"A hard rock mix tape of minimum wage magic, dream girls, and that one jackass with his sword in your ribs."
It's 1986. But maybe not the same one you remember.
Quinn Sullivan, fresh from his first year of college, returns for yet another summer to the North Shore of Minnesota, working for minimum wage at an off-season ski resort.
A resort for wizards. Wizards like Quinn.
And entirely oblivious to his affections.
Don't worry. Quinn has a plan. Because if Emma wants to study alchemy abroad, she needs one of the rarest metaphysikal artifacts in existence: a solistone. And it costs a whole lot more than a summer's worth of paychecks. But if Quinn can just get his hands on one—even if he has to make it himself—maybe he'll get that chance to show Emma he's more than "just a buddy."
But where does a mage barely out of high school even begin?
Chock full of strange creatures, mystifying spells, small town mystery, and even a tour bus of old ladies, Quinn's quest is a quirky, summertime adventure with a fantasy twist that will make him wish “getting the girl” was his biggest problem.
The number one rule of thumb in writing is to "write what you know." It was very clear in just reading the first couple chapters that the author put a lot of himself, and his own world into this story, because his descriptions of the environment, the essence of the time, all of it helps to pull you into the story and hold you captive. This is the kind of writing that is often times missing from the paranormal genre. Everyone wants to go bigger, badder, sexier with their novels. Mikel brought it all back down to Earth, stripped away the flash and fanciness, and told the story with authentic characters (people you might actually know), amazing scenery, and a whole lot of heart. Of course, there's a whole lot of paranormal too! ;)
Okay, I've literally had to use the backspace key far too many times to avoid saying things I shouldn't about the story. Instead of ruining things for you, I am going to introduce you to the author of this fabulous book, and let you get a quick peek inside that brain of his.
A: I started Mage about two years ago. It actually started as an entry for a short story contest, focusing on lampshading tropes of fantasy. Quests, mentors, sacred objects and all that. I abandoned the contest gimmicks but the original ideas stayed. And then I thought, Why don't I tackle angsty 80s flicks while I'm at it?
Inspiration definitely came from where I was living. I had just moved to the North Shore of Minnesota and just instantly fell in love. Suddenly I wanted every book I ever wrote to be set there. So peaceful and serene--an unusual destination for a city kid like myself. In a way, I was living a fish-out-of-water story and I wanted to tell that, but--everything's better with wizards, right?
Trust me when I say, his love of the place shows in his writing. I've never had a reason to want to go to the North Shore until I read this book! It looked absolutely stunning as described in those pages.)
Q: The story is set in the 1980's, is there any particular reason you chose that time period?
A: Everyone asks this! Apparently 'duh' isn't a suitable answer, so here's the real lowdown: I love the 80s. I was born in them and grew up in them but I wish I could've really enjoyed them, you know? I dig all that retro stuff--cassette tapes, gaudy headphones, Ghostbusters--so maybe writing about the 80s is just my way of going back in time, a la Marty McFly.
Additionally, I have this firm belief that the best Young Adult adventures take place in the 80s. Whether it was the lack of technology or the adventuresome spirit, kids in the 80s really took matters into their own hands. If The Goonies happened today, Mikey would've just called somebody on his cell phone and Mouth would've Instagrammed the pirate ship. And don't get me started on Data...
(He just preached to the choir a little bit! The Goonies is one of my all time Favorites.)
Q: I had to laugh when I read that Quinn's prized possession was an "Heroic Autobot Bumblebee" transformer, because I know of your love for all things Transformers from your Facebook/Twitter posts. Clearly, this is a part of yourself you put in the book, how much of yourself do you feel you actually put into the character of Quinn, or the other characters, for that matter?
A: Yeah, really, disclaimer: if you follow me on Twitter you will find out more than you ever wanted to know about Transformers.
Quinn and I are pretty much the same person. I don't have his powers (obviously) but I definitely have all his hang-ups. Likes, dislikes, Star Wars obsession--it's all there. Quinn lost his mother at the same age I lost mine--that was definitely a very real world emotion that I wanted to interject in this fantasy setting. You have all this power--all this life--but some things you can't change; and Quinn has to deal with that as much as I do. And, actually, the Transformer is a nod to the last Christmas present my mom gave me before she passed away: a little yellow Transformer which is still the pride of my collection.
Q: While we're talking a little about Transformers, what are your thoughts on the 4th movie installment coming out?
A: The only bad Transformer movie is the one that doesn't get made. I say bring it on. The storylines are a little weak in the movies but, at the end of the day, it's still cars turning into robots up on the screen. Can't you really go wrong with that?
(Nope, can't argue with you there.)
