This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. Click the blue frog at the bottom to see a list of other mouth-watering articles! Here’s my two bits:
One Valentine’s Day, my wife gave me a sadistic gift. She signed me up for Pitchapalooza, a book marketing workshop given by The Book Doctors at our local library. I had to get up and pitch my novel to a panel of writers, agents, and publishers. Terrifying. And then they critiqued my pitch. More terrifying.
But fascinating. In my series, 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles, a group of linked souls, a qaraq, remember 1001 of their lifetimes together. In each chapter someone recalls and recounts a new past life tale, ranging from historical fiction to sci-fi to romance to whatever. I had no clue how to define the genre, my audience, or, sadly, my pitch. But Liza Dawson, an agent, said to me, “Your book’s genre sounds like Magic Realism to me.”
Now, I know my Borges and love Gabriel Garcia Marquez, so I was familiar with a school of Latin America writers who established the term Magic Realism. But through my terrified shock I thought, “Magic Realism is a genre? You’re allowed to do that? I’m allowed to call my genre that? Really?” It was a defining moment for my understanding of the modern book business, because I realized there was more out there than Mystery and Fantasy. There were now sub-genres and hybrid genres and invented genres. If Magic Realism was a marketing genre, as well as a modern creation of genius, then I could call fantastical books about reincarnation Karma Lit.
I’m so happy to be part of Zoe Brooks’ Magic Realism blog hop because it gives me a chance to investigate my series and its relation to Magic Realism. My immediate question is: what’s Magic and what’s Realism in my book? The present day characters who recall their past lives are neighbors in suburban New Jersey. They have jobs, family issues, and commutes. That’s Realism. Then they can have a memory of a lifetime as an atomic particle. That’s Magic.
Or: although commonplace suburbanites, the qaraq has the power to recall past lives. That’s Magic! But in the worlds they remember, there are protocols, daily dramas, and human emotions, even if as an anthropomorphized Carboniferous Era dragonfly arguing with itself about food vs. sex. That’s Realism! However you slice it, it’s Magic Realism.
Here’s another way to think about how the fantastical and the real rub elbows in 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles. The interaction occurs all by itself in the present day, and all by itself in the past life stories. In suburbia, the realistic details of everyday life can trigger a magical entry into a new world. Shopping in the frozen food section of the supermarket sends a member of the qaraq back to an Ice Age lifetime, where her tribe deals with glaciation by denying Winter and re-scheduling the calendar into three seasons. In the second book of the series, The Qaraq and the Maya Factor — soon to come out — the banal pressures of suburban life threaten the qaraq’s super-powered memories. Realism VS. Magic.
In the Arabian Nights-inspired tales, Magic confronts Realism. A laundromat in a parallel universe, complete with pyramid-shaped washers, influences the workings of the ancient Egyptian pantheon of Gods. In an alien performing arts school, dancers exercise their nerves as well as muscles, enabling them to leap from lying down to mid-air in a microsecond. But the school still tends with budget cuts, neurotic students, and prima donna faculty. Or, a bureaucratic Heaven requires religion profile forms in triplicate.
Ultimately, Magic Realism helps me achieve the mission of 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles, and that mission helps me achieve one of the principles of Magic Realism. Most books about immortality sustain a mystery driving the plot where everything leads to a revelation of the secret to everlasting life, say the Sorcerer’s Stone. In my series it is assumed from the get-go that we are immortal, and the question is: “How do we deal with having lifetime after lifetime?” What’s the realistic consequences of this magical phenomenon, physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
I believe that Magic Realism enables us to be convinced of the realistic possibility of a magical phenomenon, at the same time enabling us to find magical properties in everyday life. 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles continues this Magic Realism tradition. Even if at first I didn’t know I could call it that.
Catch up on Book One, The Qaraq here.
Find out when Book Two, The Qaraq and the Maya Factor, will be released here, along with news and special offers.
Check out the Magic Realism Blog Hop!
This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. About twenty blogs are taking part in the hop. Over three days (29th – 31st July 2015) these blogs will be posting about magic realism. Please take the time to click on the button below to visit them and remember that links to the new posts will be added over the three days, so do come back to read more.