as an epic, yet it is less than four hundred pages. Photography refined my vision, which was great help in vividly rendering the various locations used in the novel.



TQDescribe The Last Days of Magic in 140 characters or less. /like a tweet/

An epic novel of Celts, faeries, mad kings, druids, and a goddess struggling to reign over magic’s last outpost on Earth – medieval Ireland.



TQPlease tell us something about The Last Days of Magic that is not found in the book description.

Mark:  There are elements of the novel the reader may think that I made-up, but are actually existing lore or even considered history. The novel contains numerous Easter eggs, if the reader is interested in hunting for them.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Last Days of Magic?

Mark:  Faerie is in my blood, or Ireland is, which is the same thing. My ancestors are from the counties of Clare and Meath, so when I resolved to write a novel about magic it had to be set in the Emerald Isle. I discovered a character who insisted that I write about her, one who was inspired by the Celtic legend of Red Mary. This led me to base the book on the premise that all the old legends, myths, and faerie tales were true and the magical beings in them co-existed with humans during medieval times. In those fables, faeries were depicted as powerful, dangerous, and tall – they could not procreate with humans if they were the size of dragonflies!



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Last Days of Magic?

Mark:  One of the great things about setting the book in Ireland, England, Italy, and France is that it gave me the perfect excuse to spend a lot of time there. Being on location helped me capture the atmosphere and the nuances of those incredible places. Hanging out with pagan groups in Ireland was also a lot of fun. While there I visited museums, historic sites, and talked with with historians. I also sought out eclectic used bookshops to rummage through for books on mythology, faeries, exorcism, and the like. My bookshelves became so crammed with tomes on witchcraft and demonology that a friend once quipped that he expected to arrive one day and find a crater shrouded in green mist where my house used to be!



TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Mark:  The hardest was Aisling. In service to the story arc, she has to be emotionally and psychologically challenged. I had to rework those scenes numerous times to make them convincing without being heavy-handed or trite. The easiest was the deranged imp, a demon familiar. Perhaps I was mining some previously unrecognized vein of darkness in my spirit, but for whatever reason his character flowed naturally onto the page.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Last Days of Magic?

Mark:  When writing a novel that has any historical grounding, I believe it has to address the prevalent social issues of the day. Otherwise the novel loses authenticity and power. In the case of The Last Days of Magic, one of the main issues is the suppression of women’s rights. This was a time when women who dared to become educated, or powerful, or in any way change the church’s male oriented dogma were branded as witches. Other issues include slavery and the control and limiting of literacy.



TQWhich question about The Last Days of Magic do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Mark:

Ask: What was your favorite part of writing the novel?

Answer: Much to my surprise my favorite bit about The Last Days of Magic was writing the villains. Characters who at least tried to be honorable felt more constrained by the story arc, whereas the antiheroes freely wrought havoc across the page. I always looked forward to a new one making an appearance. They ran amuck, stayed longer than I had planned, and generally did as they pleased. Their voices were strong and vibrant. I never really knew what they were going to say until I put ink to page (I am old fashioned in my writing tools). And they lent themselves to being killed, or otherwise subdued, in such exotic ways.



TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Last Days of Magic.

Mark:  Even though I have read them at least a thousand times, the opening sentences still give me chills:
“Aisling fell through the rain in a land bright and dark, where the edges of contrast were sharp, often bloody. She had thought, even at thirteen, that she understood the many dangers of this land where the boundaries of the human and the Sidhe realms merged, as only someone who had been trained since birth to rule both worlds could. Now it was knowing, not understanding, that was carried on the tip of the arrow that had slipped beneath her left shoulder blade on its way to her heart.”
Here is the section when Jordan discovers that his new job hunting magical creatures may not suit him:
“That troubled him. Whenever he killed a man he felt a bit more alive, as if once again he had challenged death and come out the victor. But when he killed the Trolls— who had been hiding away from people and were relatively harmless unless attacked— he felt less alive somehow, as if he lost a bit of vitality with each drop of Nephilim blood that was shed.”


TQWhat's next?

Mark:  As I prefer novels not to leave me hanging, I resolved all of the major plot lines of The Last Days of Magic. That said, I am busy expanding the magical/historical hybrid world into additional countries, each with their own mythos. When I learned that European witch hunters were paid per witch, it was a discipline I had to investigate. A witch hunter character has emerged and she is determined to go up against some of the survivors of the first book, so I will have to let her out to play.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Mark:  Thanks for inviting me. It has been fun!





The Last Days of Magic
Viking, March 1, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic
What became of magic in the world? Who needed to do away with it, and for what reasons? Drawing on myth, legend, fairy tales, and Biblical mysteries, The Last Days of Magic brilliantly imagines answers to these questions, sweeping us back to a world where humans and magical beings co-exist as they had for centuries.

Aisling, a goddess in human form, was born to rule both domains and—with her twin, Anya—unite the Celts with the powerful faeries of the Middle Kingdom. But within medieval Ireland interests are divided, and far from its shores greater forces are mustering. Both England and Rome have a stake in driving magic from the Emerald Isle. Jordan, the Vatican commander tasked with vanquishing the remnants of otherworldly creatures from a disenchanted Europe, has built a career on such plots. But increasingly he finds himself torn between duty and his desire to understand the magic that has been forbidden.

As kings prepare, exorcists gather, and divisions widen between the warring clans of Ireland, Aisling and Jordan must come to terms with powers given and withheld, while a world that can still foster magic hangs in the balance. Loyalties are tested, betrayals sown, and the coming war will have repercussions that ripple centuries later, in today’s world—and in particular for a young graduate student named Sara Hill.

The Last Days of Magic introduces us to unforgettable characters who grapple with quests for power, human frailty, and the longing for knowledge that has been made taboo. Mark Tompkins has crafted a remarkable tale—a feat of world-building that poses astonishing and resonant answers to epic questions.





About Mark

Interview with Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic
The Last days of Magic, published by Viking, is Mark Tompkins’s debut novel. He founded the Aspen Writers' Network and serves on the board of Aspen Words, a program of the Aspen Institute. He is a published poet and international award-winning photographer whose work is held in the permanent collections of museums in the United States and abroad. Born in Texas of Irish ancestry, Tompkins divides his time between Aspen, Boston, and Houston.




Website  ~  Facebook


Twitter @MLTompkins





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Interview with Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic

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