Guest - Rowan Malloy

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Guest - Rowan Malloy

Good morning! I'm traveling to Kentucky today but I'm leaving you with author Rowan Malloy, who will be talking about magic, the different kinds of it and his lifelong fascination with it. He's got a giveaway too, for two Star-Crossed readers, so make sure to follow his directions. Enjoy!


The Return of Magic

Starting with legends and fairy tales that date back to the earliest days of our culture, magic has always been an important part of our stories. In more recent times stories involving magic have come to be called fantasy, while stories involving technical wizardry are classified as sci-fi. It’s all magic to me.

Either way, a vast range of stories featuring unusual powers or capacities, and the people who seek to wield those powers and capacities are an inextricable part of our culture. It seems magic fell out of literary fashion for a while, but I think it's back now, stronger than ever.

When I was a boy we had a book of fairy tales full of magic. There were quests, curses, talismans, kidnappings, fools playing with forces they didn't understand (and weren't worthy of) and of course evil sorcerers and witches.

I remember one story in particular where the wicked witch’s house stood on chicken legs, and the only way to get into the house was to know the magical phrase that made the chicken legs bend to bring the door to ground level. That same idea, of course, is what made Ali Baba such an interesting story.

As I began writing my own stories I discovered there were rules to using magic, and as an author I had to honor those rules if the story was going to satisfy a thoughtful reader.

I didn't have to go deep into the mechanics of magic or spell-work—after all, how much do you really need to know about the way your cable recorder works, allowing you to watch one show while recording another? If your story is about an electronics technician maybe that level of technical detail is important, but if your story is about a person who simply records favorite tv shows, maybe not so much.

The first rule is that the power of magic must be respected. This is the entire message of the story the Sorcerer's Apprentice featured in the old Disney movie Fantasia. If magic is disrespected or violated, there is a price to pay. (As an aside, this would be an interesting premise, it seems to me, for a story about respect for the magic of nature and the environmental price paid by those who disrespect it.)

The second rule is that the power of magic must have limitations. If magic can accomplish anything at any time, under any circumstances, there is no story because there is no challenge. If a story features an omnipotent hero, there had better be an equally omnipotent villain waiting for him in that castle up ahead!

There are all kinds of ways that magic is limited in popular stories, and the limitations are as interesting as the magic itself.

Shifter stories might use the phases of the moon to limit the power of magic that appears in them. Further, it might be that the shifter character only has magical attributes while in his or her alternate form.

Wiccan tradition is full of practices specific to the phases of the moon, seasons, and activities. Both logically and energetically, it would be foolish to perform a ceremony of harvest at a time when the seeds are not yet planted. As they say in stand-up comedy, timing is everything.

Other limitations might be that power resides in a ring or other talisman, and must be worn by the caster. Or certain spells can only be worked in particular geographical places, or under certain temporary planetary alignments.

In Blood Royal, I imagined a parallel world where magic was the principal technology that made everything work. The limitation I devised was that this world was ruled by a genetic strain of people who were impervious to magic.

In the story, even the most powerful and ambitious magicians could remember the political chaos created by unchecked magic, and therefore accepted the harsh governance of this race who could not be magically manipulated. (This also helped set up the central conflict, because love between a magician and a member of the ruling class was forbidden in order to maintain the genetic purity of the royal resistance to magic.)

Finally, and this is not a rule universally acknowledged, I believe that magic must have significance to the story besides being a cool way to have things happen. What is the magic for? Is it the luxury of an effete ruling class, or is it the secret power of a simple agrarian culture? What social force does the use of magic represent? I could go on, but I'd better not!

These rules don't limit an author’s creativity in any way, as far as I can see, but rather pose important puzzles for the author to solve before he or she can successfully call on the power of magic. The solution then says something about the author's creativity and world view.

So why use magic in a romance at all? That's an easy question for me to answer: love is the ultimate magic. Love is capable of overcoming impossible odds, enduring unbearable catastrophe, and holding true through the most painful separation. My belief is that we understand magic precisely because we experience love.

Without belaboring the point, we can apply these same ruled to love. Love must be respected. It has limitations, and it certainly has significance to any story beyond being a way to explain why people behave as they do.

If an author handles love and magic with understanding and respect, I believe the story that she or he writes will be powerful, nourishing and downright fun to open-hearted readers.

