As a Kindle First release last month, Charlie N. Holmberg’s THE PAPER MAGICIAN amassed a huge number of downloads, ranking her debut novel at #2 on Amazon’s Kindle Store list in the first day alone. We’re excited to announce we’ll have a signed copy of this book to give away to one of our lucky readers this month, since it has just been released to the rest of the world on September 1st!
I was following Charlie’s blog before I even realized we belonged to the same literary agency. Always informative and usually quite funny, I was captivated by her voice and went back to her posts regularly. I’m so glad she’s finally been published so I can read more of her work!
Here is a quick summary of THE PAPER MAGICIAN as it appears on Goodreads:
Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.
Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.
An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.
I was lucky enough to be able to ask her a few questions about the writing process and about THE PAPER MAGICIAN, and boy, did she answer quickly!
GG: You say you grew up writing, and that you entered a lot of writing contests as a child, but never won. How difficult was it for you to keep going—both when you were a kid, and later, as an adult? (I can’t stand rejection now. I have no idea how I would have dealt with it as a child!)
CNH: You know, as a kid, I wasn’t too bummed about it. I didn’t decide I wanted to be an author until I was a teenager, so I wasn’t that invested in those contests. It was more of an, “Oh, that sucks. Recess!” thing.
As an adult, and with my head in the game, the rejections obviously held more weight. Honestly, my first few rounds of rejections were oft times almost a relief because I’d get to the point where I had personally decided a particular book wasn’t publishable (I ended up feeling this way with the first five I wrote). But when I started really having faith in my writing, then the rejections hurt more. Not devastatingly—I’ve only had one rejection (that’s another story) that really got my emotions going—but they were disappointing. Though, honestly, every great author has a pile of rejection letters, so I figured I couldn’t be a great author until I earned my pile, too!
GG: You had a MARVELOUS idea with the rejection letter quilt!! I remember seeing that and thinking, oh my goodness, that is BRILLIANT. Can you explain what led you to make the quilt? Does it make you feel powerful? (I could probably make a rejection letter house cover. Don’t get me started.)
CNH: Actually, the “one rejection” I mentioned in the first question inspired me to make that quilt. I was really angry with that letter, and I guess I just needed an outlet. After taking a walk to burn off steam, I came up with the quilt idea, AKA my blanket of failure. Each white square on it is a unique rejection letter (including one from Marlene Stringer, our agent!). That sucker was a pain to sew, but I’m proud of it.
And yeah, it does make me feel pretty swanky. It’s like my version of a girl scout sash. :)
Here’s a photo of the quilt. (I must say, I mentioned this quilt at one of my writing group meetings, and someone suggested putting it under the mattress, for better feels all around. ;-) )
GG: I LOVE the premise for THE PAPER MAGICIAN! And because I’m a children’s librarian, I tend to do a LOT of paper crafting. Some of it, I enjoy. Some, I’m terrible at. (See the picture below of the Halloween origami craft I was intending to use one year at work. Yes, I know it looks like a disfigured frog. It's supposed to be a creepy hand.) How did you come up with the idea of magic attached to materials?
CNH: Ha ha! I TOTALLY thought it was a frog.
Well, at some moment in my life I thought it would be cool to have a character who made origami come to life (and this isn’t a unique idea; a friend told me there’s an anime that revolves around paper magic, too). I had always pictured him as a side character, but then I decided to just make that the main thread of a story. But I wanted to expand beyond paper, so I started brainstorming an overarching magic that could include paper in it. Paper is something that we only have because man “interfered” with nature, so I took that idea and went with it: magic cast through man-made materials. Along with paper, there’s glass, rubber, metal alloys, plastic, fire, and flesh (because technically people are man-made, too!).
GG: I feel like the idea of paper magic somehow ties to writers. Essentially, our life is paper (or a form of it), and paper can be a source of magic for writers. Do you feel like that?
CNH: Yes Ma’am. I include writing- and reading-based spells in the series to reflect just that.
GG: Ceony is such a pretty name! Considering you also have a very unique name, how difficult is it to come up with character names when you write? Do you get stuck on them and refuse to change? Or are you flexible?
CNH: Aw, thanks! Funny story, when I was coming up with her name, I really didn’t like “Ceony.” But it stuck in my head and wouldn’t relent, so it happened.
I actually keep a document full of names I like that I can default to when I need a character name if I don’t have one in mind. “Ceony” was actually on that list. Whenever I hear or think of a name, I add it to that document for later use. Saves me a lot of trouble!
Fortunately I’ve only been told I needed to change a name once (via my beta readers), but it wasn’t a major character, so I had no qualms. But if I had to change a major character’s name, someone would get a bag of flaming poop on their doorstep. (Not really, but I’d be stubborn about it!)
GG: Speaking of change, THE PAPER MAGICIAN had a cover change just a few weeks before it was released. Honestly, I have a difficult time liking one over the other….they are both gorgeous! How surprised were you when a new cover was revealed? Did it change how you had to go about promoting your work?
CNH: The cover change totally took me by surprise! I was really sad about it at first; I loved my original cover. When 47North asked me for cover ideas, I said, Let’s put a paper heart on it! But the old cover wasn’t up to par with the other three books in the August Kindle First program, so my editor rushed to get a new one up. He presented me with two options, actually, so I still got to pick. And we tweaked it until we got it right (the original of the new cover looked very steampunky). I actually love my new cover now, so it’s all good.
GG: I love that THE GLASS MAGICIAN will be released two months after THE PAPER MAGICIAN! While this is ideal for readers who won’t have to wait a billion years for the next instalment, how hard has it been for you prepping two books simultaneously? Are you sleeping at all????? (Just a note here, Charlie is a new mom as well. The sleep question is purely for effect.)
CNH: You know, it hasn’t been too hard. I had THE GLASS MAGICIAN outlined at the time we sold THE PAPER MAGICIAN, so I wrote it while contract stuff was still being worked out and had it done before I ever got any edits. Guess I lucked out, there!
GG: Finally, what has surprised you most about the publishing business so far? Since many of the YA Buccaneers have just had or are having their debuts soon, what advice would you give to those entering into these waters? (Yes, have to get the pirate reference in there somewhere.)
CNH: Aye, matey!
Honestly, I’d have to say the biggest surprise is that the waiting doesn’t get any better. At all. You’re waiting for contracts, you’re waiting for edits, you’re waiting for release day. It really doesn’t get any faster.
The biggest piece of incredibly obvious advice: be patient. (Yeah, the advice isn’t any different on the other side of the fence!)
Also, don’t be afraid to make your opinions known. It’s so easy to just nod and smile because you’re FINALLY getting published and you don’t want to rub anyone the wrong way, but if you have an issue (your cover is wrong, your blurb is inaccurate, your edits don’t make sense), definitely say something. No one’s going to pull your book off the shelf for not being a pushover!
Thanks, Charlie, for this great bit of insight into your world as a newly published author. If you want to find out a bit more about Charlie, you can follow her on Twitter, visit her website, or go ahead and purchase her book at Amazon!
If you’re feeling lucky, maybe you’ll win a signed copy of THE PAPER MAGICIAN at the end of this month. Just leave us a comment below to enter!