The End of Magic was a family project.
I always like to work on a variety of projects with my children. These activities range from crafts we do in an afternoon to more complex undertakings like calendars that we assemble over many months. It occurs to me that projects requiring persistence over an extended period of time help the children learn the virtues of patience and persistence.
As my children started to enjoy stories, I thought back to a similar time in my life. I remember the awe and intimidation I felt when I first encountered epic works of art and literature such as The Lord of the Rings or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. How, I wondered (and still do), could such works be produced by mere mortals? Perhaps people are born into two separate castes: those who can create works of genius and those who cannot. Surely Beethoven and J.R.R. Tolkien did not put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us.
But of course these geniuses are in fact mere mortals; and at some level each one of us has this capacity for creativity.
One day when I was walking my daughter Antonia (who was three at the time) to school, I had these twin thoughts. First, I wanted to create a project longer and requiring more patience and persistence than any we had conceived before. I wanted to stretch the bounds of my children’s capacity to participate in an endeavor. Secondly, I wanted to demystify the creative process for them as they began to be exposed to great works of literature. I wanted them to understand that if they dreamt big enough and worked hard enough, they too could create anything that they could imagine.
Given the children’s love of stories, it was natural enough that this idea took the shape of a book, one that told a story they would enjoy and to which they could relate. A fantasy setting was therefore natural, as were the characters based on the children themselves.
My sister and brother-in-law happened to be visiting that day; and I shared the idea with them. They were immediately excited; and soon the story was broadened to include their family and my parents as well. In addition, we decided that my brother-in-law, my father and I would write the book jointly, each composing sequential chapters that I would eventually edit into a unified manuscript. That evening, The End of Magic was born.
Such a collective undertaking obviously required a very well-developed outline, without which it would have been impossible to keep three authors on the track of the same story. Over the next few months, therefore, the three of us spoke frequently and developed the ideas for the plot. The project was already having the wonderful effect of putting us in constant contact as we developed the story in ever greater detail.
The children became involved at a very early stage. We tested ideas with them constantly; and they inspired many of the most creative aspects of the story. For example, I love the idea of a language of magic that requires the synchronized use of sounds and gestures. A word in Qorik spoken with one gesture has an entirely different meaning from the same word spoken with a different gesture. Naturally it would be difficult to have a discussion in Qorik over the telephone, but this is something that the characters in The End of Magic never needed to consider. This counterintuitive construction of the language came from my daughter, Antonia. Similarly, Roland’s character—a self-absorbed, walking, talking cactus—was the inspiration of my nephew, Peyton. Countless other ideas came from the children, and a great number of them are parts of the completed story.
The concept of joint authorship did not last very long. Not that it was a particularly good idea to begin with. But I fear that my brother-in-law, my father and I had somewhat different levels of motivation to put pen to paper. I enthusiastically wrote the first chapter and then distributed it to the others so that they would have a sense of the style to which they should conform. Then I patiently waited for chapters two and three. I waited and waited. Then I figured I may as well begin chapter four. A month later I wrote chapter five. And so on through chapters six, seven, eight, nine and ten. I finally did receive some thoughts on chapters two and three from my father and brother-in-law, and there are still some vestiges of their work in the final manuscript. But the story and I had moved on; and gradually over the next four years the book took shape.
Since the story was written for and about our children, it is natural that it should be a tale of the coming of age. Forced to leave their childhood behind, each of their characters must confront his or her own strengths and weaknesses, learning to rely on the former and to overcome the later. They learn the value of family, love and comradeship. They learn about loss and failure. And they learn to confront the mistakes and frailty of their parents. In short, they grow up. And, like the rest of us, they barely survive the process.
Although The End of Magic is unquestionably and profoundly dedicated to my children and my sister’s children, without whom I could never have gotten to know the characters in the story, I do have one confession. The story was conceived and the bulk of it was written before my youngest daughter Arianna and my sister’s younger twins Shailie and Gideon were conceived. That explains why there are five principles characters in the story rather than eight. But the reader will note that characters representing all three of the younger children were born in the process of the story. In order to get to know these characters and to share their adventures, the reader will have to wait for the sequel.