What do you think? Does this make sense to you? I’d love it if you left a comment (please leave your email addy so Rowan can contact you), and I’ll be giving away electronic copies of Blood Royal to two commenters selected on May 20th by my randomizer.

- An unwilling princess caught between feuding clans
- A ruthless queen's deadly web
- Forbidden love in a world built on magic and murder

Struggling artist Eva Milaras resented getting stuffed into a magic limo by a wizard who calls her names like “Serenissima” and “Highness,” even if he was heart-stopping handsome. Never mind that he’d just saved her life in the bomb blast at Budget Foods. Even though Talak claimed she would be safer in his world of magic, it looked like staying alive was going to be a challenge.

Prisoner of an aristocratic destiny she didn’t know about and doesn't want, Eva must survive the deadly ambitions of her new-found relatives—as well as all their enemies—as they maneuver for advantage in a murderous royal court.

Talak knows the rules—Eva must marry a man from the royal bloodline in spite of his love for her. Together they battle intrigue and betrayal, but finally are forced to choose between letting go of each other…or certain death for treason. That's a choice Eva refuses to make...


Blood Royal is a finalist in the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal category of the 2013 Abalone Awards, sponsored by the Cultural, Interracial, and Multicultural Special Interest Chapter of RWA.


Buy links:

About Rowan Malloy
Rowan Malloy can't help what he writes – stories rising from the between places, the mystical overlapping of the worlds of matter and spirit, and the eldritch beauty that dwells there. He's in love with adventure and magic, loves plunging into stories full of both, and wants to take you along. Mostly he's in love with love, and believes deeply in the power of love to overcome any challenge. He’s known it in his own life, and seen it in the lives of many others.
In addition to his written work which includes novels, essays, poetry and short stories, he's served since 2008 as one of the final round judges in the Queer Foundation’s annual National High School Seniors Essay Contest. Its goal is to promote effective writing by queer youth, where finalists are selected from schools across the United States by members of the National Council of Teachers of English.
Happily ensorcelled by music, subtle energy healing, and the wonders of nature, he lives with his very patient husband in southern Florida, surrounded by friends and family, orchids and giant hibiscus that take his breath away every morning.
-- Dear Readers,
    Fascinating post from Rowan, no? And his book sounds very interesting. Make sure you leave a comment with your email addy so he can contact you if your name if drawn for the prize.

    Good luck and have a Blessed Day!

PS - I've started a new newsletter group and I'd love it if you subscribed. Just click on the link below to go straight to the form. 
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9 Responses to "Guest - Rowan Malloy"

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi Rowan! Thanks for joining us today. Your book sounds very interesting! I'm sure whoever wins your giveaway will enjoy it.


Rowan Malloy said...

Thanks, Lynda - a pleasure to be here. Right now you're a sure bet to win two copies of Blood Royal... :)

Anyone want to give her a little competition?

bn100 said...

Intriguing premise for the book

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Rowan Malloy said...

Thanks, BN! I had a lot of fun developing it, and it gave me a lot to work with.

Mary O'Gara said...

Rowan, I really like your explanation of the rules of magic--including the one that magic in a novel has to be more than decoration. Clear, simple, and important.

And now I want to read Blood Royal :)

Alexis Morgan said...

Great blog and great premise. I don't care what the rules are in a given world as long as those rules are followed. If they are broken, the price better be pretty severe.

One of the reasons I love Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series because of the different ways magic is treated by the different people in the world she created--some hate it, some forbid it, some use it everyday, and some use it as a science.

Rowan Malloy said...

Thanks, Mary! I hasten to add that these aren't "rules" with a capital "R" in every story, but they are rules that I feel obliged to honor.

I think they are also congruent to the structure of the Hero's Journey, but I'd better save that for another post...

Rowan Malloy said...

I agree, Alexis. And thanks for adding that.

However magic is set up, it has to be handled consistently throughout the story.

As an aside, I devoured Lackey's "Magic" series when it came out. Powerful and poetic. And ground-breaking, to my way of thinking.

Rowan Malloy said...

And the winners are...

How could I pick only two from the three valiant souls who commented? I couldn't even fire up the old randomizer to try.

So BN, Mary and Alexis, you each win a copy for your interest. I truly hope you enjoy the story, magic with rules and all... :)

Let me know at what format you'd like, and where to send. I can offer you .mobi, .epub, and .pdf.

Thanks for being good sports, and thank you Lynda and Star-Crossed Romance for being so welcoming!