Q: If you were a character in your story, what abilities would you have? Would you be a Mage? have an affinity for Alchemy?
A: You know, Alchemy is so awesome and I had a lot of fun thinking up spells for Quinn to learn, but I really got into Tristan's character--the magus. A magus is like the middle of the spectrum between a mage and an alchemist. They have a little more power than an alchemist, but not quite a mage, and they can only manipulate their element (which in Tristan's case is plants.) I think being a magus would be the safest bet for me--I need limits!
Q: If you could be given the choice to live your current reality or within the world you created for Coming of Mage, which would you chose and why?
A: Uh, have magic powers in the 80s? Gee, let me think. In all seriousness, though, I think I have a pretty good thing going on in this reality. I might like to visit Quinn, but his world is bound to have some hardships. It's not dystopian or anything, but I can imagine some real big problems arising in a world where the prejudice stems from what kind of magic you use.
Q: Coming of Mage will be available this summer, what do you have planned after its release (future books, etc)?
A: You know, I have some fun events in the pipeline--that's the best part about writing a YA fantasy, right? I get to do the really out-there creative stuff. I bet John Grisham doesn't get to have "Magic Rock Painting" stands at his book signings. As far as the books go, if Mage is a hit--fingers crossed!--I definitely have some sequels planned. Mage is essentially Quinn's memoir of an unforgettable summer, but that's really a microcosm of the world he lives in. The sequels will deal with the road ahead of Quinn, not his Memory Lane. After all, nobody escapes a summer like his without consequences.
(Well, now, I am super excited for the future!)
Q: What type of books do you like to read, and which authors inspire you and your writing? How do they inspire you (imagination, technique, etc)?
A: 'You are what you eat' is also really true with books. Not that I eat books, that'd be weird, but I think you get where I'm going with this. I'm constantly scouring the shelves for really inventive YA and Middle Grade books. I think there's something really unique in a genre that you can use to teach life lessons but also have these over-the-top settings. Too cool. And the more paranormal the better.
Consistently, though, I find myself reading Matthew Stover and Joe Meno. They're definitely not YA, but they each have a really unique voice in storytelling. I read Dean Koontz because the flow and pacing of his novels borders on miraculous. Jeffery Deaver I study for plot twists. And--this may shock you--I read a crazy amount of Star Wars novels.
(Star Wars you say? No way, really? hahaha)
Q: What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you as a result of your writing career, thus far?
A: The easy answer of course is to say the "actually being published" part. When I was in college, I knew I would be published. Arrogantly so. But after I graduated and accepted my position as 'Head Ice Cream Scooper' at a popular ice cream franchise, I started to have my doubts. It's nice to feel believed in again.
But here and now in the thick of it, the most exciting thing is thinking that people in the world that I don't even know are going to be reading my book. As a writer, everyone you show your work to in the early years is someone close to you in some way--so how do you know if you're really doing a good job? It's hard to talk pacing with your grandma when she's thought of you as a superhero since the day you were born.
Having said that, I am super excited for my grandma to read my book. She never doubted.
Q: What is the most important lesson you have learned during the writing process?
A: Humility. Not every idea you have is gold. Story and character has to come first. Use that Cut/Paste function; just because you don't use it now, doesn't mean you can't use it somewhere else later.
Q: If you weren't a writer, and you could make a living at any job you wanted, what would your dream job be?
A: Oh, man, the dream job question. Luckily, I've prepared for this. Again, I hope your sitting down for this revelation: I would design Transformers. How I relax is drawing Transformers and making sure all the parts have somewhere to go. Form follows function. Like when a kid draws me a Transformers picture, I have to fight the urge to be, like, Yeah, right, where did that arm come from? I get pretty into it.
I also met a guy on Twitter who was a 'Brand Guardian' for Transformers at Hasbro. Made sure the integrity of the Transformers was being carried throughout the new shows, toys, etc. That would be a cool job.
And if Paranormal Investigation was more lucrative, I'd be all over it.
Q: Just for Fun - You're being taken to a desert island where you must learn to survive on your own for a certain length of time before you can come back to civilization. Aside from the clothes you are wearing, you are given the option to chose 3 items to bring with you to either aid in your survival or offer sentimental comfort. What would you bring?
A: Uh, you know I moved to extreme northern Minnesota, right? That's pretty much how it went down! But I suppose I would bring a samurai sword, my little yellow Transformer, and a copy of James and the Giant Peach.
I want to thank Mikel Andrews for taking the time to answer a few questions. I hope everyone enjoyed getting to know him a little better. His book, Coming of Mage, is set for release in June 2013 by Northstar Press.
For more info about Mikel and his book check out these links:
Coming of Mage on Facebook
Mikel on Facebook
Mikel on Twitter