Hello, dear readers! Today, I’m here to introduce you to CJ Bedell, author of In The Name of Magic from NineStar Press!
Tell us a little bit about your publishing process.
I first came up with the idea for IN THE NAME OF MAGIC in November of 2016 and worked on writing and revising the novel until the end of January 2017. I sent it to a few literary agents and medium sized publishers that accept un-agented submissions in addition to small presses. Anyway, to make a long story short, NineStar Press offered me a Revise and Resubmit at the end of April 2017. I needed to add more emotional depth to my novel. I then layered in the emotional aspect and sent the R and R a month later at the end of May 2017. NineStar Press got back to me in late August 2017, and I accepted their offer of publication.
What’s the first book you remember falling in love with?
Book 1 of A Series of Unfortunate Events (The Bad Beginning). There was something refreshing about reading a Middle Grade novel that was dark, gritty, and quirky.
What should readers know about you before reading your work?
That my writing is dark and gritty, but I believe in giving readers hope, even if the hope might sometimes be more unrealistic than real life. As a result, I’m a sucker for a happy ending/happy for now (if the book is the first book of a series). I therefore use the darker elements to get to the lighter elements, meaning my novels end happier than they start.
What do you think are the big “selling points” for your stories?
A quirky voice and organic diversity. A quirky voice is important because even a well-written story or novel can feel journalistic as opposed to having a unique personality. Organic diversity is also important to my writing because literature promotes empathy. For example, including an LGBTQ character in my writing could help a reader empathize with someone who is LGBTQ.
What inspired you to write IN THE NAME OF MAGIC?
I’ve always wanted to write a YA Dystopian novel. Yes. The novel is a YA Fantasy, but there are strong dystopian elements. But I could never find the right story to tell. And the Dystopian market eventually became oversaturated because of works like THE HUNGER GAMES. But then November 2016 happened, and I wrote IN THE NAME OF MAGIC.
A few factors ultimately gave me that final push. One factor is that there’s a need for LGTBQ stories. The main character (Maximillian) is gay, as his boyfriend (Stefan), and one of the main character’s best friends (Raquel) is bisexual, as is her girlfriend (Anastasia). I wanted to let teens know that it’s okay to be different. Everyone deserves to live their truth. Nobody is trying to erase straight people, as most of the characters in my novel are straight. The point is, people shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves.
I also wanted to write IN THE NAME OF MAGIC because I’ve always been interested in history, and was curious about what it was like for a citizen who wasn’t oppressed in Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Francisco Franco’s Spain, and Mussolini’s Italy. My main character Maximillian isn’t oppressed, but his best friend Katherine–who is born without magic–is oppressed. People born without magic are discriminated against in my novel. And to quote Sunil Nayar–who was the showrunner of ABC’s REVENGE–I wanted to take big swings. In my case, I wanted to write a character–Maximillian–who didn’t like what was going on in his country (Magnifico). The third F-word (fascism) isn’t mentioned because I’ve created a secondary world, and thus the book doesn’t take place on Earth. But fascism is what happens in my novel since you have a very totalitarian ruler (Queen Vivian).
Anyway, my point is, IN THE NAME OF MAGIC poses the question: What side are you on? Maximillian rebels against his country’s oppressive government by risking his life with hiding Katherine. I was ultimately tired of the passive narrative both in fiction, and real life during the World War 2 totalitarian regimes. The point is, Maximillian does the right thing.
What was your last five star read? What made it a five star read?
TIMEKEEPER by Tara Sim. The novel is a YA Steampunk/Fantasy novel that takes place in alternate Victorian England about clock towers controlling time. I appreciate the novel because of the organic LGBTQ diversity since it didn’t have to be justified. It just existed. It was also interesting how technology was slightly sped up in TIMEKEEPER, meaning telephones and cars existed despite being the novel being set in the late 1800’s.
What other projects are you working on?
A YA LGBTQ Mystery/Thriller that’s Adam Silvera’s HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME meets GONE GIRL, and the backdrop is a New England boarding school. The main character discovers his friends with benefits (a fellow classmate) wasn’t the person he thought he was, and there’s a dual timeline. I’d also like to write a fun/quirky Middle Grade novel that has speculative and mystery elements to it.
What’s one thing that would surprise people to know about you?
That I’m a quiet person. Don’t get me wrong. I love talking about writing and books, but I’m not a chatty person. I’m that student who dreaded giving class presentations.
What do you do to break out of writing slumps?
Watch a TV show or movie, or read a YA book. Sometimes it can help to make time for self-care and just clear your head. The break with indulging pop culture often helps, as I feel refreshed when I return to my WIP.
Where is the best place to contact you?
Twitter. My handle is @ChrisBedell, and I enjoy interacting with people on Twitter.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
That crap makes good fertilizer. In this case, crap means a first draft. Writers are often their own worst critics. But the truth is first drafts aren’t always terrible since there’s a lot of good material to work with when revising.