Book & Author Details:
A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly
Publication date: February 2nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets THE PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly’s new crossover fantasy novel.
Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive – and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.
It’s 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved the Prohibition of sorcery, the city’s magic underworld is booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Smugglers funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer’s shine.
Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.
Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic – and when their paths cross at the Shaws’ performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.
A CRIMINAL MAGIC casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties.
What do you think is your lead character’s best trait?
I’d say Alex’s best trait is his ability to read people – he ends up being very good at undercover work because of his sensitivity to human interactions, emotions and experiences. And Joan’s best trait is her relentless commitment and determination – to her family at the outset, and eventually, to her work within the Shaw Gang. Ironically I guess both Joan’s and Alex’s “best traits” can also be “worst traits” given the context.
Are there any characters in your book based on a real person?
Not directly, I guess – though Harrison Gunn is actually named after my friend and old co-worker, who insisted that I name a character after him in this novel (so take the bad guy Harrison J)! Most of the characters in the book are my own creations or some kind of combination of multiple people: like Alex is sort of a combination of me and my husband, while Joan is a combination of me and my sister.
What’s something your readers would be surprised to know about you?
I’m strangely superstitious, or at least I used to be. I’ve stopped most of these superstitious “rituals,” but I used to have to turn the lights off three times before leaving my apartment or I’d think I’d have a bad day, or I’d have to wear a certain pair of earrings to an interview.
Where is your favorite place to write?
The place I always write is the office off my bedroom, so I guess that’s my default answer. But I really enjoy writing on the second floor of my town library, Millburn Library, because of the views of the woods – and I love those moments when I’m away from my everyday life and actually get in some writing time… like my parents’ kitchen table during the holidays before anyone gets up, or on vacation while my husband and kids sleep in. It feels like I’m sneaking out on a date with my characters.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer – though the answer briefly changed to archeologist after I watched the Indiana Jones trilogy.
What is your favorite book of all time?
I’d have to say The Phantom Tollbooth. I think the books you read as a child have a way of staying with you.
Describe your writing style in three words.
Character-driven, otherworldly thrillers.
What is your writing process?
It’s evolved, for sure. Before City of Savages, I had a really hard time finishing anything: I was a perfectionist, and needed each chapter to read complete and final before I moved on to the next. But sadly, after the first twenty pages of a manuscript, I’d clam up and start worrying that I’d make a mistake.
Eventually, I realized that the only way to overcome the fear of imperfection was just to submit to it: my first drafts were going to be messy. So now I write “with a spit and a polish.” I’ll initially draft a passage or a chapter really quick and messy – sometimes with just sketches of ideas – and then the next day, I usually polish the previous day’s installment so it’s a little more readable. But after that quick one-two, I move forward with the story without any more second-guessing.
After I’ve completed a first draft, I step away from it completely for a couple weeks. When I begin the second draft, I let that “perfectionist” sit down at the computer. Draft two is more like rewriting than revising, but that’s okay, as writing is less scary when I have 85,000 or so words under my belt (even if they’re the wrong words). My third draft involves input from beta readers and critique partners, followed by another fairly full-scale revision.
Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and children in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still call herself a New Yorker. She is the author of A Criminal Magic and City of Savages. Visit her at www.NewWriteCity.com.